Above the Mississippi
It was a bit nerve wracking just getting to the mansion. We drove through a somewhat seedy area to find Bird Street. Then we found the limestone bluff and wall beside the entrance. We made the narrow turn in through the gates and wound up the drive, wondering about some of the boarded up houses below. Was this area safe?
Georgian Revival Style
We parked in a nearly empty gravel lot and wandered to the entrance. It was as impressive as I remembered from a visit 25 years ago.
The 13,500 square foot mansion was situated on a lovely lawn near a trickling fountain... but there was something a bit eerie about the peeling paint and the quiet. What were we getting ourselves into?
We entered through the front doors and stood sort of gasping at the enormous staircase and the eerie beauty of the formal entrance. Was anyone there? What were we supposed to do? Then Juan, the owner appeared. He was giving the final 4:00 tour to a couple from Georgia. Juan stood at the base of the stairs when he invited us to join the tour. That was the very spot where Mark Twain stood on a raised platform to speak with a group, on his last trip to Hannibal in 1902.
Taking it In
We moved from the airy, pink & green music room to the cozy men's study with dark woodwork and heavy Persian carpets. I couldn't stop grinning as I took in all the details about the 30 room residence. Mrs. C. liked white painted wood, Mr. C. insisted on having electric and gas lighting.
Giggling through Bathrooms
"And y'all are going to be the only guests?" He said, shaking his head. I wasn't sure which seemed more strange, the idea of being the only guests in this mansion, or sharing the mansion with a couple like Mr. and Mrs. Georgia. I decided I was glad we'd be the only guests.
Evening at the Mansion
Our tour ended and the Georgia couple departed. Juan officially checked us in and invited us to relax on the porch where he brought us a tray with wine, fruit and cheese. We chose the shady porch near the carriage entrance, since the sun was pretty warm.
An hour earlier, we had really questioned what we might be getting into. Not only had we heard stories of Rockcliffe being haunted, (Mr. C. died in his bed in 1924) but we were to be the only guests. Our host, would also be staying in the house. Would he be ready to protect us from the sketchy neighbors in the houses below? But what if our host was a Norman Bates type of host...?
This is the dramatic, divided staircase we took to the second floor. But then we had to take the servant's staircase to the third level where our room awaited.
The Sage Room
If we'd spent a little more money, we could have stayed in Mr. C's room. We would have had a fireplace, ceramic Roman tub, square wood toilet seat AND the bed where Mr. C. died. (At least I think)
But, we were on a road trip budget and happy to sleep in a less deluxe room, where the servants once slept. Actually it was a sweet, cozy room with a full size bed. The servants who shared this room wouldn't have had a bed this nice.
We actually had the entire third floor to ourselves. There were 2 guest rooms, which had been servant's quarters. However, only one is rented one out at a time. We also had a sewing room, a ballroom and a classroom!
The ballroom was a tad spooky at night. It was filled with a hodgepodge of things from a spinning wheel to a mannequin. In the early 1900's it would have been kept empty for formal gatherings.
Later the Cruikshank daughter moved into the white house and then her mother joined her. I wondered about who lived there now.
Dining with Mark Twain?
This is the dining room where I imagined Mark Twain dining, during his visit 112 years ago! Maybe his spirit was joining us for breakfast... but 8 am may have been too early for old "Sam".
Our Own Feast
It was fun to imagine the Cruikshank family dining in this beautiful room, as we sipped our coffee in gold rimmed cups, by the light of the Tiffany lamp. We started in on some yogurt with berries and a plate of fresh fruit.
And then the French toast, bacon and sausage arrived. Juan didn't join us for breakfast, but we did visit a while. Then he offered us a peek at the latest project.
We climbed the stairs, one more time. This time we went past the second floor, with this great view from the balcony. We climbed higher than the third floor...
The Widow's Walk
Juan showed us the latest renovation, on the flat roof at the very top of the mansion. The small white structure will soon have new windows installed, looking out on the widow's walk that surrounds it. What a fun view to enjoy, before we departed!
The drive up looked different. I didn't remember seeing the street-lamps, 4 years ago.
As we approached the beautiful mansion we could see they were in the midst of exterior renovations. That's a good thing. We want this place to be around forever.
Just the Same
We were so glad to see the familiar interior. The Turkish room was Don's favorite. It looked as amazing as we had remembered. I had fond memories of the porch and visiting with Juan. This time we had wine and cheese with Warren, as well. We felt right at home!
Third Floor Changes
Once again, Don and I booked a third floor room. This time we had the newly renovated Governess' Room. The ballroom down the hall, also had undergone a facelift. The ceiling and wallpaper in both rooms was just amazing. So many designs and angles. Just beautiful!
In the morning Don and I had a decadent breakfast in the gracious dining room and heard some amusing stories from Juan and Warren about the recent wallpaper and streetlamp projects. Don and I were relieved to see that Rockcliffe was in good care.
Before taking off, Warren steered us towards the third stair, where Mark Twain once gave his talk. We should have quoted a famous line or two, while we posed for a photo.
What a fun revisit! Maybe Don and I will surprise ourselves and really break our 1-stay habit, by returning for a third visit!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!