Vaile Mansion is a museum in Independence, MO, and is one of the oldest and most ornate Victorian-era homes west of the Mississippi River. The house was built in two parts: the main section was built between 1867 and 1870 by George R. Vaile, an early settler, trapper, and trader who moved to Independence from Westport (now part of Kansas City). In 1869, Vaile married Mary Lucinda Wilson, who was the first white child born in Jackson County. The couple lived in a small one-story limestone house until they could afford to build a new home.
In 1887 the second part of the building, including its two towers and additional bedrooms, was built as a wedding gift from George Vaile to his son, Richard G. Vaile. Richard lived in the house until 1920 when he succumbed to injuries sustained in World War I and died after falling down a flight of stairs while carrying an Easter lily to place on Mary Lucinda’s grave.
The house stayed in the Vaile family until 1960 when it was purchased by Harry Darby. Darby, who was the co-founder of the AMC Company (which produced Jeep), used the house as an office and for entertaining clients. Between 1962 and 1965, he had many renovations done to the building which included painting it gray, covering much of its Victorian decor with aluminum siding, adding air conditioning to all three floors, and enclosing the balcony on the north side of the building. After he died in 1985, his family donated Vaile Mansion to The National Council of Jewish Women. In 1987, a group of private citizens bought the house and began restoring it as a museum showcasing Victorian-era design and decor.
The Vaile Mansion museum now features twelve rooms, all of which are decorated with furniture and accouterments purchased through mail-order catalogs during the Victorian era. All twelve rooms reflect a different point in the history of George Vaile or his son, Richard G. Vaile. The first floor is dedicated to their early years, including scenes from Westport Landing, an 1850s-style parlor, and a reconstructed bedroom from George Vaile’s first home. The second floor is dedicated to Richard G. Vaile and the third floor depicts scenes from early Kansas City history through the eyes of Henry Van Brunt, one of his father’s business partners.
The house also features a basement with several rooms that were used by the family to dry meat, cure hides, and store root vegetables during the winter. A small portion of the basement is dedicated to medical history and houses an operating room that was re-constructed after being discovered in the early 1990s under a thick layer of plaster on one wall. Also found in the walls were glass eyes, bottles for castor oil and whiskey, saws, knives, and pliers. The museum also features a large carriage house with several rooms that have been renovated for special events such as quilting bees and Victorian-themed fancy dress balls.
Today the house is a very popular tourist attraction in Independence. It is open to the public from April through October on Friday
See the next in this series: Parkville Nature Sanctuary
See the previous article in this series: The Regnier Family Wonderscope Children’s Museum of Kansas City
Driving Direction To One Shot Water Heaters of Kansas City, MO:
One Shot Water Heaters of Kansas City is located at 4102 N Harrison Ave, Kansas City, MO 64116. From Vaile Mansion, Head south on N Osage St toward W 2 St S. Then turn right onto US-24 W, you will pass by Dollar General (on the right in 1.9 mi), now turn left to merge onto I-435 N, now take exit 55 for MO-210 E toward Richmond/N Kansas City, now stay left at the fork and merge onto MO-210 W. Now, merge onto MO-210 W, then turn right at Arby’s to merge onto I-29 N/I-35 N/US-71 N toward U.S. 71. Almost there, now merge onto I-29 N/I-35 N/US-71 N, then take exit 8A for Parvin Rd. Time to turn left onto NE Parvin Rd, take another left onto N Harrison Ave, Hence, you have now arrived at your destination.