Museum Hill


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Built by William Harris in 1851. 

Home of Edward Hamilton & his family.  First built in an octagonal shape circa 1851, it was modified to a Second Empire design circa 1876. 

History of the Mansion
     According to a 1950 article in the St. Joseph News Press about two of St. Joseph's then century-old houses, William Harris built an eight-sided octagonally shaped home on a high point of the area at what is now 1423 Francis Street.
     Mr. Harris came to St. Joseph as the Western frontier was beginning to expand.  He emptied many acres of land in 1846 correctly predicting growth of the area.  A St. Joseph subdivision, the Harris Addition, bears his name. 
     As the octagonal home was being built in 1851, Mr. Harris died.  His widow and children lived at the home until about 1858. 
    In 1858 as part of the disposition of the probate estate of William Harris, a large amount of land was transferred by his heirs to William Carter.  Carter's Addition to St. Joseph was then dedicated and the Harris family moved to a new octagon home built on Harris land in the middle of what is now Fairleigh Terrace near 26th Street and Frederick Avenue.  This later octagon home was demolished in the development of the Fairleigh Terrace neighborhood.
    James Hamilton, Jr., having migrated to the West from Ohio, bought a block of Carter's Addition in 1858 on which was located the Harris home, now 1423 Francis Street.  James, with his sons, established the first meat packing business West of the Mississippi in St. Joseph.  James or some member of his family lived in the home until 1912.      
     When James died in 1865, his widow remained in the home and one of James' sons, Edward W. Hamilton, moved his wife and daughter into the home with his mother.  Later in the 19th Century, in the block of Carter's Addition purchased by James in 1858, two new homes were built immediately to the West of the home as residences for Edward's siblings.  
    In 1876 at Edward's initiation, a major remodeling of the home began.  Mr. Hamilton retained St. Joseph architect Walter Angelo Powell, to create a Second Empire style building from the octagonal structure.  The home was made square with brick projections, a mansard roof with cresting was included, and the home was finished with balcony porticoes.  A "rear building" was also designed, most probably the carriage house which mimicked the new design of the home. 
     The home as seen today retains many exterior details from the alteration commissioned by Edward, thus the home is referred to as the Edward Hamilton Historic Home.  In spite of the substantial remodeling, the foundation of the main body continues to be the original stone foundation in an octagon shape.  A remnant of an octagonally shaped tower is still located on the roof of the body of the home.  Interior arches now replace what were once four exterior walls of the octagonally shaped structure.   
    Architect Angelo Powell is noteworthy within his profession.  He was one of the first formally-trained architects to work in the United States.  Like the Harris and Hamilton families, he had come West to St. Joseph, arriving in 1866.
     Before coming to Missouri, Mr. Powell worked with the chief Federal architect in Washington, D.C. to prepare designs for the Washington Monument, the U.S. Treasury, and an expansion of the U.S. Capitol.  During the Civil War he served the Union cause as chief engineer of the 8th Army Corps and thereafter served as an engineer for various railroads.

Following the death of Edward Hamilton in March 1904, and his wife's passing one month later, their unmarried daughter, Mary, became the owner of the home.  In 1912 she sold the property to Mr. and Mrs. John G. Parkinson.
    The Parkinsons bought the home in October and in November remodeling work began.  Most visibly, a sun room and sleeping porch were added on the West side of the home.
     John Parkinson was an attorney with an office in St. Joseph's bustling downtown.  The family located at 1423 Francis Street so that John could walk home from the office to have lunch with them.  They owned the home until 1941.
     Mrs. Parkinson was the former Mildred Stone.  Her father was William Joel Stone, an attorney from Joplin, Missouri who served as governor of Missouri from 1893 until 1897.  He also served in the U.S. House of  Representatives (1884 - 1891) and in the U.S.  Senate (1902 - 1918).  In 1917 Senator Stone, together with only four other U.S. Senators, voted against the entry of the United States into World War I. The New York Times reported on his death in 1918.
     During the next 40 or so years following the move of the Parkinson family from the home, the home went the way of many of St. Joseph's homes from the "golden age" which eluded demolition.  The home was converted to multiple apartments.  And, multiple mobile homes were sited in the yard.
     Entry to the home is through double leaf doors which are made of solid walnut.  A spiral staircase remains in the home's Reception Hall.  The Front and Back Parlors have Italian marble fireplace mantels which were sold from the house when it neared demolition in the 1970s.  Miraculously, these mantels were found, purchased and returned to the home.  Windows in the parlors are nine feet tall with ceilings in the home generally being ten feet high.  All trim is of a simple pattern and is painted.  The home has five fireplaces with all historic mantels in place.  The kitchen and Maid's Quarters occupy the North Wing of the home.  The home has four bedrooms and an upstairs sleeping porch.  All early light fixtures were removed before 1985 but antique period fixtures have been installed.  A carriage house has been rebuilt which is similar to the structure as designed in 1876.  Modern conveniences have been incorporated into the home without compromising the home's historic details.

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