| In 1844 a young widower named Joseph Kinney and his 2 year old daughter, Mary Jane, moved to the booming river city of Boonville. With $10.00 in his pocket, he searched for work and landed a shoe factory job. That job expanded and soon after he was running the plant. He met and married his second wife Matilda in 1845 and began building the large family he always dreamed of having.
His success in the shoe industry took him in 1850 to St Louis where he started his own shoe empire rightfully called Kinney Shoes. (Not the retailer we know today.) Joseph made a great deal of money in the industry but his first love was the river. Since he was a small boy he dreamt of being a steamboat captain and in 1856 his dream became a reality. Boonville became their home once again as the Civil War began. As destructive and devastating as the war was, it was very profitable to Captain Kinney and his fleet of Steamers. He was commanding upwards of $60,000.00 per trip and getting it!
In 1864, fed up with what he considered unfair taxes and their stand in the civil war, Captain Kinney decided it was time once again to leave Boonville. He gave his wife $50,000.00 and told her to build her dream house. It was decided to put it on the river banks of Howard County just across from Boonville. Many laughed at him for building in area known to flood. Just a few short years before the mighty river all but wiped out the town of Franklin, Old Franklin to us today.
Construction began on Matilda’s dream home in 1864, the family moved in 1868 just before her eleventh child was born, with completion of the massive structure in 1869. The house was called “Kinney’s Folly” by the locals, but Matilda named her home “Rivercene”. The great mansion became a showplace on the river and hosted many parties and events. Docks were built out front, and the steamboats could dock right at the main gates, leading some to believe the house was a hotel. Matilda’s dream home consisted of 3 stories, a full basement, and came in at a whopping 12,000 sq. ft. costing the good Captain $24,468.00. The remaining $25,532.00 of his $50,000.00 gift went towards decorating and furnishing the mansion. The Kinney’s lived out the remainder of their lives in the great house, with the last of the original family Cora Kinney- Hurt, dying in the mid 1940’s.
By the 1930’s Captain’s vast fortune had dried up and his three elderly daughters found themselves living in a large old decaying house, unable to heat or fix it’s many repairs. With the help of friends the three Kinney girls put together a plan to save their home and live out their lives in their mother’s dream house. Rivercene opened for the first time to the public for tours. Cora and her sister Maggie would tour guests through the house for 25 cents and would end it with a song on the 1850’s Chickering grand piano in the music room. This money paid the taxes and kept the utilities on but unfortunately did little to help with the costly repairs.
After Cora’s death the mansion sat empty and alone for several years, the threat of demolition getting greater with each day until Captain’s great granddaughter and her family bought it from her mother and started restoring the home. Once again Rivercene was alive, only to be threatened in the 1970’s by corporate expansion. After two years of legal battles, Rivercene was saved again. Restoration continued and in 1992 it was turned into a Bed and Breakfast. Towards the end of 1992, Winnie Cenatiempo, Captain’s great granddaughter, sold the house, the first time it was owned outside the family. Summer 1993 brought tragedy to the great house and pretty much everyone who lived by the river. The “Great Flood of 1993” sent the roaring Missouri river 42” into the main floor, making it the first time in the 124 years the house had stood that the water had been inside it. Today there are still a few signs of the historic flood but Rivercene survived and still operates as a bed and breakfast where guests can come in and stay the night at the captain’s fine home, look through old photos, read family journals of their life in the 1800’s, see original paintings and furnishings and relax in comfort.
The mansion is now owned by author Donn Upp (Donathon Devereaux Upp) and his business partner Joseph Ely. Restoration has begun to repair the damage that time has done to the magnificent place. It is our plan to restore the outside back to the original, giving our guests the chance to see the house once again as it was built. We hope you will add us to your vacation destination and relax a bit and enjoy the memories of one family while you and your family are making new ones.
12,000 sq. feet, three floors and a full walkout basement.
52 walnut doors, most of which are 10 ft. tall, originally with silver doorknobs embedded with the letter K.
78 windows- 7 of which are 11 ft. tall door windows, which slide up for entering and exiting.
11 fireplaces (Now gas), 9 with original Italian marble mantels.
12 bathrooms (Not original)
3 staircases, 1 of which is 3 stories tall.
Originally 14 rooms, 3 more added when the third floor was finished off in 1993.
A hidden “Panic” room was on the second floor off of the nursery, also used as the Nanny’s room which today makes up 2 bathrooms and a laundry room.
Missouri Governor's mansion was designed by the same architect and is patterned off of Rivercene.
|Rivercene Mansion History|
|Capt. Joseph Kinney|