The House of St. John
By Harry M. VanHoudnos III & Diane Baksys
While I cannot properly thank everyone who helped in encouraging
me in writing this book, there are some who do deserve being given
credit. Among them are my wife Kim, who helped me to get the original
equipment that allowed me to get started in writing, My
proofreader/co-writer Diane Baksys, as well as some of my fellow
Co-workers. Without your help, none of this would have been possible.
Book I Prologue
It was a murky and morbid day for the house of St. John.
The St. John family women gazed sadly out the carriage window upon
their estate, from which they would soon be moving. It was hard for the
sisters to accept that there beloved home, the prized legacy of four
generations of the St. John family, was being wrenched from there
Built in Illinois promptly following its statehood, the elegant
twenty - room Victorian manor had belonged to the St. John family for
almost 90 years. The mansions founding fathers, French settlers who
made a small fortune in Illinois from land speculation, had diligently
built the house over a period of several years, constructing the
domicile on a scenic bluff overlooking the banks of the Sangamon River.
In the decades that the St. John Family prospered, they had
cherished and nurtured their estate, expanding the lower level and
richly embellishing the home's interior. Proud of the aristocratic
dwelling which they had so meticulously wrought, they had generously
opened its doors to socialites and commoners alike. Friends and
neighbors had been entertained with lavish soirees, and even a handful
of escaping slaves had found refuge there. But now, the St. John
estate was suffering serious financial setbacks from manipulations in
the commodities exchange, and the house was being sold to pay off back
taxes owed on the property.
The surviving heirs to the St. John estate, sisters Catherine,
Meghan, and Robin, were overcome with sadness, as they approached the
family grounds in their carriage on the edge of the family grounds that
gloomy day. Their home, which they viewed in the distance, seemed to
bear their somber expression also, its exterior darkened by the gray
clouds that were gathering overhead. The sky, which had been bright
earlier that day, was becoming overcast, with the hint of a storm
" How could it happen, Meghan, how?" asked Catherine, the middle
sister and the most prim of the three daughters, as she shook her
strawberry - blonde head of hair in disbelief. "How, what, Catherine?"
answered Meghan, the oldest sister, as she turned in a state of
agitation toward Catherine, almost hitting her with the parasol she was
holding. The three women decided to send the coachman ahead to the
house, so that they could traverse the pathway that they had walked
since childhood to their beloved estate, which they must unwillingly
Meghan continued to address to her younger sister's, while
adjusting the hood of the cloak that covered her brunette hair. " How
could they seize our home and take it away from us? I'll tell you how.
After Mother's death, our father became a fool and a drunkard! He let
himself be talked into investing money into uncertain ventures, and then
he drank all of the profits away, " she lamented, as she looked toward
the mist - shrouded grounds.
The memory of their departed mother brought a painful silence upon
the sisters for a few minutes. "Now, now, sisters, let's not direct our
frustration against our father", interjected Robin, the youngest and
the most pragmatic of the three sisters. "What father has done cannot
be undone, so let us hope that the new owner of our home will be of a
good family, worthy of the privilege of our honorable estate, " the ash
blonde continued, casting a serious look toward her sisters, with an
intent, mournful stare at their home. "But what if the new owner is not
of a good family? " Catherine asked hesitantly. "We must trust that
such a situation will not arise under the judicious management of our
realtor " responded Meghan declaratively. "Let us approach him now to
ascertain the state of affairs regarding our property. "
They slowly and silently started up a long, winding pathway lined
with tall, majestic oak trees, which extended about 500 yards from their
As the sisters neared their house, they saw several of their
neighbors on the front lawn, talking feverishly amongst themselves. In
the midst of the group stood the sisters' real estate agent, Mr.
Sanders. Raising his right hand to silence the crowd, he spoke above
the commotion. "Now, as I told you, I can't do anything about this.
An offer has been made, and it not only pays off the debt owed, but also
provides that the house will still be lived in. I still have to talk it
over with the St. John family, but I don't anticipate any problems.
