history of the mansion

 
 
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The Mansion, as it is popularly known, was built in 1857 by August (A.J.) Wastfield; on the St. Louis to Vincennes stage road.  Born on Sep. 6, 1829 in Ridge Prairie (now part of O'Fallon), Wastfield was the youngest son of Walter Wastfield, a native of Bath, England and Mary Ann Shannon, a native of Ireland.  Another of their children, Rebecca, was the great grandmother of actor William Holden.  Walter and Mary came to the United States in 1819 and, after spending a few weeks in Baltimore, settled on Section 33 of the present day O'Fallon Township.  They were apparently financially independent.

A.J. marketed wheat and later perused farming.  He was said to have been energetic, ambitious, very interested in politics and possessed a good business capacity. A.J. attended Bellville public school and Rocksprings Seminary.  On Jun. 12, 1860 he married Elisie Osburn of Lebanon.  They resided in the Mansion.  It is said that A.J. took great pride in building this beautiful home for his future bride.


 The Wastfields enjoyed entertaining at The Mansion.  A.J. mostly enjoyed having people over to talk politics.  The most famous individual he had over was a young Abraham Lincoln, who was an aspiring senator at the time.  The Wastfield’s also opened their doors to runaway slaves on their way north, becoming a station on the Underground Railroad.   A removable staircase still remain were the slaves where hidden.  The Westfield grounds housed a stagecoach stop where drivers were given meals and their horses were given food and water.  This was nicknamed ‘The Wastfield Tavern’ by the drivers.  At the age of 37, tragedy struck when A.J. Wastfield was fatally injured in a threshing machine accident on Nov. 15, 1866. He was survived by his wife and two young children, Walter Daniel and Julia Emily.  The accident was such a shock to his parents that they sank into a "nervous fever" and subsequently followed him in death within days—Walter on Nov. 26 and Mary Ann on Nov. 30. Elisie Wastfield and her children continued to live in the Mansion for many years after.

 

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In the 1890's, the farm and Mansion were sold by the Wastfields to Henry and Sophie Bechlofft who farmed the property until they retired and sold the land in 1948. While the Bechlofft family owned the home, a skeleton was found on the property.   It was speculated that the remains were a patient of a doctor who stayed with the Wastfield’s, the mystery was never officially solved.  After that, the Mansion and property was held by a series of owners.

 

 

The Mansion is an exemplary Italianate-style home.  The Italianate style dominated American houses between 1850 and 1880.  It was particularly common in the expanding towns and cities of the Midwest.  In America, the movement that had begun in England took its own indigenous style with only hints of the rambling, informal Italian farmhouse with square towers that had been its model.  The Mansion, built in 1857, shows a surprisingly sophisticated handling of what was then a fairly new style.   Identifying features include:  two stories, a low pitched, simple hipped roof with widely hanging overhanging eaves, tall narrow windows with elaborated crowns, and a central square cupola.  The Mansion is constructed of brick with less common five façade openings on the front and rear, and the rarer four ranked openings on the sides.  There are three surviving chimneys, an original tin ceiling and the home still maintains some original lighting.  The Mansion received a St. Clair County Landmark Award in 1963 from the St. Clair County Historical Society.


The Mansion is currently owned by Kathy Cox and Jerry Conway, who opened The Mansion Restaurant within its magnificent walls in Jan of 2015. Jerry is executive chef of The Mansion.  Jerry has extensive fine dining experience including being an Executive Chef at Disney World in charge of Animal Kingdom, Epcot, The Magic Kingdom, The Royal Floridian and the annual wine and cheese festival, he has also owned a fine dining sea food restaurant in Florida.  We take great pride in the home and hope you enjoy your time here.  If you would like a short tour after dinner, please let the hostess or your server know, we love to show it off!

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