Belvidere Mansion FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions about the Bayless Family and Their Beautiful Belvidere Mansion
🏰 Q: When did the Bayless family move to Claremore?
A: Mr. Bayless visited Claremore often, starting about 1901. He traveled between Claremore and his home in Cassville, Missouri, while building the Sequoyah Hotel (1901/2), the Windsor Opera House (1902), and the Claremore Athletic Association (started 1907). Mr. Bayless's oldest daughter, Francis Davis, and her husband, George Decatur Davis, moved to Claremore in 1902 to run the family's Bank of Claremore. The oldest Bayless son, Guy, joined the work in the bank in 1904. Mr. Bayless's wife, Mary Bayless, did not move the rest of the family to Claremore until after Mr. Bayless's death in June 1907.
🏰 Q: When was the Belvidere Mansion built?
A: The Belvidere Abstract states Mr. Bayless purchased the property in 1905. The mansion does not appear on the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps until 1907, and even then it says "from plans." 1907 Claremore newspapers report that Mr. Bayless broke ground in March 1907, and the family moved into the home in late November of 1907.
🏰 Q: Where did the name "Belvidere" originate?
The name, “Belvidere,” is created from the Italian phrase “bello per vedere” or “beautiful to see.” It is uncertain if the mansion was so named because of the beautiful, captivating view from the third story windows above or since the mansion itself was beautiful to see from the surrounding wide-open prairie and streets below.
🏰 Q: What is the hole in the ceiling of the foyer of the Belvidere Mansion?
A: The hole in the ceiling of the foyer of the Belvidere Mansion is an atrium. Starting in the first-floor foyer the opening goes up through the two floors above, allowing air to circulate through the house. Since the only heating units were on the first floor, this was an important feature that warmed the second and third floors in winter. At the top of the atrium, a skylight opens through the roof of the third-floor ceiling letting warm air escape the house in summer allowing cooler air to enter through tall windows below.
🏰 Q: Are there any original Bayless family items in the Belvidere Mansion?
A: There are several pieces of Bayless family furniture that are original to the Belvidere Mansion. The large desk and bookcase in the Gentlemen's Parlor, now Gift Shop, was originally in the library of the home. A green Eastlake Victorian chair and a square wooden table in the master bedroom and a formal gown in a glass case in the hallway both belonged to Mrs. Bayless and are on display on the second floor. There is also a collection of family artifacts and photographs found in the second-floor hallway.
🏰 Q: What happened to the Belvidere Mansion when the family moved out?
A: When the Bayless family moved out of the Belvidere Mansion in 1919, Mrs. Bayless moved to a small house on what is now Patti Page Blvd. The mansion was then used as a hospital and a boarding house. In the late 1920s the Bell family purchased the home and divided the three floors into apartments. By the late 1900s the home had deteriorated and there was a plan to tear it down. The Rogers County Historical Society rescued the mansion purchasing the property in 1991. They then began the renovations that make the Belvidere the lovely Claremore attraction we enjoy today.
🏰 Q: Was the central atrium opening of the Belvidere Mansion that goes through all three floors to the skylight, supposed to be used for an elevator?
A: The central atrium opening that goes up through all three floors in the Belvidere Mansion was probably never intended to be used for an elevator. The atrium and skylight were created to circulate air through the Belvidere Mansion, warming it in the winter and cooling it in the summer. There is an elevator cage in the Belvidere gardens, but this came from the Mason Hotel that was originally in downtown Claremore but no longer exists. The atrium opening inside the mansion is about 5 feet x 5 feet. The elevator in the garden is over 6 feet long and would need all kinds of gears and pulleys to make it work. This would not fit the atrium opening of the Belvidere Mansion.
🏰 Q: Was another house built to look just like Belvidere?
A: Yes, the Dodd Home in Hugo, Oklahoma, built by Claremore homebuilder Laban Barcus was built from similar plans and looked very much like Belvidere. The Dodd Home no longer exists.
🏰 Q: Who was Mr. Belvidere?
A: There was no Mr. Belvidere. Mr. John Melville Bayless built the Belvidere Mansion for his wife, Mary, and their family. Belvidere, in Italian, means "beautiful to see" or "beautiful view." The Belvidere Mansion is beautiful to see from the street, and it has a beautiful view from the third floor ballroom windows.
🏰 Q: How did Mr. Bayless make his money?
A: John Bayless was an entrepreneur, real estate man, banker, city and railroad builder, and businessman. He was President of the Bank of Claremore and several other banks in Missouri and Indian Territory. He built the Hotel Barry in Cassville, Missouri; the Artesian Hotel in Sulphur, Indian Territory; and the Belvidere Mansion, Windsor Opera House, Sequoyah Hotel, and began the Claremore Athletic Club in Claremore, Indian Territory. He also built railroads in Missouri, Indian Territory, Texas, and Arkansas. Buying and selling real estate also helped Mr. Bayless make his fortune.
🏰 Q: Is the Belvidere Mansion haunted?
A: This you will have to decide for yourself. Old houses make many unusual sounds that can be easily explained. Some attribute these odd sounds to paranormal activity.
🏰 Q: Has anyone ever died at the Belvidere?
A: We continue to look for eyewitness accounts and records to answer this question. Mr. Bayless died June 2, 1907, six months before the Belvidere Mansion was completed. A July 22, 1920, Claremore Progress reports that "Louis Fields, of Collinsville, died at the Cinnabar Hospital." The Belvidere Mansion housed the Cinnabar Hospital at the time.
🏰 Q: Did someone hang him/herself at the Belvidere Mansion?
A: No record has been found that anyone hanged him/herself at Belvidere. Sadly, a Bayless daughter, Bland Bayless, did take her own life, but she was married and living in Kansas City at the time.
🏰 Q: What is the stone by the front curb of the Belvidere Mansion?
A: The stone at the front curb of the Belvidere Mansion is a carriage step. It was used to step up into carriages or to climb onto horses. This stone came from the Bayless family home in Cassville, Missouri. The stone is inscribed with the year of John and Mary Bayless' wedding, 1879.
🏰 Q: What is the stone structure in the back parking lot of the Belvidere Mansion?
A: The stone structure in the back parking lot was once a well for water. A large brick barn was built originally on the property. This well would have been a helpful asset.