After all, they will be handsomely taken care of. " Although diminutive
in height, Sanders spoke with a dignified bearing that commanded his
The St. John women hurried over to the animated onlookers. "What
is the meaning of this ruckus, Mr. Sanders? " demanded Meghan. "Miss
Meghan, Miss Catherine, Miss Robin, I have some good news for you, " he
announced. "And what, pray tell, is that, ?" inquired Meghan . "Well,
as I was telling your neighbors, I have someone who has made a very
generous offer for not only the house, but for the grounds as well. The
figure quoted was around $3, 000, which is more than enough to pay off
the debt, as well as providing your family with enough money to restart
elsewhere, " the agent informed the sisters.
As Sanders spoke, Robin, the most observant of the three ladies,
noticed that the agent acted nervous, and his face was glistening with
newly - appearing beads of sweat . "Excuse me, Mr. Sanders, but I
couldn't help but notice that you are perspiring rather heavily. Is
there some reason that you are uneasy, perhaps something that you are
not telling us? " she inquired.
"How perceptive she is, " thought Sanders in astonishment.
He searched for words to soften the news that he had, but could
find none. "You are correct, Miss Robin ; there is one small piece of
information that I was withholding from all three of you ladies. The
person who wants to buy the house and its lands is a ... " Sanders'
face began to blush all the way from his bearded chin up to his salt -
and pepper hair, " ... A lady of ill - repute. She intends to set up a
new business here, near Springfield, and thought that your home would be
the ideal place to do so. "
The loss of their home, compiled with the ignominious plans for
its future, was too dismal a fate for them to bear. Of all the things
that could have happened, a madam operating out of their family home!
This indignity was more than they could tolerate.
The three sisters exploded with shock and outrage, and a cold wind
began to blow over the St. John estate, as the sisters furiously
confronted the real estate agent. "How could you, Sanders? How dare
you consider selling this house to a Madam ! " charged Meghan, glaring
contemptuously at Sanders. " Of all the people in the world, Mr.
Sanders, a Madam ! " hissed Catherine. Shaking her head in disgust,
she thought to herself, "Sanders is a cold - blooded mercenary. " Robin
disdainfully reproached him, saying " I am extremely disappointed that
you would even allow someone in such a profession to make an offer on
our house. " The sisters' incisive, disapproving voices struck Sanders'
ears with the sharpness of an ice pick.
"I'm sorry, ladies, but my instructions were to sell the house in
such a way that it would pay off the taxes owed, as quickly as possible,
and this woman satisfies that criteria. We can discuss the settlement
more tonight, but I am due in Springfield immediately to get the papers
signed. " Sanders wiped his heavily perspired face with a handkerchief
that he had drawn from his waistcoat, and retreated from the continued
outcries of Catherine, Meghan, and Robin. Relieved to escape his
clients' wrath, he climbed in his carriage and abruptly departed for his
small real estate office in town. As he quickly fled down the rural
road leading to Springfield, cold gusts of wind violently rocked the
carriage and whipped at Sander's face and clothing. Fearing that a
tornado may be at hand, the group dispersed, running to their homes for
Meghan, Catherine, and Robin took cover in the front hallway of
the St. John mansion, still lividly discussing the terrible transaction
for which their home was fated. "Is there any way to stop this woman
from doing what she proposes to do?" asked Robin, her voice breaking
with despair. "None whatsoever, " answered Catherine with resignation
in her voice and tears in her eyes.
"Although she cannot be stopped, there is some recourse that may
be taken that might affect her plans, " interjected Meghan. Robin and
Catherine looked inquisitively at their oldest sister. "Follow my words
with your own, " Meghan instructed her sisters.
"Our terrible injustice will be avenged, " she said, smiling
maliciously. "We curse this house and any and all females who enter it,
" pronounced Meghan bitterly, her face contorted into a terrible grimace
of hatred. "Woe and misery to any female who dares to enter here, "
continued Catherine with the malediction, as she spit her words out like
snake venom. "For any female who would dare to cross this threshold
will never be the same when she leaves this house, " added Robin
vehemently, her eyes angrily blazing, like pools of fire. The curse was
concluded by all three women declaring in unison: ... "If she EVER
leaves at all. " Outside the mansion, the wind rose to a fever pitch,
shrieking like a train whistle, as if to accompany the sisters' curse.
Their ominous proclamation issued, Meghan, Catherine, and Robin
entered their home for the last time. They promptly seized their most
precious possessions, and then they left their ancestral home, never to
set foot on the estate again. As the women swiftly departed in their
carriage, the storm clouds that had been gathering broke, releasing a
pounding, unforgiving hailstorm and a torrential tempest over the St.
