August 15, 2010
On Hatteberg's People, sometimes people make history, sometimes people teach it. In Abilene, there is the Seelye Mansion. For years, Dorothy Snider, has been a tour guide for this little piece of history, and few are more knowledgeable or enthusiastic about their work. She works here, in this mansion that occupies a block of Abilene's main street.
"The Seelye Mansion has 25 rooms and to me it is arranged just for common living so that anybody can live here and enjoy it," Snider said.
The mansion was built in 1905 at a cost of $55,000. The Seelye's daughters Helen and Marion were just girls when it was built. They never married, and lived in the home into their '90's until they passed away. Now the mansion is open to tourists and Dorothy Snider makes the history come alive.
"These three buttons were in the parents' bedroom and they would summon which ever made they wanted and the buttons were pearl,” Snider said. “Pearl buttons to summons maids."
The family's money came from the sister's father who made his fortune in patent medicine founding the A.B. Seelye Medical Company. Some of that medicine is on display at the Mansion.
"I've lived a good many years and used some of these products, so it takes you back to the good old days," Snider said.
The Seelye family lived in luxury for the time, many of their furnishing purchased at the 1904 World's Fair, like this fireplace.
"Well, it was designed by Tiffany at the World's Fair and the tile is from Venice, Italy, Italy had the very best tile," Snider said.
"Here, any dresser that is extremely low is a gentleman's dresser because it gives the appearance of a full-length mirror," Snider said.
"Father and Mother wanted their daughters to have something very special from the 1904 World's Fair, so they bought each one of them a set of silver brushes and combs. This one has Helen's name on it and the adjoining room had a brush and comb with Marion's name," Snider said
There are eleven bedrooms, a ballroom, servant’s quarters and a myriad of bathrooms within 11,000 square feet of living space. But one of the more unusual items is this.
A bowling alley, again purchased at the 1904 World's Fair. Upstairs, book collections that any book lover would salivate over.
"One of my tourists asked me to lift the lid of one Mark Twain's books and for the very first time I discovered (his signature) 'The authorized uniform edition of my books.' Signed by Mark Twain. Now can you put a price on a set of books with a signature like that?" Snider said.
Dorothy is full of information and anecdotes about the family. This mansion is just as the sisters left it, their dolls on the dressers, washbasins and pitchers waiting as if for the Seelyes to return.
"Oh, I could give a tour four or five times a day and never tire of it. All of the antiques and the fact that it is a well-kept house, make it enjoyable," Snider said.
Dorothy knows all the history and people remember her. The red shoes on the blouse and the name Dorothy.
"And they always bid me good bye. Good bye Dorothy...Good bye!"
While the mansion was built for $55,000 in 1905, it is now estimated to be worth $3 million dollars and its contents, another $3 million.
The Seelye Mansion is open seven days a week.