Fun Stuff to Know
The Lebold Mansion has had an incredibly rocky history. The current owner, Joseph Tatner is the 25th person to own the property--although this number may not include Dickinson County and the various banks who owned the property in between bankruptcies, which were numerous over the past 140+ years.
In 1856, Timothy Hersey arrived in Mud Creek, Kansas in 1857. He built a log cabin but hostile natives burned it down, so he dug a hole in the ground called a "dugout" (not very imaginative, but accurate) and
lived like a hobbit. In 1857, his wife and Elizabeth joined him and she gave birth to the first settler baby in the area. They started a stagecoach stop and Mrs. Hersey renamed the area to "Abilene." Her food and hospitality became well known and more people began settling in the area, so they built another log cabin above the dugout, which became their basement. President Lincoln officially gave them the land in 1861, but the town was not officially incorporated until a banker from Ohio, Conrad H. Lebold (a corruption of the name "Leopold") and his partner Jacob Augustine bought the town site in 1869 from C. H. Thompson and Joseph McCoy. Mr. Lebold was the Mayor of Abilene for two terms, plus the Dickinson County Treasurer and a Kansas State Assemblyman. To solidify his reputation as the "true" founder of Abilene, he purchased the Hersey property and built this beautiful mansion literally on top of the original dugout (which can still be seen in the basement area today). Despite his many successes, Conrad built the mansion in 1880 and went bankrupt in 1889.
Since that time, the mansion has sat empty many times. The Brown Foundation turned it into a "Girls Club"--a private home for single female telephone operators who worked for C. L. Brown's United Telecommunications, Inc. (which became a little company known as "Sprint"). Then it was a boy's orphanage with a classroom in the attic, then turned into apartment buildings. The building slid into filth and disrepair until Merle Vahsholtz rescued it in 1974, removing seven large garbage bags full of bird poop out of the tower and seven dump truck loads of debris from the rest of the structure. Gary Yushak and Larkin Mayo (two Victorian restoration experts) bought the mansion in 2000 to showcase their wallpaper--Victorian patterns printed on durable vinyl sheets. They added more than $750,000 worth of custom wallpaper to beautify the interior. After 10 years, they retired to New York and the mansion again bounced between abandonments, failed ownerships, and bankruptcy.
Fortunately, Mr. Tatner is restoring the mansion once again to its former glory. Although there is much work yet to be done, there is life in the old house again and the home is open to numerous events throughout the year. Most of the rooms are properly furnished and the rest are under renovation. The grounds have been cleared of weeds and landscaping is in progress, as well. While the current owner has added his own whimsical touches to some of the rooms, he is well aware that his decisions will be judged by history. His goal is to keep the mansion a warm, relaxing, fun place to visit.
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