CLAREMORE, Okla. -- John Mellville Bayless was a businessman who was bullish on Oklahoma when he moved here from Missouri around 1900.
Rogers County historian and attorney John Cary says, "He decided this was the best place to go."
Cary knows a little bit about the Baylesses since they built a lot of Claremore's early history.
He is also one of the caretakers of a unique piece of that family and city history, The Belle of Rogers County, The Belvidere Mansion.
"He built this for his family," says Cary. "He wanted a very nice home and he wanted to show people that he had money."
Bayless had to build his bank first, then a hotel, an athletic club, and an opera house.
From 1902 to 1907 he hired the best craftsmen to construct a suitable home for the richest family in town.
"You can see the tile walls and ceilings," he points out. "They brought in Italian craftsmen to put in the wood and tile floors."
They moved in just before statehood in 1907, but John Bayless didn't make it past spring of that year.
"It is unfortunate. He died of appendicitis in June of 1907," he states.
The Bayless name and this home endured.
Sons and grandsons stayed in banking and business.
The family lived here for nearly 20 years enjoying some of the first electric lights in town, gas fireplaces that heated the whole house thanks to this passage between floors.
Cary points upward, "You could open up the skylight and let the heat rise."
The skylight kept things cool in summer.
The 3rd-floor ballroom hosted many a dance in fall and winter.
"They had stoves up here to heat things up in cold weather," he says.
30 years ago the Rogers County Historical Society started restoring the Belvidere and they're still at work.
Preserving the founder's vision and a family's legacy.
For more information on tours or the restaurant located inside the mansion, visit the mansion's website.
'Is This a Great State or What?' is sponsored by WEOKIE.