Owner saves historic home from destruction

By  | 

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - We're getting our first look inside the latest local home on The National Register of Historic Places. The new owner plans to save this important piece of our local history, which is off South Campbell Avenue south of the city.

Most stories involve a character and this one does too. If only those walls could talk.

"Very interesting history," said Scott Tillman.

Tillman is the latest in a long line of distinguished owners. The names include some lions of Springfield business history from Heer's, Woodruff and even vaudeville stars: the Weaver Brothers and Elviry.

"It's worth every penny in my opinion," said Tillman.

The grand lady is showing her age in spots.

Tillman echoes the thought.

"It just needs some TLC," he said.

But, the beauty -- those exposed wood beams, the grand archways, the rock masonry construction and those views of the James River still stand out.

"It had a fireplace out here where you could just sit and enjoy the view," Tillman said during a recent tour.

"This is the original kitchen, so your servants would come in and out the door without coming through the house; there's my smoke detector," Tillman said as the tour continued.

The three-story home even comes with three caves on 13 acres. One of them is guarded by a gargoyle.

"It's a multilevel cave. You go up and down, and slide around. Phew! It was stressful," said Tillman.

Also outside are steps made of marble, that take you down to the James River. Frances Heer reportedly brought the steps from the old courthouse and used them right there.

"He wanted it to be both luxurious for its day, a place for his family to live, but also a rustic cabin on the river feel to it, too, which I think he achieved with all the natural stone," said John Sellars, executive director of the History Museum on the Square.

In 1945, the owners changed the name to Killarney Cliffs. in 2016, the name is back to the original; Heercleff.

Tillman wants to roll back some other changes, too. The sauna will be gone. He plans to open up his checkbook and renovate closer to the style of the 1920s.

"Something like this, we just can't afford to lose them. This is too important of a resource for our community in Greene County to let it slip away.. it needs to be restored and put back into a use," said Tillman.

Heercleff could wind up being a bed and breakfast.

"Hopefully, we can find a nice retired couple who have hospitality experience, and want to semi-retire and live here and have a five- to six-bed bed and breakfast, run it for us and live out their life in a nice peaceful setting," said Tillman.

It probably won't make Tillman any money but it will make him proud to preserve part of our history.

"It's more of a passion project," he said.

Tillman plans to start renovation work in the spring. He says it could wind up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. We asked him to invite us back when the work is done.