A Sad Reunion in Springfield, Missouri
Two and a half years ago, my siblings and our families, gathered at this odd, yet comforting Bed & Breakfast.
We had come "home" to bury my mother, traveling from 6 different states. I didn't grow up in Springfield, but it was the town my parents and the 4 kids returned to for holidays and vacations. Our family moved from state to state, but grandparents always stayed put!
We caravanned in a few cars and arrived at dusk. None of us recognized this curious old place, even though we thought we knew Springfield well. I had found the place online a week earlier and finding the mansion once we reached Springfield was a bit trickier.
We found the odd location, then we needed to figure out which of the many entrances to use. And then we had to find someone who worked there to show us our rooms. It all seemed a little mysterious, which added to the foggy, dreamlike state we were already in.
I had expected quiet, since the host on the phone had said the compound had once been owned by an order of cloistered nuns who focused on "humility and gentleness".
But as we creaked up the teak staircase to the second floor hall, it seemed almost too quiet... like The Shining.
So Much Space
The hallway was long and wide enough to hold numerous pieces of Victorian style furniture, including a pump organ. A bit of Christmas decor hung over windows and filled table tops. The mansion, built in 1892 had 13 suites, each with a bath. That seemed awfully extravagant for a convent.
The Veranda Room
Don and I were pretty delighted to find our spacious room decorated with a lit up Christmas tree. In fact all the rooms had one. We also had a ritzy door surrounded in stained glass that lead us to our own little veranda! Did they have 10 nuns per room?
Grand in its Time
As it turns out, this lovely home was bought by the "Visitation of Holy Mary " in 1906. It was built 125 years ago by millionaire, John O'Day for his bride. There were originally 35 rooms and 7 baths and they called it Park Place.
Quite the Doorway
Since we had such a fine room with a terrace and stained glass, I couldn't help but think this might have been a room reserved for the O'Day's special guests. But in truth all the rooms seemed pretty unique, some with fireplaces and sitting areas and one with a piano. I got to peek in quite a few rooms, since our family and kids took up so many of them.
There were a lot of thoughts swimming in my head on the evening before my mom's graveside service. Emotions are a strange thing and somehow spotting that claw-footed tub surrounded in lace gave me quite the chuckle, that I so needed.
Mom would have loved this place. She was the one who taught me to love the unusual and to search for the stories. This seemed to be the perfect setting to gather and remember Mom.
My brother's room had a good table with lots of extra chairs. I very much needed this corner gathering (more than a chuckle over a bathtub) to relieve the stress leading up to our stay.
After 2 weeks of worry and planning and logistics and sadness, we were suddenly all together, spending time remembering our Mom. There was something comforting about this empty (except for our family) and spiritual place. We kept it respectful, since there is still some religious affiliation, with no liquor rules. Meaning, we respectfully packed up and carted off any plastic cups and bottles we may have used. I'm usually a rule follower, but we needed to toast our Mom.
A Chilly Morning to Reflect
I was up before the sun rose and gave myself time to walk the grounds and prepare my mind for the day. The cold air was like a slap in the face when I stepped out. A welcome jolt actually.
Of course I thought about Mom. She would have so loved this wintery garden. And she would have loved the quirky history behind it. Mrs. O'Day was given the house when her husband divorced her after a couple years of marriage.
She changed the name from Park Place to Elfindale,in honor of the elves she claimed to see on her misty mornings walks. It was eerie enough walking that early morning, without knowing that many of the nuns had once been buried on the grounds. Evidently they were "moved", sometime before the property was bought and turned into a B&B in 1990.
A Cottage and Tower
I wandered down the road under the odd metal arches, that must have been lit at night. I found a curious cottage that would have been a perfect elf house, had it been more the size of a shoebox.
Then I headed back to the east entrance of the mansion where the sun was barely beginning to glow. I could spot our terrace above the stairs. And the tower!! If only I'd known that the tower held a guest room! Someday I'd like to stay in the Tower Room.
Convent, School, Church, Mansion
I crossed over to see the school/convent and church that had been built after the nun's purchase in 1906. The sun was warming things a bit, but the wind was giving the flag a workout and my hands were numb. I headed in to shower before breakfast.
Breakfast Before Heading Out
After having the place to ourselves the night before, it was a relief to have the staff on duty, preparing breakfast.
Evidently they only do breakfasts on weekends, so we were lucky they made an exception for our small crowd. Our normally loud group was pretty quiet that morning as we sipped coffee and mentally prepared for the morning service.
Before checking out, I noticed the ornate, carved fireplace with red and green stockings. Yep, Mom would have loved that.
She was the knitter of Christmas stockings and we have more than one photo of Mom knitting away on Christmas Eve, finishing the latest grandchild's stocking, before Santa's arrival.
We stayed overnight in an awesome, somewhat eerie mansion, that later became a convent. That's quite notable!
But personally, I'll always associate the stay with Mom and family.
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!