The airline pilot announced over the intercom, "Ladies and
Gentlemen, we are now arriving at Springfield, Illinois, known as the
capitol of the Land of Lincoln. We are scheduled to land in about five
minutes. Please make sure that all seats are in the upright position,
and that you are buckled in. We wish to thank you for flying TWE
airlines this day. " Linda looked out the window and saw level farmland
and woods surrounding the modest - sized town of 110,000.
It felt funny to come back here after all these years, and see the
landscape and airport looking exactly the same as it had when she left.
The plane descended and landed on the runway below, gliding up to
a docking bay at the city's Command Airport.
A warm but blustery wind, unusual for late February, wafted across
Linda's hair, as well as fogging up her glasses, since the temperature
difference between where she had left, vs. when she had arrived at this
day, as well as the cramped conditions of the plane, was considerable
indeed. She then descended the stairs of the plane and approached the
airport building. Leaving the airline gate, she went to the luggage
carousel and picked up the small suitcase and garment bags she had
brought with her from the jet airplane flight from Charleston SC. , and
then transferred to the turboprop flight out of St. Louis MO. , and
proceeded to walk toward the Action Car rental kiosk next to the baggage
A young blonde woman at the counter named Betty asked her "May I
help you, Miss ?" . "Yes, my name is Linda Mayer, and I have a car
reserved for me by the Springfield Historical Society. " Betty quickly
scanned her terminal to see if such a vehicle had been reserved. " Yes,
here we are. A 1995 Lexus Convertible, reserved for you in Section G,
Row 5. I will need a major credit card and your driver's license to
release the car to you. "
" Are you sure that it was a Lexus Convertible, and not some other,
less luxurious car ? " asked Linda hopefully. Betty looked at the
young woman in her early 30's, about 5' 3, " wearing a pair of flat
shoes, and a knee - length tweed suit, with half-rim glasses covering
olive - green eyes, and thick, dark, brown hair. The flawless features
of the woman's face who was looking demurely back at her, indicated that
she could be a knockout, if she would wear any makeup, Betty thought.
" I'm sorry, but there are no other cars under that reservation, "
Betty informed her customer. Linda sighed quietly to herself and handed
over her Discover card. She preferred more practical, understated
vehicles, like her modest tastes in clothing.
As she left the airport in her rented car, Linda thought about why
she was back in Springfield. She had left the city over 10 years ago,
after graduating with top honors from one of the local parochial
schools, Holy Cross Academy. Subsequently, Linda had driven herself
diligently at the University of South Carolina, getting her Master's
degrees in both history and architecture in less than seven years' time.
After graduating, since her parents were no longer alive, she had
remained in the university town and had worked exceptionally hard at
becoming a top - notch restorationist.
While doing a research internship for the history department at
USC, Linda had browsed the university job notices, looking for
occupational openings for historians, when she had seen a position
opening with the Historical Society in Springfield, Illinois. The
generous salary offering, as well as the opportunity to do research near
her hometown, had lured Linda into taking a job interview. Her initial
job screening conducted over the phone, went well, and she had been
called back and offered the job.
Despite her positive first impression though, Linda was still
nervous about meeting her interviewer this afternoon. Wishing that she
had been assigned a less elegant car, such as a Ford Mustang or maybe
even a Chevrolet Caprice, she drove into town in a southerly direction
on John Q. Smith Highway, preparing herself mentally for the job
meeting and her reentry into the community she had left so many years
Familiar old places, and a few new developments, appeared before
Linda Mayer as she arrived in Springfield and ventured into the downtown
area. The physical layout and atmosphere looked the same as
she remembered it when she left in the mid 1980's - moderately - sized,
more like a big town than a small city, with smaller buildings and
relatively slow pace of traffic. She noticed that there were more open
lots and more forsaken buildings and businesses than there had been when
she had left the capital city a decade back. As both a historian and an
architect, she could see that the downtown area was in need of a major
Nonetheless, the major historical sites, one of the primary
attractions of the city, had remained intact, which felt oddly
comforting to Linda. The State Capitol, with its silver - colored dome,
gleamed in the sunlight as Linda traveled into the center of the
downtown. A few blocks further south, Linda looked at the colonial -
style two - story Lincoln home and neighboring historical houses, and
fondly remembered her frequent visits there as a child and as a young
As all the familiar sites began reviving vivid images in Linda's
memory, she reached the historical society. The headquarters, were
housed in a one - story colonial - style brick building that been
converted from another business or state facility.
