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1904 Worlds Fair mansion up for sale
new mansion
The Deming Mansion, left, photo, is shown after it was moved to Kansas and what it looks like today. - photo by Photo Contributed

OSWEGO, Kan. (AP) — When it comes to opulence, few houses in Kansas can top the Deming Mansion.

The house exhibit was featured at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. An Oswego man, R.O. Deming, saw it, loved it and bought it. He had it dismantled and shipped to southeast Kansas in 42 railroad cars.

Two years later, it re-emerged as part of the Deming Mansion, complete with imported woods from Brazil, Chile and Venezuela.

At 12,800 square feet, it features an attic that was once used as a skating rink, a bowling alley and a ballroom. The second floor boasts seven bedrooms and five bathrooms.

And the first floor contains a grand staircase, chandeliers, ornate fireplaces, mink stoles, vintage clothing and a kitchen large enough to feed a marching band, The Wichita Eagle ( ) reported.

But now, after 110 years, the future of the house is up for grabs. It is scheduled, along with all its content, to go on the auction block Aug. 26-27. The personal property items, including furniture, lamps, artwork, mirrors, jewelry, china and chandeliers, will be auctioned on both days of the sale. The house will be auctioned at noon on Aug. 27.

The minimum bid on the house is $150,000, said David Holmes, broker for the Torchia-Homes Real Estate Agency in Columbus. He is conducting the auction in conjunction with J.B. Robison Auctioneers & Realty of Vinita, Oklahoma.

“It is going to sell,” Holmes said.

At the turn of the 20th century, Deming operated the Deming Investment Co., which was headquartered in Oswego. It had branch offices in Wichita; Little Rock; Dallas, Austin, and Abilene, Texas; Memphis; Kansas City; and Oklahoma City, according to a biography published by the Kansas State Historical Society in 1918.

Deming also was a substantial landowner; he owned a ranch and rich river-bottom farmland in Labette County.

His original house, according to the Kansas State Historical Society, was a two-story structure built in the late 19th century and added on to in 1905. The additions incorporated the woodwork from three South American exhibits at the World’s Fair in 1904.

The exhibits were disassembled and shipped to Oswego, and the house was constructed for around $40,000, which today would be equivalent to roughly $1 million.

After 1905, two sleeping porches were added to the house.

The property also includes a 3,000-square-foot garage and carriage house, an additional garage and storage shed, and 1.5 acres of land.

Through the years, the house has found many uses, including private home, restaurant, bar, bed and breakfast, said J.B. Robison, the auctioneer. He remembers attending dances at the house in the 1960s.

It most recently was owned by Cecilia Wynell Jennings, whose intention was to renovate it, furnish it with Victorian furniture and turn it into a home for unwed mothers. Her foundation, the Jennings Foundation, is selling the property.

“She never lived here,” Robison said. “She was from Arkansas. She owned a ranch outside of town, a horse ranch. They have sold it.

“She liked Victorian furniture and was blessed she could afford to buy what she wanted to buy. Her dream . was to totally remodel this and a Victorian house in Welch, Okla., and turn them both into homes for unwed mothers.”

But Jennings has ailing health, and the property is for sale.

Both Robison and Holmes have had plenty of calls and e-mails since news spread the house is for sale.

An open house on Aug. 7 brought 500 people from Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas.

“We have been getting calls from all over,” Holmes said.

When notice of the sale was put on Facebook, more than 127,000 people responded, Robison said.

“We had over 1,000 shares,” he said. “It was unreal. We’ve never had interest that high.”

Inquiries have been for all types of uses, Holmes said.

“I think it will be someone who will buy it for an investment and turn it into a bed and breakfast,” Holmes said.

Or an exclusive hotel, Robison added.

But there have also been inquiries about buying the property to dismantle it, Robison said.

“They’d sell it by the piece,” Holmes said.

And if that’s the case, the property would be worth more by the piece than it is as a house, said Retta Coats, auctioneer manager at Robison.

People in town would like for the mansion to stay in Oswego, said Rena Russell, editor of the Labette Avenue, the town’s newspaper.

“They would like for somebody to purchase it so that they could make something out of it, like a bed and breakfast,” she said.

“They’d like it to stay open and be preserved.”