Visitors Guide to the
Villa Kathrine
532 Gardner Expressway
Quincy, Illinois
217-224-3688

Accessible Parking Accessible Picnic Facilities Accessible Interpretive Exhibits Accessible Illinois Historic Site Accessible Scenic View Accessible Information Center Accessible Gift Shop

   

The Villa Kathrine is one of the most unique buildings along the Mississippi River. Built on a bluff overlooking the river by Quincy native and world traveler George Metz, the home is modeled after the Villa ben Ahben in Morocco. The castle, the only one of its kind on the Mississippi, was built at the turn of the 20th century and named after Metz’s mother. After Metz sold it in 1912 it has been owned by a number of people. After years of decay and vandalism the home was acquired by the Quincy Park District in 1955. The home is maintained by the Friends of the Castle and now serves as Quincy's Tourist Information Center and is available for tours and rentals for special occasions.

George Metz was born on May 20, 1849. His father, William Metz, was a wealthy Quincy businessman, and consequently George had enough money that he never worked a day in his life. George Metz traveled all over the word and there were few countries he had not visited in his trips. Despite his long absences he still considered Quincy his home. It is said that Metz’s wanderings were motivated by his lifelong dream to find the perfect home. After seeing the centuries-old Villa Ben Ahben in Algiers, the capitol of the North African country of Algeria Metz became obsessed with creating his own version of the palace in Quincy. Metz spent several years scouring the North African coast for furniture and collectibles and he spent hours drawing and redrawing the plans for his dream home.

When Metz returned to Quincy he had trouble finding a suitable architect, finally giving it to George Behrensmeyer, a young man who took Villa Kathrine on as his first commission. The site for the home chosen was south of downtown Quincy on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Plans for the home were scaled down from Metz’s original ideas so that it would rest securely on the bluff. Work on the stucco-covered brick structure began in 1900. Although the Villa Kathrine brings to mind the Moorish castles of Morocco and Spain it is actually a modest two story house. What gives it its castle like appearance is its one-story side wing, with two square towers, several porches, and numerous setbacks and projections. A replica of the famous Mosque of Thais in Tunisia surmounts the main tower with flaming red waving stripes decorating the mosque, covered with a green dome. The building has a variety of window shapes that include rounded and pointed arches, keyhole shapes, and diamonds. Inside the front door was the drawing room which now serves as the visitors center. Up a short flight of stairs and through glass doors is the interior court, which is surrounded by a gallery supported by eight arches embraced by spiral pillars that are copies of the pillars in the Court of Dolls in Seville, Spain. Around the center court were small square rooms that bordered a central pool. The villa’s atrium was open to the roof, where a winter glass cover would be replaced by a summer awning.

Metz furnished his home with the pieces he collected in the Mediterranean. Many of the house furnishings were over thousand years old and included divans, oddly colored olive oil Egyptian lamps, and exotic pottery. The main door was studded with brass nails, supposedly to indicate that the owner was a believer in the religion of the Orient and as the door opened a welcome harp played a beautiful slow melody. During the years Metz lived at the Villa Kathrine the grounds were always kept up, with rose beds and other flowers blooming in quantity, and trees and shrubs always trimmed.

Metz was not married and lived alone with his constant companion, Bingo, a 212-pound Mastiff purchased in Denmark and rumored to be the largest dog in America. When Bingo died he was buried in the rose garden and Metz became terribly depressed. At the urging of his relatives, he sold the villa and all its furnishings in 1912 to a couple who professed great interest in the place. However, the couple was actually agents for the Alton-Quincy Interurban Railroad, which planned to tear down the house and build a railroad yard on the site. Although the house survived the railroad’s plan almost all the furnishings disappeared. Metz returned a year later to find his home overrun with animals and what little furniture that remained was shredded. He left, vowing never to return. He did come back one more time in 1932 to find the villa crumbling with decay and wished that he could tear it down.

The Quincy Parks Department acquired the Villa Kathrine in 1955. After a restoration process the home was opened to the public with the drawing room serving as Quincy's Tourist Information Center. The home has four pieces that belonged to Metz during his time at the house: a vase, a wooden travelling chair, a painting of an Oriental woman, and a tapestry. One of the second floor bedrooms is furnished with period and reproduction Mediterranean pieces of the type that Metz would furnished the villa with. In the downstairs dining room is a prize winning exhibit by the Payson Grade School about the villa and its architecture. The Villa Kathrine was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and is listed on the Illinois Register of Historic Places.

Visiting the Villa Kathrine
     Visiting Hours
         
March - October
               Monday - Saturday: 9 am - 5 pm
               Sunday: 1 pm - 5 pm

          November - February
               Monday - Saturday: 9 am - 4 pm
               Sunday: 1 pm - 4 pm

There is no charge to visit the Visitor Center portion of the Villa Kathrine
Self Guided Tours of the entire mansion: Adults $3, Children $1.50 (under 6 free). Group Tours by appointment.


Location: The Villa Kathrine is located at 532 Gardner Expressway (IL-54) just south downtown Quincy.

Learn more about the Quincy area.

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