Linda checked her watch, and saw that it was five minutes before
Three o'clock, which left her only five minutes to get into her
interview. After hastily locating a parking space across from the
society, she entered the building, feeling both excitement and
At the front desk Linda met a young, blonde - haired lady
putting envelopes aside for mailing. " May I be of some help, Miss?
" she asked. "Yes, I'm Linda Mayer. I have an appointment with Mr.
Sammuelson about a job for which I was hired, " replied Linda. " Oh
yes, you must be the restorationist that we were told to expect. If
you'll have a seat, I'll call you once he's free, " said Angelique.
Linda sat down on one of the lounge chairs and became engrossed in
one of the historical society's newsletters. After some 20 minutes,
Angelique called Linda's name. " Mr. Sammuelson will see you now, "
Linda had to adjust her eyes to the dark interior of Sammuelson's
office. The dim lighting and somber, dark wall paneling and furnishings
reminded her of her former days in parochial high school, the inside of
which had also been extremely dark. Sammuelson, who was seated behind a
large mahogany executive desk, was rubbing his temples vigorously, and
concluding an apparently heated conversation.
" I don't care what the owner says, Chuck, you've got to talk him
into letting us shoulder the responsibility for that building. I don't
want another Holy Cross clock tower fiasco on our hands! Give me a call
tomorrow right after your meeting with him. "
Linda surveyed the large - framed man, about 6 feet in height,
who possessed the powerful voice. He looked a little older than Linda
had imagined him: in his early 50's, with those worry lines imprinted
across his forehead. The society head looked up and briskly waved her
toward a chair near his desk. " Please, Miss Mayer, come in. I have been
expecting you, " he said, as he soared from his desk, his right hand
extended to greet her.
As Linda approached to shake Sammuelson's hand, she noticed a
large map of Springfield on the wall behind him with several Springfield
sites marked, as well as a marked area outside the city. " I am very
pleased that you were willing to come here and take this assignment,
Miss Mayer. You were very highly recommended for this project, " said
Sammuelson, shaking Linda's hand vigorously. Linda returned the firm
handshake and nodded her head slightly, in polite acknowledgement of the
compliment. " I might be a good restorationist, but I still don't have
much background information about the nature of the job that you want me
to do. " The president of the society smiled with satisfaction . "
When I tell you more about the project, you will be begging for permission
to start immediately, " he stated, a hint of excitement evident in his
Sammuelson reached onto his desk and activated a remote control
that lowered a display screen. " I think it would be easier to show
you, while I explain it to you, " the older gentleman professed. Linda
sat down and intently watched the screen.
An image appeared of a large 18th century - style house, with a
distinguished - looking gentleman and three young ladies standing in the
foreground. " This is the Saint John (pronounced Sin Jin) Mansion,
circa 1880, in one of the oldest photographs of the home known to exist.
The four persons in the photograph are Robert Saint John and his three
daughters Catherine, Meghan, and Robin. Nobody knows what happened to
the St. John family members pictured here. All references to them
disappear after 1901, " said Sammuelson. He then moved to the next
slide, which revealed an interior view, showing a room with furniture
covered in cloth and dust. " The home was eventually used as a house of
ill - repute from the early 1900's to the mid - 1940's. After that, the
site was abandoned, and was occupied only off and on after that.
"Then, in 1990, our society purchased the mansion. A significant
amount of the homes original furniture was located and reinstalled by
one of our previous historians. What the Illinois Historic Preservation
Society is commissioning you to do is physically restore the home's
interior decor to its glory period of the 1920's and 1930's, "Sammuelson
explained, using his forefinger to strike the slide photograph with
This was the biggest, most elaborate assignment that Linda had
ever been offered. " But why me? Why did you decide to favor me for
this job?" she inquired. Sammuelson's face brightened with a delighted
smile. " When I started looking for someone to work on this project, I
examined about three hundred graduate students' resumes and their
Your comprehensive thesis on 1920's lifestyles, fashions, and
mannerisms impressed me enough to recommend you to the society's board.
