There is nothing modest about the house Alfred Barnes Seelye built in 1904 for himself and his wife, Jennie.
He had come to Abilene in 1980 with a medical background and a flair for promotion. He founded the A.B. Seelye Medicine Co., and started to churn out perfumes, extracts, spices and remedies for humans, horses and chickens. He assembled a team of wagon-driving peddlers who sold the cures door-to-door. There was Seelye’s Almanac: Health Guide and Cook Book, which showed just how his products could improve one’s quality of life.
By the turn of the century, he was ready to build a home that showed just how successful he was. He and Jennie went to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, where they saw plans for a magnificent home. Many fixtures for the home were purchased there. They hired an architectural firm in Topeka, Holland and Squires, to design a home based on what they saw. (The firm also designed the Belle Springs Creamery building in Abilene.)
When Abilene contractor Jacob L. Kreuger built the 11,000 square foot Georgian Revival mansion in 1904-05 it was described as the grandest home between Kansas City and Denver. It featured 11 bedrooms, six bathrooms, a ballroom on the third floor, and a bowling alley in the basement.
Tour the Seelye Mansion
The home fared better than the business. By the time the depression hit, the Seelye Medicine Company was in decline. It stayed alive for three more decades, and in 1960 was purchased by Reed Products, of St. Louis. Reed terminated the agreement the following year and returned all its samples, bottles and formulas.
Seelye’s two daughters, Helen and Marion, who were young children when the house was built, continued to live there. They never married. By the 1970s, the mansion was falling into disrepair. A major fire in 1981 threatened to destroy it, and left it with extensive smoke and water damage.
That’s when Terry Tietjens, and his brother, Jerry, entered the picture. They convinced the sisters to sell them the mansion, promised to restore it, and guaranteed Helen and Marion could continue to live there. They did. Marion died in 1988; Helen died in 1992, at the age of 95.
The fire damage was repaired in accordance with original blueprints. Today, the home is available for tours and is a popular site for weddings. To visit the Seelye Mansion, visit www.seelyemansion.org or call 785.263.1084.