The Mansion is for sale
Belleville News Democrat, September 4, 2019, By Teri Maddox
A two-story brick building in O’Fallon, known simply as “The Mansion,” is for sale. It originated as a family home in 1857, but in recent years, it has housed fine-dining restaurants. Couples planning to get married at The Mansion in O’Fallon have been notified that they will have to say “I do” somewhere else.
The news came as a shock to Rebecca Yarber and her fiance, Nathan DeSpain, of Columbia, who received an email Thursday from Jerry Conway, the venue’s co-owner and chef, saying the business had “closed for good.”
“Due to circumstances beyond our control, we will not be able to hold any planned weddings,” he wrote. “We will be sending back all deposits in 6 to 8 weeks. Again, we are very sorry.”
Yarber and DeSpain have less than three weeks to find another location for their Sept. 21 wedding and inform guests of the last-minute switch. They may even have to get a new marriage license.
“(Our license) says ‘O’Fallon, Illinois,’ so I assume we’ll have to change it unless we find another place in O’Fallon,” said Yarber, 33, a radiology technician with Memorial Hospital. “But I invited 200 people, and it’s hard to find a venue for that many people that’s not in a church.”
Conway and Kathy Cox, The Mansion’s other co-owner, could not be reached for comment. Their phone has been disconnected, and they didn’t reply to emailed requests for information.
The couple have owned the property since spring of 2015.
After Yarber complained, Cox emailed her Friday and offered to ask the city of O’Fallon if the wedding could go forward on The Mansion grounds “without fees.” She also reported that the Magnolia Hotel in St. Louis had agreed to serve as a fallback option.
“We sent out the notice as soon as we knew we had to close,” Cox wrote. “All money will be returned.”
Property listed at $399,000
No one was working at The Mansion on Tuesday. A small yard sign read, “The Grille at The Mansion,” even though the restaurant stopped operating in July. At that time, Conway and Cox announced on social media that they would only host weddings and other private events.
Justin Mills co-owns Terra Veta Aeronautical and Geospatial Solutions in Lakepointe Center Professional Park, which surrounds The Mansion. He noticed last month that BarberMurphy had put up a for-sale sign.
“(Before the restaurant closed) I almost bought some gift certificates for my employees who were doing a good job,” he said. “Now I’m glad I didn’t.”
Nearly 6,500 square feet of building space includes the original two-story, Italianate-style brick home, built in 1857, plus an addition in back. The .15-acre lot is filled with towering trees.
Hardin verified on Tuesday that The Mansion was no longer operating.
“It just got to the point where they couldn’t afford to keep the doors open because there just wasn’t enough of that type of business, which they really enjoyed,” he said.
The building’s plumbing, wiring, heating, air conditioning and sprinkler system were updated 13 years ago. Dining rooms can seat 125 people, according to the real-estate listing.
“There’s a full commercial kitchen and all the equipment,” Hardin said. “We’ve had a couple of inquiries. I think the city of O’Fallon would like to see somebody go back in there.”
‘They had to have known’
Yarber and DeSpain, a truck driver, went to The Mansion in January and signed a contract to hold their wedding ceremony on the grounds in September. The reception would follow at Karban’s Knotty Pines in Waterloo.
In the next few months, the couple communicated with Cox several times about music, chairs and other details via email. They paid a $350 deposit for the total $900 cost, Yarber said. That included $150 for rental of a bridal suite to be used as a dressing room.
After hearing that The Grille restaurant had stopped operating, Yarber emailed Cox on July 27 to verify that it wouldn’t affect her wedding plans.
“Nothing has changed for you,” Cox replied. “We are open for parties. You are fine.”
Yarber’s last contact with Cox before Thursday was Aug. 21, when they emailed back and forth, mainly about the possibility of holding the couple’s rehearsal dinner at The Mansion.
“I feel like they knew the whole time (that the venue might close),” Yarber said Friday. “They had to have known.”
The Mansion building formerly housed a fine-dining restaurant called The Mansion at Lakepointe before sitting vacant for about seven years. Then it was renovated by Paulo Pacheco, who operated Paulo’s at The Mansion from 2007 to 2015.
The structure was named a landmark by St. Clair County Historical Society in 1963.
“It was well known (for its restaurants),” Hardin said. “It was kind of an eclectic spot. People liked it. It had an old-world steakhouse vibe to it.”