Once they approved you, I was authorized to offer you the assignment. "
Sammuelson walked over to his desk, and picked up a portfolio. " Here
is detailed job description for the position Ms. Mayer. Please review
it, and let me know if you are still interested in taking the
Linda smiled inwardly with pride, and excitedly skimmed the job
information. Intrigued with the project at hand, she perused the
contents of the job description within a few short minutes. " Well,
sir, I guess you have yourself a restorationist, " she announced, both
blushing and beaming. "I'm honored and pleased to have been selected
for an assignment of this magnitude."
" I'm pleased that you've accepted, Miss Mayer. I have the utmost
confidence in your abilities. " Sammuelson continued, as though in an
afterthought. "Don't forget, tonight at 8:00 P.M. , the society is
throwing a formal party as a combination fundraiser and introduction
affair at the St. Xavier Hotel. As our new historian, you will be
expected to attend. "
As Linda was escorted through the door of Sammuelson's office, she
tried to calm the alarm bells that were going off in her head. She was
requested to attend a formal dinner for this very evening, and she
wasn't ready for it! She had thought that the event was scheduled for
the next evening, not this one!
The impact of her new job, and the accompanying banquet invitation
overloaded Linda's mind for a few minutes, as she located the Restful
Retreat Inn, a neat modest hotel complex south of the downtown area, and
checked in. When she carried her luggage into her quarters, Linda
looked about the room, which had a basic gold - toned interior with
austere furnishings, and whose style dated back to the 1970's.
She chuckled at the outdated shag carpeting, lava lamp, and the
dome lamps in her suite, while thinking that her temporary bedroom could
also use a remodeling.
Linda had only one ensemble in her wardrobe that was suitable for
a formal occasion: a pair of black pumps, a crushed black-velvet, knee -
length dress, and a pair of silver clip-on earrings. Fortunately, the
clothing had withstood the plane trip well, remaining unwrinkled. Linda
breathed a sigh of relief as she placed the dress on a hanger and headed
for the bathroom to take a shower. "Its a good thing that I kept my
dress from the USC Honor Society banquet, " she thought. By the time
the party was ready to start, Linda was properly dressed in her attire
and on her way to the St. Xavier Hotel.
Linda readily identified the St. Xavier Hotel, in the a twelve -
story building with an elongated marble facade, designed in an art deco
style of the 1930's, the period of the hotel's construction. Linda
quickly went to the front desk and summoned the hotel clerk there, a
young brunette by the name of Carol. " Excuse me, please, but where is
the dinner party for the Springfield Historical Society ?" " That party
is meeting in the main banquet room on the top floor. Is there anything
else you need, Miss ? , " Carol politely asked, with a smile on her
lips and a twinkle in her eyes. " No, thank you. I just need to locate
the Historical Society " Linda replied demurely, never indicating her
title of importance in that prestigious group. Catching her breath, she
quickly took the elevator up to the rooftop dining room.
The sizeable crowd of people she saw milling about as well as the
grandeur, of the banquet hall, was rather intimidating to Linda. The
room, which was replete with a marble floor and other columns, was
easily over three thousand square feet in area, and it was packed to
capacity, with dozens of men in tuxedos and women in formal gowns. Many
of those in attendance seemed to already know each other, and all of the
guests, men and women alike, had an appearance of self - assurance that
made Linda feel awkward by comparison.
Sammuelson spotted Linda and quickly crossed the room to greet
her. "My dear Miss Mayer, I'm so glad that you were able to be here
tonight. Of course, you're the guest of honor this evening, " he added,
as he escorted her toward the main table and introduced her to the
Historical Society Board members. Once they were seated, multiple racks
of lamb, along with filet mignon, were brought out to each table. Also,
the Vindu Mistral and Cabernet Sauvignon, provided by a local wine shop,
The Corkscrew, were enjoyed by all. Linda even indulged in a glass of
the wine, although she had rarely drank alcoholic beverages as a rule.
About an hour into the event, Sammuelson brought the meeting to
order, tapping his water glass with his salad fork. "My dear friends
and colleagues, we are gathered here to celebrate the arrival of Miss
Linda Mayer, our long - awaited restorationist, and the beginning of
our number one project of this year, the restoration of the St. John
mansion " . As he spoke, a murmur of approval came from the audience.
