St. Joseph is known for an extensive collection of beautiful mansions built around the turn of the century, and the Wyeth Tootle Mansion at the corner of Eleventh and Charles Streets is a prime example. With three floors, a tower and more than 40 rooms, it stands today as one of the best examples of St. Joseph’s late 19th-century wealth and opulence, featuring stunning woodwork, hand-painted ceilings and imported stained glass.
Each of the three floors of the ornate 1879 mansion are dedicated to one or more historical exhibits, the newest of which is titled Confluence: The Great Flood of 1993. This third floor exhibit is a permanent fixture for the museum that addresses the floods physical, economic, and social effects on the surrounding area.
The mansions commanding height, its impressive tower and remarkable view of the Missouri River region and bluffs were inspired by the original owners’ trips to castles along the Rhine River in Germany. William and Eliza Wyeth commissioned architect E.J. Eckel to help them realize their grand vision. In fact, Eckel’s architectural vision and talent left a lasting mark on the St. Joseph community, as his firm designed 75% of St. Joseph’s outstanding historical buildings.
The first and second floors of the Wyeth-Tootle reflect the history of area architecture. The restoration highlights Victorian-era decor and period photographs to give guests an added visual of what it would have been like to visit the home at the turn of the 20th century. Visitors often experience a “wow” moment at the mansion’s incredible woodwork, ornate patterned floors, and hand-painted ceilings which include images of cherubs and heavenly clouds.
Three of the mansion’s 43 rooms are devoted to “Intersections: Of Time and Buildings,” an exhibit that examines the junctures of history, art, architecture and humanities, along with St. Joseph’s past, present and future. The “Edifice: The Architecture of E.J. Eckel” exhibit at the Wyeth-Tootle commemorates Eckel’s talent and contribution to St. Joseph’s architectural appeal. The views from the third floor children’s area are some of the most sweeping and expansive in the city.
For a splash of glamour, check out the temporary exhibit Fame & Politics: The Life of Ruth Warrick. In films, St. Joseph, Missouri, born actress Ruth Warrick will indelibly be referred to as the first Mrs. Citizen Kane. As a television actress, she will forever be synonymous with her character of Phoebe Tyler Wallingford, the wealthy, viper-tongued, manipulative, and often meddlesome Pine Valley grande dame who held court for 35 years. But she was more than that. The story of her career, philanthropy, and political activism is told on the second floor of the Mansion. The funding for the Fame & Politics: The Life of Ruth Warrick exhibit was provided by the Missouri Humanities Council.
In addition to housing historical and cultural exhibits, Wyeth-Tootle Mansion hosts community events throughout the summer and fall, including Mah Jongg parties and Music at the Mansion. The mansion also serves as a wedding, holiday party, and business meeting venue.