The Whiskey Mansion in St. Joseph sits as a testament to the German population that settled the area more than 100 years ago.

It was built in 1885 by Ferdinand and Sarah Westheimer, who at the time had settled in an area that was as far west as this country went.

Together, they made and sold whiskey to local miners and started their own successful distillery. The house is now a monument to their fortune, but it has not always been that way.

The house was condemned in 1992, and just three years later, it was almost destroyed by fire. When Olin Cox from Savannah, Missouri, just outside St. Joseph, bought the house, it was in bad shape. But Cox, who was looking for a place to buy, decided that did not matter.

“One of the properties that I had pretty much decided on had had an arson, and probably being young and naive, I decided to go ahead and do it,” he said.

He took it upon himself to restore the house, a landmark in his backyard for more than a century. Although he faced a slew of setbacks, the project was completed and is now a bed and breakfast.

Cox says his job with Delta Airlines made the effort possible: “I work six days on, six days off, so it gives you a lot of time to work on it.”

He wanted to build a place that blended the mansion’s 19th-century origins with a 21st-century sense of comfort.

“The goal was to have the feeling that you’re going back in time 140 years,” he said. “You don’t just see that sort of life in a YouTube video. You actually get to be there and feel that way.”

The bedrooms of the house have been restored to include era-appropriate furniture. To make sure occupants are comfortable, modern accommodations like air conditioning and modern toilets have been carefully installed so not to distract from the home’s old-fashioned feel.

According to its website, the Whiskey Mansion offers four types of rooms. The Queen Room features a queen bed and private bathroom. The Deluxe Queen Room features a second queen bed.

The Water Spa Room has the same amenities as the Queen Room with the addition of a jetted clawfoot tub and is the most expensive option at the Inn.

Finally, for those who intend to stay longer, there is the Maid’s Room, smaller and the least expensive option. Every reservation comes with a full breakfast each morning during the stay.

The mansion attracts tourists from all over the country, said Cox, who has been a cultivator of that economy, owning both the Whiskey Mansion and a cafe downtown.

He says the best part about owning the Whiskey Mansion is what it does for the community.

“The biggest enjoyment for me is to see all the all the development that it’s been part of, and to a certain degree I’ve led,” he said.

  • Jeb Goldman is a reporter and producer at KOMU, as well as a reporter for The Missourian. Contact me at or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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