The murmurs were interrupted by a voice that shot out of the back
of the room: " But what about the agreement that you had with
Springfield Construction and Development? In fact, if I remember
correctly, you were supposed to give that company the first opportunity
at the property, " the voice persisted. Sammuelson took a long look out
into the crowd focused in on the odd - man - out, and addressed him
sternly. " All right, Carlyle, just what in blue blazes do you think
you're doing here tonight ?" . Chapter 5
Sammuelson's attention was fixed on a slender young man in his
early 30's, standing about 6 feet tall, with sun - streaked blonde hair.
The young man's most captivating feature, his wide gray eyes, which
radiated his agitated emotional state, were flashing with intense anger
and outrage. " We had a deal, Sammuelson. You agreed that you wouldn't
begin work on restoring the interior of the mansion until we had a
hearing before the board on the rezoning of the property. " "And if we
had waited until the board had met, you would have turned that property
into a tourist attraction! , " retorted Sammuelson. "Well, at least I
wouldn't have reneged on our agreement by going behind your back, "
"Gentlemen, Gentlemen, please. This was supposed to be a quiet,
fund - raising party, not a public brawl, " asserted a hereto - quiet
Linda Mayer. "And what is your involvement in all of this? , " asked
Carlyle, annoyed at her interruption. "You want to know what my
involvement in all of this is, Mr. Carlyle? My career is what is
involved here, " said the irritated restorationist. "If you can't
cooperate with the historical society's goals, how can you expect to get
their support? " she challenged Carlyle. Carlyle looked over to see an
upset and slightly tipsy Linda Mayer at the main table. Her classic
looks were enough to start calming the anger he was feeling.
"You're absolutely right, Ms. Mayer; both interested parties
need to work in unison. I'll offer you a compromise, Sammuelson: I'll
accept you and your restorationist work, on the St. John mansion, but,
I want to be able to check on it whenever I choose to. Would that be
agreeable to your people, Sammuelson ?" inquired Carlyle. "I would have
no disagreement with that, Carlyle, provided that Miss Mayer has no
objection, " replied the historical society head. Linda quickly made up
her mind. "If Mr. Carlyle doesn't interfere in my work, he will be
more than welcome to stop by and view the progress on the home. " The
banquet speeches resumed in full force after the compromise was reached.
Concluding the speeches with a toast, Sammuelson left his table,
and offered Carlyle some of the wine from the banquet. "What would you
have done if your compromise had not been accepted ?" Sammuelson
leveled the question at Carlyle, staring him straight in the eye.
"Then I might have been forced into filing a lawsuit against the society
for breach of contract. Fortunately, that didn't happen; I knew that
you would act as the man of integrity and sensibility that I know you
are, "Carlyle replied, meeting Sammuelson's scrutinizing stare. "Now if
you will excuse me, I need to take care of some other business, "
Carlyle continued. "It was a pleasure meeting you Miss Mayer, and I
look forward to seeing you both again. " As Carlyle hastily left the
banquet with an air of satisfaction, Sammuelson regarded his
challenger's arrogant attitude, which he wore like a suit of armor, with
quiet amazement. He was angry at Carlyle for challenging his authority
openly, at the banquet. In the interest of public composure, however,
he had no choice but to reach an agreement with him.
The banquet guests continued talking for another hour and a half
after Carlyle's departure. Most of the guests had departed by 10
o'clock, so Linda bade Sammuelson a good evening, agreeing to be back at
his office at 8:30 the following day.
A light snow had fallen overnight, and a brisk wind nipped at
Linda's uncovered ears, as she entered the historical society building.
Sammuelson gave her a timetable for her work projects and disbursed a
budget to her for the materials she would need. The initial project
proposal allotted twelve months for completion and restoration, but
contained a provisional clause extending the project for another three
months if needed. While Linda read the prospectus, Sammuelson brought
forth a small black bag for her from his attaché case. "I'm giving you
this in case you need to call into Springfield. It is one of the few
cellular phones that we have. If you need supplies, food, help,
anything, you just call us. We'll respond as soon as we can. Also, I
will be reviewing your progress reports each week and contacting you
periodically to inspect your work, " the society president informed her.
Linda accepted the work instructions and put the phone into her
purse. "Thank you, Mr. Sammuelson. I'll try not to utilize the
cellular phone too much, " she promised quietly. "That's all right, Ms.
Mayer, you may need it, " he said, as he handed to her a map with
directions to the house. As Sammuelson explained, without specific
instructions, she might get lost.
