As the Department of Natural Resources prepares for the Centennial Anniversary of Missouri’s State Parks in April 2017, residents of Pettis County have the opportunity to visit many of the state’s treasures with the county’s central location.
One site, the Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site, perhaps rises above the others, holding a special meaning for area residents.
Constructed between 1897 and 1928 on a 120-foot bluff on North U.S. Highway 65, the 31-room home is part of John Homer Bothwell’s Stonyridge Estate.
“I think one of the most striking aspects of the Lodge is that it makes such an impact on people,” said Marissa L. Cowen, Historic Site Administrator for the Bothwell Lodge. “Even though we don’t have 30-room homes there are aspects of the site that we can all relate to.
“I think because we know so much about Mr. Bothwell, we feel we know him personally and he is very relatable to us,” she added. “I think there is something rather sad knowing that he only lived here for about a year before his passing.”
Bothwell, according to information provided by DNR, was a prominent Sedalia lawyer and judge who remained active in local politics, representing Pettis County for 16 years in the Missouri General Assembly.
Responsible for much of the funding to construct the hospital and hotel that bear his name, Bothwell is also given credit for making Sedalia the permanent home of the Missouri State Fair.
Bothwell purchased the land for his estate in 1896.
Six years prior to the purchase, in a speech given at Indiana University, his alma mater, Bothwell said, “Then men would build homes to endure for many generations; and such homes — both great and small — should stand as monuments to family names, histories and characters, in which it would be honorable to dwell, and which should help to form and fix the habits of each succeeding generation.”
Bothwell built his home in four sections as part of his Stonyridge estate.
The lodge contains three stories and sits on top of a 120-foot bluff.
“I think many people only think of the Lodge, when actually there are eight historic structures that make up the Estate and State Park,” Cowen said. “The Lodge is just the main feature.”
The other structures include two tenant houses, the cliff house, a four-car garage, a well house, a spring house and a barn.
According to Cowen, 95 percent of the furnishings and items in the home are original, belonging to Bothwell or his family who often stayed on the property in one of the houses.
“Mr. Bothwell built the house as a retreat and a place where his family and friends could stay,” Cowen said. “Although we know a great deal about him there is very little that we know about his wife, Hattie.
“She was a Jaynes (it is her sister, Jennie, who the Stadium at Smith-Cotton is named for),” she added. “Hattie and Mr. Bothwell were only married for two and a half years before she died at 22.”
The Bothwells were both from large families but had no surviving children as both Hattie and the couple’s only child died shortly after the infant was born.
“After Mr. Bothwell died, he left the property to his living relatives and friends,” Cowen said. “The Bothwell Lodge Club would remain in control of the property as long as five members were living.”
In 1974, the state purchased the 247 acres, opening the site to the public in July of 1979.
“I don’t know how I can pick just one thing about the site and say that is my favorite,” said Anastacia Woolery, a guide for the site. “I love all of it.
“For me I think Mr. Bothwell represents a father figure,” she added. “He always put others first and he was last. His house and property was always for others and their enjoyment and use.”
An estimated 5,000 people come to the site each year.
The site also has a three-mile hiking and mountain-biking trail and a picnic area.
To allow visitors an opportunity to see the park at a time that is not normally accessible to them, the DNR will host the bi-annual movie night Sept. 10.
“Once in May and in September we show a movie outdoors on the grounds of the park,” Cowen said. “We are going to show ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ and we’ll start the movie around twilight (7:30 p.m.). We do have small concessions but our guests can bring snacks or a picnic if they would like to.
“They are more than welcome to bring lawn chairs or a blanket and stretch out on the lawn,” she added. “It’s really a low-key, simple evening, but it gets our guests out into the park at a time that is not normally accessible to them.”
The Bothwell Lodge and State Historic site will be open Labor Day and will begin winter hours Sept. 16.
For more information about the site, call 660-827-0510 or for more information on other Missouri State Historic Sites call 1-800-334-6946.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.