HANNIBAL — On a wrap-around porch, just begging people to sit down for tea and a chat, the front door creaked open and Mary Hackmann held out her hand and a warm smile.
“Welcome,” she said, stepping back to allow a peek into one of Missouri’s top bed and breakfasts, where a sprawling staircase leads to two stories of eight rooms and small coffee nooks. or an afternoon of reading.
Throughout the house are original furnishings from the 1871 house and ornaments from a bygone era.
The future of the Garth Woodside Mansion was waiting in the breakfast room where 10-year-old Natalie and their little dog, aptly named Minnie, joined in welcoming.
Garth Woodside Mansion is a Hannibal gem nestled in the hills of Ralls County, steeped in Hannibal history.
This is where Samuel Clemens discussed life with friends and the house’s first owners, John and Helen Garth.
John Garth was one of the likely influences for the character of Tom Sawyer.
This is where John Rolsten and his late wife, Julie, built their lives and provided hospitality to guests from across the country and perhaps the world, creating one of the best known bed and breakfasts in the State of Missouri.
It’s now where Natalie and Minnie explore the 36-acre estate, and it’s where the family lives out their dreams. It’s a new chapter to write for Garth Woodside Mansion and the Hackmanns.
In January, Kevin and Mary Hackmann took possession of the estate along with a wedding venue and three guest cottages, moved from the St. Louis area.
Now with Natalie and their two other daughters, Lilly, 12, and Katie, 18, the Hackmann family are now serving guests and settling into a new life.
And everything happened just a little earlier than expected.
Mary was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2017. After a complete mastectomy, she underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Kevin, owner of a construction company, was able to take time off from work and allowed the family to continue.
“It was nothing extravagant, but he took them to the Ark and the zoo. He did so many things with them,” she said. “It was great because if I wasn’t in chemo I was in bed and I don’t remember much.”
Mary has now been cancer-free for five years and has a new outlook on life, especially when it comes to achieving her dreams.
Mary, who grew up in old houses and stayed in bed and breakfasts on her travels, dreamed of buying one after she retired.
Instead, she decided not to wait.
“I said, ‘instead of doing this when we retire, let’s do this now,'” she said. “So I increased it by about 20 years.”
During a weekend getaway to Hannibal in 2017, Mary and Kevin stayed at the Garth Woodside Mansion unaware they would call it home. During their stay they met John and Julie Rolsen who guided them through the process of finding an inn to buy.
Although Mary didn’t expect it was Garth’s Inn that she would buy, as she was hoping to go south.
“I was frustrated with a place we visited in Alabama, so I called Julie for advice and she was like, ‘Baby, why don’t you buy Garth?'” Mary said. . “They were done. It had been 20 years and they wanted to play with their grandkids.”
When the pandemic hit, Mary said that put a stop to everything, but when she found out that Julie Rolsen had died, she called to console John and they started making plans again.
Mary said she still can’t believe she can call the mansion home, and she understands the responsibility that comes with owning a historic home like Garth.
Home repairs will be handled by Kevin, who will move his construction company to Hannibal.
They plan to add horses for guests to ride and will restore bridges along the walking and riding trail.
The close-knit family of five got into the hotel business together, and even in the quieter months they kept busy at the hostel.
Mary said she enjoys creating a special environment for guests and taking special care in the breakfasts she serves.
Mary said the best part of the business is the people they meet.
“We’ve met some really cool people so far,” she said.
Natalie said she loved exploring the mansion, but every now and then she ran into a little problem.
“It’s so big that sometimes I lose Minnie here,” she said. “But I always find her.”
For more information about Garth Woodside Mansion or to book a stay, visit garthmansion.com or follow him on Facebook at Garth Woodside Mansion Estate and Weddings.