Sunday, January 24, 2010

Field Trip: Armstrong Mansion or Romance, 1800's style

Valentine's Day is drawing near...are you in the mood for a true and romantic story?

It is a story I stumbled upon during one of my exploring jaunts during a break from work.

First let me introduce you to our romantic lead: Francis Armstrong, who was also known as Frank.

He was born in England in 1839, then emigrated with his family to the town of Hamilton in Ontario Canada at age eleven. Seeking adventure on the frontier, he left Canada at age nineteen, setting out for Richmond Missouri, with ultimate plans to work his way to California and then on to Australia.

Very ambitious of him, wouldn't you say?

But fate stepped in; in Richmond he met with a Mormon wagon train headed west to Salt Lake. His carpentry skills were needed by the settlers on the trail; with his skills on board he and the settlers safely arrived in the Salt Lake valley in 1860.

Next Frank found work with Robert Siddoway's lumber and grain mill. Later Frank took employment with Siddoway's competitor and rose to the position of mill manager shortly there after. This position emboldened him to go to the home of his former employer and ask for the hand of Siddoway's beautiful daughter Isobel.

Isobel had had an amazing life, having lost her mother as a child in Pennsylvania and then walking with her father and siblings from that east coast state all the way to Utah at the tender age of ten. As a young woman, she caught the eye of several young men by the lively way she danced at social gatherings.

Now Isobel's father was delighted with the prospect of having Frank as a son-in-law. Isobel's step-mother did not share his joy. She pointed out that it would cost at least two hundred dollars to hire out the work that Isobel did at home.

(Strange lady that step-mother...)

Without further discussion, Frank handed Mrs. Siddoway two hundred dollars on the spot. She could hire herself the help that she needed, as Isobel was going to be getting married to him instead.

Mr. Siddoway commented to his daughter "That young man is going to be a leader!"

The couple were married in 1864. Frank was 25, Isobel but fifteen. They drove a borrowed buggy and team to a small house on First South Street-on the very property that Frank would later purchase for his family residence at a later date.

Frank vowed to his young bride "You'll have a finer buggy, better horses and a grander home soon. I promise you!"

(Above: Frank's promise fulfilled. Don't you just love that turret?)

As Isobel told the story in later years, "I thought that I had married a crazy man! He was so sure that he could deliver the sun and moon if they'd please me!"

He wasn't crazy after all. His business ventures included the purchase of the mill where he worked, a construction company, a flour mill and a ranch. For years the couple worked together, during which time they were blessed with ten children.

Frank did prove to be an excellent leader: he was twice elected as Mayor of Salt Lake City, leaving the office of Mayor in the year 1890.

(Today the Mansion is a Bed and Breakfast, recently restored with original furnishings, and updated with full baths in each of its 12 guest bedrooms.)
Shortly after that date, he took his wife of 29 years to England, where together they toured homes to find a building style to use when they built their dream home.

The Armstrong's prosperity had permitted them to buy the entire south east corner of of city block...a fine mansion was in order to keep up with the properties of their neighbors!

The couple settled on a "Queen Anne" style home, made drawing to take back with them to Salt Lake, and their dream home was completed in 1893.

(My grandfather was born in the same city one year later....)

(The living room)

It was one of but four homes in the city with the luxury of piped in running water.

The forty-three year old mother of ten must have considered herself to be living in the lap of luxury at last.

Sadly, her joy was to last but six years more years. In 1899 Frank was suddenly stricken with a severe stomach ailment that took his life at age 59.

He once told his closest friend, "Home is my heaven on earth, Heaven will be home and family ...or it won't be heaven."

Isobel lived on for another thirty years as a widow, dying at last in 1930 at in the home her young bridegroom had promised her on her wedding day.

(Guest breakfast room)
The day that I visited the Mansion I was greeted with the fragrant scent of baking croissants, which the innkeeper had popped into the oven just as I arrived. I really was just walking around the neighborhood and on a whim decided to take them up on the "Open House" offer.

She walked me through the Mansion, letting me see each of the twelve guest rooms, each themed around a month of the year. Outside the rooms were pictures of the children that slept in each room and a brief summation of their lives.

Isn't that ceiling lovely?

The fact that Frank was a carpenter and mill worker/owner showed in the finely detailed woodwork throughout the house.

I love the idea that the bottom banister post held a lamp.

The Mansion now has jacuzzi tubs tucked into some part of each room. I wish Isobel could have had a luxurious soak in one of these tubs at least once.

A climb up a winding wrought iron stair case leads to a landing beneath the Mansion's turret where one room's tub is located.

An oak motif was carefully hand carved on the wood panelling.

Down in the basement area was a room that struck me as an especially cozy retreat despite the low modern ceiling.

The Innkeeper told me that this was the original carpeting; they had only recently removed it from the dining area where it had finally become too tattered for use.

The tile in one of the guest rooms was original as well.
What a romantic story...and a seriously romantic Bed and Breakfast as well.
After I peeked at all the rooms, the Innkeeper handed me a croissant fresh from the oven, and thank me for dropping by.
I took a pamphlet on my way out, and have used it and a website to tell the Armstrong's story today.
If you are interested in seeing more...pop on over to their website here.
There are some awfully tempting deals on the rooms.
Would it be so wrong to perhaps plan an early Valentine's Day treat there for just us two?
Who knows...
That "call and reserve for the same day's lodging" deal is pretty sweet.
Maybe I'll just decide to do just that on the spur of the moment some day.
Then I could just walk to work the next morning!
(No one would notice if I came to work wearing the same thing I wore the day before, now would they? Or would they gossip about me and wonder where I had spent the night? An old married lady like me...doing something like that? Could my reputation stand it? Really, what would they think?)


myletterstoemily said...

lovely story and home!

Lovella ♥ said...

OH . .I'd love to hear the chit chat at work the next day of Jill and her romantic tryst.

The story really was romantic and having a bit of a Canadian start to his travels made me smile.

Sara said...

Very romantic indeed. What gorgeous woodwork. The place is very lovely, and tempting!

Vicki said...

What a beautiful story and old home! Yes, I think you should plan a little tryst at the B&B...and then let me know if it's suitable for us when we come to visit. ;)

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

Do it! I checked out the rates and it all looks quite appealing. You still have a few days to get in on the 'January Promise'...and what a great way to spice up a dreary winter month.

Thanks for the tour!