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Historic Cairo

The Magnolia Manor

    This page contains photos, copies of post cards and a description of the Magnolia Manor in Cairo, Illinois. The text was transcribed from a two page narrative about Magnolia Manor that is in the possession of Carl Crosier. Carl's parents were care takers of the Manor for several years. The information was used as a guide for his parents to use when conducting tours of the Manor back in the 1960's.

Winter At the Manor

Winter At Magnolia Manor

Magnolia Manor Today

Recent Photo Of Magnolia Manor

    Transcript of document obtained about Magnolia Manor is as follows:

    Magnolia Manor, a stately 14 room brick house, was constructed by Chas. A. Galagher in 1869. After the foundation was laid, it was allowed to stand for one year to settle, the actual construction was finished in 1872. It has walls of double brick, made with 10 inch air space to keep out the dampness.

    The bricks for this Victorian mansion were a special order in color and also form. They were made in the Kline Brickyards of Cairo. The bricks with round designs found around the front door and windows are especially interesting. The bricks have darkened considerably with the years.

    The fan windows were originally of frosted glass, with gold leaf design. The glass of the inner doors of the entrance was of the same, replaced with art glass by later owners.

    The large airy hall was the gathering place of large crowds who were entertained in the spacious ballroom, both for social and church festivities.

    Mrs. Galagher was ill for about five years after the house was completed and she was forced to remain downstairs, her bed was in the alcove of the drawing room. With her recovery, plans for redecorating the house were begun. Coch (pronounced like couch) Decorators of St. Louis did the work. The lower hall was done in a heavy embossed paper, like Damask in wine color. All the woodwork was an off white decorated with lines of gold leaf, not gold paint. The drawing room was papered in the same heavy paper as the hall, light gray in color, with silver leaves.

    The plaster frieze throughout the home was done by a local artisan, by the name of McEwen. The plaster-or-paris was placed in molds about 2 feet long, there were ornate stock molds available in differing sections of the country, thereby accounting for the same designs found in homes in the East and South particularly. The grapes in the frieze were of gold leaf. The pomegranates, grapes and wheat represented fertility, the pineapple hospitality and friendship.

    There was a stage built for the east end of the drawing room, the curtain was stretched between the two columns on the east end. The actors made their entrance through the walk end window on the east porch. This room was one of the two in Cairo, large enough to take care of a form of dance called a "German", a combination of square dance and dancing by rounds. There were two scenes for the stage, one outdoor and a garden scene.

    The original light fixtures equipped for gas were of solid bronze, with shades of frosted glass and gold trim. Some of the original hardware may be found on the door of the butler's pantry and the doors upstatirs. The knobs and locks were very ornate, they too were solid bronze. Some later owners of the house replaced the hardware with modern brass.

    The stair railings and spindles are of solid cherry, the steps of oak. The dining room was always used for the noon meal, for breakfast and evening meal, if guests were present. Breakfast for just the family was usually served in the lower floor dining room. The dumb waiter delivered foot hot from the kitchen below. The table in the dining room could seat 12 persons. A larger marble topped table was used for a server.

    The room which now houses the museum was the sitting room, or library. Here around the fireplace, lessons were studied, games played reading and homework done.

    All the fireplaces are of Italian Carrara marble. The portraits over the mantels in the drawing room are in their original places, they are likenesses of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Galagher.

    The lamp figure on the stairpost is called "The Cavalier" and is of bronze. At one time there were two similar figures in the niches of the vestibule. The recessed niche on the landing of the stairs held a plaster figure of Psiche.

    Take notice of the glass dome in the ceiling. Originally it was of stained glass, sunlight playing upon it made beautiful colors below. There was a certain mechanism that lifed the top about 6 inches, and in summer this gave a kind of air conditioning in the house.

    In the upstairs hall at the west end, plays were put on, the curtain being at the double doors. The space under the tower was the stage. Entrance and exits were made from the southwest bedroom.

    The southwest bedroom was Mrs. Galagher's. It was here that Mrs. Grant slept and opened her trunks to show Mrs. Galagher her collection of gifts gathered on her trip around the world.

    The southeast bedroom is known as General Grant's room, since it was here that he slept on his visit to Cairo. Call attention to the furniture the gift of Mrs. Bates and to the soilet set, the gift of the daughters of Mayor Wood.

    The other bedrooms were used by the two boys and guests.

    On the thrid bloow was located the billiard room and storerooms. In the tower was a powerful telescope. On a clear day people could be seen and recognized in Mound City. Firewords parties were held on the roof on the 4th of July. Original tin is still on the roof.

    Servants quarters were on the ground floor, three while maids lived in the house. The girls had their own sitting room on this floor as well as their bedrooms. The cook was colored and lived away from here. A yard man and barn man completed the list of regular employees. A vegetable cellar was located under the front porch. There were five cisterns and one driven well on the premises, one cistern solely for drinking and cooking purposes, and one for the fountain in the yard, one for the barn and two for the house laundry, bathing, cleaning, etc. Horses drank only the water from the driven well, and liked the iron content.

    In the southeast corner of the lawn was a very historic flag pole, it was from the gunboat "Tigress" which ran the seige of Vicksburg. The brother in law of Mrs. Galagher, George Washington Graham, was the owner of the boat Tigress which was confiscated by the government during the war.

    In the remainder of the south lawn were tennis courts. Surprising as it may seem, they played mostly at night. The court was lighted with 40 lights of 32 candlepower each.

    A platform ran across the front of the white picket fence. Carriages could discharge their passengers there, and they would walk down some steps to the walk going to the house. The wide walk is the original one. Side walks replaced the brick walk.

    The cost of the house is not definately known, no records were kept. Estimated cost was about $75,000.00 including furnishings.

    The original doorbell is now in use.

    Mrs. Charles A. Galagher came to Cairo from Zanesville, Ohio, made his fortune in the milling business. During the Civil War he had a government contract to furnish flour to the Union troops. Also installed large ovens at the mill and made "Hard Tack" for the soldiers.

    Mr. Fred G. Galagher dies Feb 18, 1955.

    Note: Spelling transcribed exactly from the original document.

    Post Cards and text from the cards:

Magnolia Manor

Cairo, Ill., 28th St. & Washington Ave.
    Maintained by Cairo Historical Association; open daily, displaying original furnishings of Civil War era. Famed guest include Ulysses S. Grant, in 1880. Magnolia trees shown, blossom profusely, usually during Magnolia Festival, third week in May. The Manor features a unique gift selection and is festively attired as HOLIDAY HOUSE, on Thanksgiving weekend.

U.S. Grant Bedroom

    U.S. Grant bedroom. President U. S. Grant returned to Cairo in 1880 to visit friends he had made while headquartered in Cairo during the Civil War. Bed is original furnishing.

Manor Kitchen

    Luxury kitchen of Civil War era, with beautiful alternating natural walnut and oak flooring and wainscoting. The cast-iron combination heating and cooking range, a "built-in" forerunner of modern styles. Displaying original furnishings.

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