It took Linda a full hour of driving along both main roads and
back roads, before she finally arrived at the St. John house.
"Sammuelson was right: I would have gotten lost trying to get here, if
he hadn't given me these maps, " she thought to herself. As she saw for
the first time the site that she would be working on for some time, her
breath was taken away. The mansion eclipsed the view of the surrounding
woods and other homes, perched atop a hill in its palatial - like
Its imposing architecture, with its gables and spires, gave it a
cathedral - like presence. The front three gables protruded distinctly,
their ridges glistening with a light coating of snow. The bell tower
and central brick chimney standing at the highest points of the mansion,
and a circular glass window beneath the highest of the three gables,
all accented the home's facade of the edifice. A light dusting of snow
that glazed the entire home gave it a shimmering, iridescent quality
that reminded Linda of the castles and homes in her dreams and childhood
fairy tales. "Its even more impressive than any of the pictures that
Sammuelson showed me! " Linda realized in amazement.
Driving past an wrought iron entrance gate with marble pillars up
the long driveway, captivated by the majestic home ahead of her, Linda
encountered a young workman on the grounds. "You Linda Mayer ?" he
asked. "Yes, I am, " she replied. "Good. I'm Robert Jones, foreman of
the exterior crew.
Sammuelson told me to expect you out here. I've got the keys to
open up the interior for you to go in and start your phase of the
project, " stated the workman. He handed her the keys and accompanied
her to the front door of the house.
The first thing that struck Linda about the interior of the house
was the feel of comfort in the front entrance hall. The foyer floor was
laid in beautiful white and black marble tile, and a long sweeping
staircase branched off to the left. The rich oak and walnut paneling on
the walls only added to the feeling of extravagance, but also created
and heightened a feeling of sensuality.
"The only thing that they've been able to ascertain that belongs
to this place, besides the furniture, are these curtains, " said Jones,
joining Linda in the foyer. It took Linda a minute to refocus her
attention on Robert; the sensations of the room had been both
overwhelming and distracting. "I'm sorry Robert, you were saying ? , "
Linda asked, trying to regain her senses. "I was saying that the only
items that they ascertained that belong to this house are the furniture
and the curtains, " repeated the foreman. "but of course, "he politely
added, "This is more your area of expertise than it is mine." Packing
his tools away and bidding Linda farewell, Robert left the house. A
feeling of excitement surged through Linda, as she realized she was
ready to embark on her project.
Crossing the threshold, Linda felt as though she was entering a
remarkable sanctuary of the past. As though moved by a feeling of
reverence, she removed her boots before continuing forward. On her
right she saw an ornately carved mahogany armoire, where she decided to
place her coat and gloves. As she silently crossed the black and white
tile floor in her stocking feet, she reached a pair of heavy oak doors
that guarded the parlor. The rectangular room within was textured in
peeling, faded rosebud wallpaper and contained several cherry and maple
wood chairs and divans. Linda drew the heavy, crimson - colored
draperies and saw the huge veranda which encircled the house. She gazed
dreamily at the elegant porch. With its delicate latticework and
decorated pillars, it appeared to have been a perfect haven for familial
visits, and also for the amorous courtship of young lovers on warm,
sultry evenings. Linda had always liked verandas; there had been one at
the two - story wood frame house in which she had grown up, although it
was much smaller than this.
As she went beyond the parlor, she entered into a small, darkly -
colored den. Surveying the den, which had two windows of beveled
glass, she found a bar made of solid mahogany, with what looked like a
dumb-waiter built into the wall. The room was smartly paneled in
From the den, Linda entered into a magnificent ballroom. Below
her lay a beautiful parquet floor, remarkably undaunted over the years.
Moldings carved into ornate floral clusters ran the entire length of the room, and pair of French doors opened onto the veranda. How many
romantic interchanges had taken place here, she wondered.
Another hallway branched off to the right of the ballroom, leading
her into a large, formal dining room, followed by a L - shaped kitchen.
The kitchen back door faced out onto a large, tree - filled back yard
and gardens. As Linda looked out into the back yard, she spotted a
small, A - framed house, the former visitors residence, where she would
Linda was eager to record her exploration of the immense home. She
returned to the foyer and dug out a pencil, pen, and a notepad from her
handbag, to make her first notations on the magnificent house. She
returned to the staircase in the front hallway, and, climbing the stairs
and noticing how the thick, plush carpet absorbed her footfalls, she
reached the second story.
