About the Mansion
St. Joseph is known for an extensive collection of beautiful mansions built in the late 1800s, and the Wyeth Tootle Mansion at the corner of 11th 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.
In 1879, William and Eliza Wyeth hired architect Edmond Eckel to design a mansion resembling the castles they had seen on the Rhine River as they were traveling in Germany. This 43-room Gothic style mansion combines an example of the homes of early prominent St. Joseph residents with exhibits on the history of St. Joseph.
The first floor of the Wyeth Tootle Mansion has been partially restored to its Victorian grandeur. Old photographs of each room help visitors visualize the interior as it was around 1900. Each room’s ceiling is impressively different, from the cherubs that float above the Louis XVI parlor to the dark rich colors that cover the Moorish room. Ornate parquet floors and walnut woodwork change from room to room.
History of the Wyeth-Tootle Mansion
William and Eliza Wyeth moved to St. Joseph in 1859, and William soon developed his small wholesale-retail business into the prosperous Wyeth Hardware and Manufacturing Company and Wyeth Saddle Factory. In 1879, the Wyeths moved into this mansion with a panoramic view of the city and the Missouri River. However, they only lived in the home for eight years.
In the spring of 1887, the Wyeths sold the home to Mrs. Katherine Tootle. Mrs. Tootle was the recent widow of Milton Tootle. Milton’s obituary identified him as “the builder of the prosperity of St. Joseph and the leader of its ‘Golden Age.’ His business interests included mercantile establishments, the Western Bank of Missouri, and the Tootle Opera House. At his death, he had amassed the largest fortune of any individual in the city. Mrs. Tootle continued with many of his business interests.
After purchasing the home, she hired the New York firm of Pottier and Stymus to redecorate the interior. The main hall featured a walnut paneled ceiling and an elaborately carved staircase. The parquet floors, in keeping with the style of the time, were almost entirely covered with area rugs and furniture. Two stained-glass windows were added on the stairway landings. One resembled a Renaissance-style painting, and the other is of beautifully cut, stained glass. The ceilings werehand painted on canvas by a European artist.
Katherine’s son, Milton Tootle Jr., was the next occupant of the house. He and his wife Lillian added a large porch to the south side and a family dining room on the southeast side. A 1932 newspaper article described Milton Tootle’s home: “The ceilings were painted in Europe, and the walls were lined with heavy draperies, nearly an inch thick, with elaborate handwork appliqués made of materials the manufacture of which has become a lost art. And charming objects of art on every side intrigue the imagination and aid in the creating of an esthetic atmosphere.”
The rooms on the first floor were the French Reception Room of black and gold woodwork, the Louis the XVI Sitting Room with angels painted on the ceiling, the Library, the formal Dining Room, the Moorish Room with its Middle Eastern decor, and the Early American Family Dining Room. At the rear of the first floor were the servants’ dining and food preparation room and a kitchen.
When Milton Tootle, Jr., died in 1946 the home became available for purchase. William Goetz, St. Joseph Museum board president, and the M. K. Goetz Brewing Company donated the money to purchase the building and the city matched the amount to adapt the private home into a public museum.
Edifice: The Architecture of E. J. Eckel. The architect of the Wyeth-Tootle Mansion and the founder of the firm responsible for 75 percent of the buildings in St. Joseph. The exhibit focuses on his life and the lasting impact of his accomplishments.
Intersections: Of Time and Buildings. This exhibit is housed in three renovated rooms on the second floor. The exhibit explores the intersections of history, art, architecture, and humanities as well as the past, present, and future of the City. Museum professionals, preservationists, scholars, and local artists all worked together on this innovative project. Intersections is a combination art exhibit, exploration of St. Joseph’s history, and imagining of the role of historic preservation in the City’s future. The exhibit was created by the St. Joseph Museum in partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Friends of St. Joseph.
Confluence: The Great Flood of 1993. An exhibit that chronicles flooding in the St. Joseph area, including the flood in 1952 that covered much of Lake Contrary Amusement Park. The details on the causes and impacts of the 1993 Flood will be included as a cathartic remembrance of those trying months in the summer of 1993 when much of the Midwest was under water. The name of the exhibit “Confluence” refers to the merging of rivers and flood waters, as well as the coming together of communities in the face of one of the costliest natural disasters in history.
Fame and Politics: The Life of Ruth Warrick. As a television actress, Warrick, born in St. Joseph, will forever be synonymous with her soap opera 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 are told in this new exhibit, which opened in 2016, on what would have been Ruth's 100th birthday.