The Wilbur A. McNeill Stone Mansion is locally significant as an outstanding example of the design skills of the firm of Hallett and Rawson, one of the state’s leading and most innovative architectural firms in the early years of the 20th century.
Constructed in 1908-09 and exhibiting a combination of architectural details drawn from Colonial Revival and Mission Spanish Colonial Revival modes, this limestone-faced edifice is one of Oskaloosa’s largest and most elaborate residential properties.
This house is as significant as much for how it was constructed as for its usage of materials and stylistic influences because of its innovative use of steel and concrete in its construction. By utilizing these materials, they believed they could provide a virtually fireproof, energy efficient residence that would be soundproof as well.
Wilbur McNeill served in the military until a second wound persuaded him to retire from the military. He and his brother started purchasing coal mines in Monroe County and then came to Mahaska County where they bought the majority of the coal mines. They combined the Mahaska coal mines into the Consolidated Coal Mine and they sold it to the railroad in 1881 for half a million dollars. From there, they had interests in lead mines, near Dubuque, Iowa; silver mines in Colorado and gold in the Black Hills as well as leasing coal mines in the Canmore, Canada area for twenty years. The home that was built for Mr. McNeill’s nephew to use as he oversaw the mines in Canada was also a Bed & Breakfast, called McNeill Heritage Bed & Breakfast.
Mr. McNeill married late in life and built this wonderful home with every known convenience at the time for his bride and him. There are several architectural features that came from their world travels, such as the “ALOHA” carved in the stone over the fireplace in the Solarium.
The Stone Mansion Today
As you walk through the door, you’ll be transported back in time to a slower, more elegant era, a time when there was beautiful woodwork throughout the house. The Mexican Tabasco mahogany woodwork dominates the living room and dining room.
In the grand hallway, the mahogany is a striking contrast with the soft white paint. The whole library, as well as the first and second story floors, are a beautiful quarter-sawn oak. The large ornate pier mirror at the landing of the grand staircase reflects the beautiful contrast of the majestic mahogany handrail and the white spindles. From the first floor, the mirror showcases the stained glass located in the second floor ceiling. The stained glass is brightened by the skylight in the third floor.
Have breakfast in the elegant dining room or you might enjoy having it served in the inviting, light and airy solarium, where you can also sit back and relax with a beverage or a good book. Weather permitting the back terrace is a great place for early risers to enjoy that first cup of coffee.
Relax on one of the benches placed around the acre of property and listen to the soothing sounds of the birds, squirrels and the breeze in the trees.
Meet The Innkeepers
Gary and Virginia Walker, your hosts and owners of McNeill Stone Mansion Bed & Breakfast, have given the castle-like mansion much tender loving care since they purchased the home in the 1990s. It had been unoccupied for 17 years and was unheated during many Iowa winters. The mansion has now been restored to the splendor of days gone by. The Walkers enjoy sharing the home’s history as much as they did reviving it.
Now retired, Gary farmed all his life. He has also gained a national reputation for his restoration work on mid-50’s show cars, specializing in Buicks. Virginia’s long career working in several departments at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company has helped her with her current job of working with vendors.
They invite you to come stay with them in their warm and comfortable home: for a night, a weekend, or perhaps longer. Your stay at the stone mansion will be one you’ll never forget.
McNeill Stone Mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has won other awards – the Oskaloosa Area Chamber & Development Group’s Historic Preservation Award, The Friends of Historic Preservation Lifesaver Award from the Oskaloosa Historic Preservation Commission, and the Acorn Award from the Oskaloosa Area Chamber & Development Group in recognition of the establishment of an innovative business. Virginia and Gary also won the Iowa Lodging Association’s Innkeeper of the Year award.