Downing House

Downing House Museum

Built in 1858 - National Register of Historic Places 1979
South Main Street Memphis, Missouri -  Phone: 660-465-2259
Complex: Downing House Museum, Boyer House, Memphis Train Depot & Pheasant Aircraft Co.

Downing House Museum

This stately 14 room brick museum, designed by Thomas Broadwater of Virginia, denotes a Greek Revival Style, with its three story tower it conveys a strong Italianate character. The Downing Family was from Virginia and were wealthy. William G. Downing married Mary Jones, daughter of the first sheriff of Scotland County. After the marriage William G. went back to Virginia and returned with 12 slaves, 10 men and 2 women and prepared to build the home. There were 14 original rooms in the house with 8 fireplaces, 6 porches, and 15 doors to the outside. The slaves built a kiln and burnt brick for the house which took 2 years to complete. William and Mary Downing were the parents of 10 children and also raised 2 orphaned nieces in their home. During the Civil War Union Soldiers used the Downing House as Headquarters, and rode their horses in through the 10 foot doors. Prisoners were also kept in the house. On September 1, 1978, the Scotland County Historical Society purchased the property and have been restoring and renovating the house to its original condition. Period furnishings have been donated to outfit many of the rooms. One of the most interesting exhibits at the Downing House is the life size model of Ella Ewing, the Missouri Giantess. Ella, born in 1872 in Scotland County, died at age 40 in 1913. She was 8 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 277 pounds and in her youth was an attraction in the P.T. Barnum Circus. Several other memorial rooms are devoted to Scotland Countys history, including a vintage barber shop, Civil War relics, early aviation history, and other interesting glimpses into the past.


THE PATTERSON PARLOR was named by the Patterson and Lyle families in memory of the Abraham Pearce Patterson family. Jeanetta Wilson Patterson Lyle and Gerard Lyle, the first superintendent of the Memphis Public Schools, by Edward F. & Samuel P. Lyle and Mrs. Jeanetta Lyle Menninger. Mary Patterson Lyle pictures, stories, and family articles are present in the room.

THE JAYNE MUSIC ROOM was named in memory of Samuel E. Jayne (pioneer), Olive Jayne Forrester, John M. (Pete) Jayne and Augustus S. Jayne, by Harold M. & Marion R. Jayne.

THE LUTHER LIBRARY was named in memory of Lois Irene (Milliken) Luther, wife of John Edward Luther, by her granddaughter, Laura Ann Luther.

THE MEINHARDT ROOM, the third story tower room, was decorated and furnished in memory of Hugh & Amanda Meinhardt, by their daughter, Harry & Carlene (Meinhardt) Geisler, and Ruth (Meinhardt) Priest. Also items from Mary (Meinhardt) Max are in the room.

THE KEETHLER BEDROOM was named in memory of Dr.  & Mrs. A.M. Keethler, and Mary (Keethler) Mitchell. Bedroom furniture was loaned by the Keethler Family.

THE MORGAN DINING ROOM was named in memory of Lucille (Wilsey) Morgan and Clare R. Morgan through a bequest by Lucille Morgan. Several things in this room, such as the green Depression glass, silverware and 1927 crazy quilt, belonged to this couple. The dining table is set with German china formerly owned by a. Simon Family and donated by Myrleen (McIntyer) Oliver, a stepdaughter of this family.

VAUGHN CLEASON BARBER SHOP, owned and operated by Mr. Gleason for more than 50 years, contains waiting benches, marble-back bar with two sinks, wooden coat rack and cabinet for shaving mugs. It was donated by Don & Betty Harrison of Edina, Missouri.

JACK BRUMBACK CIVIL WAR COLLECTION was purchased as a memorial to Mae Dowdall. The room also includes WWI and WWII memorabilia and pictures.

THE NELSON BEDROOM was named by Conrad nelson in memory of his parents, Harley and Beulah (Pointer) Nelson. Many quilts and clothing articles are located in this room.

THE CHILDRERS FOYER, honors J.P. Childers Family: Hugh Perry and Amy Edith Childers, Jonathan Perry  (JP) and Mary Evelyn (Padgett) Childers, Jonathan Perry Jr. and Janet Frances (Tokars) Childers, Jason Jonathan Childers, and Jennifer Lee Childers (Schultz) Meeuwen.

THE ELLA EWING ROOM contains many items that belonged to Missouri’s Gentle Giantess. It contacts her iron bed, chair, shoe (size 24), piano stool, gloves, jewelry, clothes, and screen doors from her home. There are many pictures, newspaper articles and posters. New to the collection in 2016 is her broom and her cane.MEMORIAL ROSE GARDEN is located between the Downing House and the Boyer House. It was planted in 1992 in memory of Betty Burrus. Also added in 1992 was a small brick courtyard in memory of Dee V. Kapfer.