menu Villa Kathrine - History

1897

George Metz tours North Africa and Spain for two years, gathering materials and inspiration for the building of a Moorish "villa" of his own, using the Villa Ben Ahben in Morocco as a starting point.

1899

Metz returns to Quincy, collects his notes and sketches, and confers with several architects about creating a composite design.

Rendering of East Elevation

1900

An idela spot for Metz's villa is located on the bluff south of State Street. Young Quincy architect George Behrensmeyer draws up the plans, reducing the Moroccan villa to 43' by 53' and specifying walls of brick with a pure white plaster veneer. Construction of the Villa Kathrine begins with Herman Schachtsieck as the prime contractor.

George Behrensmeyer in 1895

1901

Villa Kathrine is completed, its main lower decorated with latticework inspired by the Giralda in Seville, Spain, and topped with a minaret replicating in miniature that on the Mosque of Thais in Tunisia. A sky-lit interior court is surrounded by columns whose arrangement recalls the Court of Dolls in the Alcazar in Seville and whose twisted form and capitals are inspired by the famed Alhambra in Granada.

Villa Neighborhood in 1901

1904

The "Moorish dream palace" is described and illustrated in the March issue of Scientific American Builders Monthly.

1912

Metz sells Villa Kathrine to Quincy grocer Archibald Behrens, who turns out to be acting for the Quincy and Western Illinois Railway. The QWIR proposes to build a line to Alton, using the Metz property for a rail yard. Behrens and his wife, an accomplished artist, are promised the contents of the house as his sales commission, but end up with only a rug. Local entrepreneur John J. Fisher, a principal backer of the rail, becomes virtual owner of the property and is believed by Metz to have furnished his home with the Islamic collection.

1917

The interurban rail project fails and ownership of the former Metz property enters 18 years of litigation. Meanwhile, the castle becomes derelict and is rented out at low rates.

1928

Behrens gives up all claim to the property for $1 and the house begins more than a decade of abandonment.

1939

Under the ownership of Fisher's company, Excelsior Stove Works, the house undergoes its first restoration. Central heating is installed, the reflecting pool is filled with concrete and the grounds are planted with lombardy poplars.

1941

The Chicago Daily News publishes a feature on the still-empty "Moroccan villa" on the Mississippi.

1942

Musician and nightclub owner Bob Moore rents the house with his wife Christine and two children; their two children are students at Quincy College.

1951

Harold C. McCoy purchases the house, repairs the casement windows and dome, modernizes the electricity and landscapes the grounds with flowering shrubs and catalpas.

1954

Porter Settle Jr. buys the house for development into a supper club but soon abandons the project.

1955

Quincy Park District purchases the Villa Kathrine and several lots to the north with a $25,000 donation from the Moorman Company, demolishes the remaining housing and turns the enlarged property into a neighborhood park and community center under the supervision of the Franklin neighboorhood committee.

1966

The grounds of the Vila Katrine are further enlarged through purchase of a residential lot on Third Street.

1976

The Park District partially restores and upgrades the Villa and various groups engage in two hours of debate concerning the feasibility of restoration.

1977

The Park District estimates the costs of complete restoration at $150,000, the figure rising to $200,000 the following year. That's $846,726 in 2019.

1978

The Quincy Jaycettes nominate Villa Kathrine to the National Register of Historic Places, spearhead a clean-up effort and form "Friends of the Castle" as a support group for Villa Kathrine restoration and reuse.

1979

Quincy Park District leases the Villa Kathrine to Friends of the Castle. Architect Carl Fischer and Associates of Springfield develops a phased restoration proposal.

1981

The City of Quincy, the Federal Highway Administration, Illinois Department of Transportation and Quincy Park District jointly develop a program for Villa Kathrine as a tourist center. Friends of the Castle was tasked with overseeing the restoration.

1984

The Great River Road Commission provides a $225,000 grant for Phase I of work at the Villa Kathrine, with a $75,000 match to be raised locally.

1986

Waterkotte Construction completes Phase I, including restoration of the exterior and front parlor, construction of public restrooms and a driveway with parking lot.

1987

Bergman Nurseries replants the grounds, using many shrubs of near Eastern origin.

1993

The Illinois Department of Transportation grants $300,000 for finishing exterior restoration, reworking mechanical and electrical systems and returning the interior to its original plan and appearance. A local match of $75,000 is required. Friends of the Castle retains Poepping, Stone, Bach and Associates as architects and engineers of the restoration, with Robert Christie as consultant.