The Belvidere Mansion in
not only provides a peek at history, but possibly, even a peek at a
ghost or two.
Listed on the National Register of
Historic Places, the three story mansion was built by John M. Bayless
starting in 1902. Bayless, who was instrumental in building the Cassville
and Western (C&W ) Railroad, as well as the Arkansas &
Railroad, moved his family to Indian Territory from Cassville,
Missouri in 1901. The next year, he began to build the castle-like
mansion for his wife, Mary Melissa Bayless, and his seven children.
Belvidere was not only successful in the railroad business, but also
in banking and land development.
The gothic style brick
home, complete with tile roof and four towers, provided for a portico on
the north side for the guest carriages, as well as a large covered porch
at the front entrance with a matching balcony directly above it. Inside,
the floors were covered in tile, with wainscoted marble walls and pressed
tin ceilings. Sliding pocket doors were used in several rooms and many had
fireplaces. Much of the trim and woodwork used were brought from the 1904
World's Fair in St. Louis. The third floor of the mansion was dedicated to
a 2,400 square foot ballroom.
to its immaculate details, the mansion took several years to build. At the
same time, Bayless was also building a three-story Opera House, the
Sequoyah Hotel, and an athletic building with an indoor swimming pool.
However, Mr. Bayless would never see the completion of his grand mansion.
In 1907, just six months before it was completed, Bayless died following
an operation for appendicitis. He was president of the Bank of Claremore
at the time of his death.
Mary Bayless and her six
surviving children finished the mansion after his death and continued to
reside there until 1919. All of her children resided in Claymore, with her
older sons becoming involved in the Bank of Claremore.
Another became the local postmaster, and yet another went on to become a
State Supreme Judge.
The building then changed hands several times
and in the 1930’s was sold to an investor who turned it into apartments.
Like other historic structures that become rentals, the mansion
deteriorated over the years until it was purchased by the Rogers County
Historical Society in 1991. Today, the beautiful old building has been
restored to its former glory and is fitted with period furnishings.
Today, the mansion is open for tours and is
also available for special events.
Of the buildings that
Belvidere built, only the mansion remains.
Over the years, numerous people have
reported that John Bayless and other members of his family; however,
still continue to "reside” in the beautiful old home. These
allegations tell of unexplained noises, actual sightings of hazy
figures, toilets that flush by themselves, hot and cold spots, and
feelings of being touched by someone when no one is there.
On several occasions paranormal groups
have investigated the old mansion, seeming to find the most paranormal
activity on the second floor. There, psychics have "seen” children
playing, as well as "meeting” a distressed John Bayless, and a
distraught young woman who allegedly committed suicide when she lived
in the building as a tenant in the 1940’s.
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