Along the lengthy corridor on the second floor, eight doors each
led into a small room, each with a vanity and a double bed and an
adjoining half - bath. At the end of the hallway, Linda reached what
she surmised to be the master bedroom. The suite's wallpaper was in
soft, powder shades of blue, red, and green colors, which strongly
appealed to Linda's tastes. She was awestruck and immediately fell in
love with the grand suite. Although the furnishings were much more
lavish than what she was accustomed to, she felt intensely drawn to this
room. Instead of being more comfortable in the smaller guest house,
where she would be sleeping, she wished she could stay in this room. Not only did this room, like the other rooms on this floor, and the one
below it, have thick, plush carpeting, but the suite also had a large,
luxurious, four - poster bed made of tiger maple with a canopy on top.
Linda gently touched the top canopy, which was of a soft pink velvet,
and them she drew back the curtains, which were of a powder pink
organdy. She wondered how the bedclothes had remained so remarkably
At the north wall between the windows, stood a large, maple
roll top desk with a matching chair and two large, walk - in closets. On
the south wall, Linda found a portrait that needed cleaning. A large
brick - lined fireplace that stood adjacent to the portrait also needed
cleaning. Beside the closets, Linda saw her reflection in a large oval
dressing mirror, framed in hard maple.
Entering through an adjacent arched doorway, Linda found a
bathroom, inlaid in a soft, cream and gold colored tile, with a large,
sunken alabaster tub and a white alabaster shower spout. Three -
quarters of one wall was covered by a spacious, gold and cream framed
mirror. A marble top sink held a large cream - colored washbowl and
marble faucet fixtures. The mere sight of the plush bathroom caused
Linda to imagine herself sinking into the tub and relaxing under a
stream of bubbling water.
Linda was beginning to feel hungry, but she felt even more eager
to continue her exploration of the vast home before her. She returned
to the second story hallway to further examine the furnishings and
decor. She was surprised to find that the second floor curtains were
made of crushed red velvet with an elaborately designed lace inner
curtain. The entire ensemble was held in place by red velvet loops and
gold tassels that had held up well over the years.
As Linda ventured down the hallway again, she noticed that all of
the doors she had passed by were made of solid oak and had exquisite
At the far end of the hallway, next to the master bedroom, Linda
spied a narrow door which she had not yet investigated, and trying the
knob, she found that it was locked. The small doorway, which was
narrower than the others in the house, piqued Linda's curiosity. Using
the keys that Robert had given her, she pried open the small oak
structure, which was covered in white paint that was chipping off.
Behind the door lay a narrow, spiral staircase, which seemed to beckon
Linda to advance. The dusty stairs, which were not at all lit, groaned
under Linda's footfalls as she slowly and cautiously ascended toward a
At the top of the staircase, she found herself under a V - shaped
ceiling, that ran the entire length of the house. Once her eyes
adjusted to the dim lighting, she gasped, surprised by her surroundings.
Some 20 different mannequins, modeling outfits from the 1920's
and 1930's loomed before her. Beside the mannequins were five shoe
trees, with ladies' foot wear of different sizes, colors, and styles,
from the same eras. A beautiful stained glass window, the one so
apparent from the exterior of the house, was here in the attic,
illuminating the room with beams of sunlight pouring through its
multicolored glass. The prismatic, artistically hewn window evoked a
feeling of dignity and reverence. That seemed incongruous with the
dusty, cluttered room that it occupied.
Linda's biggest overall surprise in the attic, was finding such a
large number of period clothes from the 1920's and 1930's. She assumed
that these clothes, as well as the accessories there, were for the
society's guides to wear while showing people through the house. These,
she decided, would require her further examination and inventory at
In her state of deep interest, Linda had lost track of the time.
She glanced at her watch and discovered that it was already 4:30 P.M.
It was time to give Sammuelson a call. Descending back down the winding
stairs to the suite she was living in, she picked up the cellular phone
that she had and dialed the number for the society's headquarters.
Suddenly she heard a recording: "We're sorry, but the number that you
have dialed is unreachable at this time. Please check your number and
try again later. " Linda was stunned. She was cut off from calling her
boss in Springfield!