About the Wyeth and Tootle families: William and Eliza Wyeth moved to St. Joseph in 1860, and William soon developed his small wholesale-retail business into the prosperous Wyeth Hardware and Manufacturing Company and Wyeth Saddle Factory. In 1879, the Wyeths hired architect E. J. Eckel to design this 43 room, Gothic style mansion with a panoramic view of the city and the Missouri River. The Wyeths lived in their castle-home for less than ten years.
In the spring of 1887, the Wyeths sold the home to Mrs. Kate Tootle. Kate Tootle was the recent widow of Milton Tootle. Milton’s obituary identified him as “the builder of the prosperity of St. Joseph and the leader of its ‘Golden Age.’ His business interests included mercantile establishments, the Western Bank of Missouri, and the Tootle Opera House. At his death, he had amassed the largest fortune of any individual in the city. Kate continued with many of his business interests.
After purchasing the home, she hired the New York firm of Pottier and Stymus to redecorate the interior. The main hall featured a walnut paneled ceiling and an elaborately carved staircase. The parquet floors, in keeping with the style of the time, were almost entirely covered with area rugs and furniture. Two stained-glass windows were added on the stairway landings. One resembled a Renaissance-style painting, and the other is of beautifully cut, stained glass. The ceilings were covered with canvases of Austrian artists.
Kate’s son, Milton Tootle Jr., was the next occupant of the house. He and his wife Lillian added a large porch to the south side and a family dining room on the southeast side. A 1932 newspaper article described Milton Tootle’s home: “The ceilings were painted in Europe, and the walls were lined with heavy draperies, nearly an inch thick, with elaborate handwork appliqués made of materials the manufacture of which has become a lost art. And charming objects of art on every side intrigue the imagination and aid in the creating of an esthetic atmosphere.”
The rooms on the first floor were the French Reception Room of black and gold woodwork, the Louis the XVI Sitting Room with angels painted on the ceiling, the Library, the formal Dining Room, the Moorish Room with its Middle Eastern decor, and the Early American Family Dining Room. At the rear of the first floor were the servants’ dining and food preparation room and a kitchen.
When Milton Tootle, Jr., died in 1946 the home became available for purchase. William Goetz, St. Joseph Museum board president, and the M. K. Goetz Brewing Company donated the money to purchase the building and the city matched the amount to adapt the private home into a public museum.