St. Louis’ oldest historical
landmarks is the Bissell Mansion that now serves as Bissell Mansion
Restaurant & Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre. Legend has it that the
Bissell Mansion has more mysteries than just those presented in their
dinner theatre productions, but also, a "mysterious” ghost who
continues to lurk on the premises.
The Bissell Mansion,
situated on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, was built
by Captain Lewis Bissell in 1823. Bissell, who was born in Connecticut
on October 12, 1789, came from an impressive family of American
military leaders. His father, Major Russell Bissell was the first
commandant of Fort Bellefontaine. He was also the nephew of the famous
General Daniel Bissell, who became the first Commandant of the U.S.
Military Department of
as such, welcomed the Lewis and Clark expedition upon their arrival in
St. Louis. Following in
their footsteps, Lewis Bissell began his military career at the age of
nineteen, and was soon sent by President Jefferson to what was then
known as the Western frontier.
When he returned from the "frontier,”
Bissell began to acquire real estate in the 1820’s, particularly, some
1,500 acres that became known as Bissell’s Point. The "point” spread
east of Bissell’s Mansion to the Mississippi River and north to the
frontier outpost of Fort Bellefontaine which guarded the confluence of
the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. He also married Mary Woodbridge
in 1821. Once his mansion was completed, several more fine houses were
built on Bissell Point, which quickly became "the place to live” in
St. Louis. Bissell’s home
was surrounded by many trees and had an orchard extending toward the
river. Lewis’ wife Mary died in 1831 and he remarried six years later
to Mary Jane Douglas. Bissell lived in the house for more than four
decades before he died there at the age of 79 in 1868. A northwest
wing of the house was added in1883 by Frederick Kraft, a later owner.
Over the years, the building changed hands a number of times and the
When I-70 barreled
St. Louis in the late
1950’s, the historic home was saved by the Landmarks Association and today
survives as the Bissell Mansion Restaurant & Murder Mystery Dinner
Theatre. The oldest house in
St. Louis, it continues to
feature much of its original detailing including the staircase, fireplace
mantels, and some of the interior trim work.
On week-ends, the Bissell
Mansion now provides a mystery dinner theatre, in which customers
participate, and receive a four-course dinner between acts of the show.
The restaurant is also open for lunch and weeknights.
While most of the historic homes on Bissell Point were lost to the
"wrecking ball,” the Bissell Mansion survived, along with its resident
ghost, which is seemingly none other than Captain Lewis Bissell himself.
Evidently keeping a watchful eye on his property, the Captain has often
been spied in the parking lot, looking toward the house.
Inside the mansion is
another spirit of an unknown woman, perhaps one of Bissell’s wives. She
appears in a long, flowing white evening gown walking up the stairs,
sometimes turning to smile. Though both of these spirits have been
described as friendly, and even "comforting,” there are sometimes bizarre
happenings inside the restaurant – events that first began during the
renovation of the property in the 1980’s -- the most common, according to
staff, is that wine glasses seeming disappear before amazingly reappearing