HISTORICAL POSTCARDS OF SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI
Elfindale is a 101-acre (originally 206-acre) tract of land located in southwest Springfield at the corner of Sunshine Street and Fort Avenue. The address is 1701 South Fort. The land was originally homesteaded by three early settlers, William McLane, Bryan Nowlin and Samuel Dickson. By 1892 John and Alice O'Day had purchased the property. John O'Day provided the money to build the fantastic 27,000 square-foot house and Alice provided the creativity. It was named Elfindale after the elves Alice imagined seeing in the morning mists in the dale outside the house. Fifty stonemasons from Germany built the Victorian-style mansion, which contains 35 rooms. The limestone used in building the mansion was mined on the property. Alice and John O'Day divorced soon after the house was built and Alice was awarded the house in the divorce. She had Fassnight Creek dammed so that there was an island in the middle of a lake on the property. The postcard shows a pagoda on the island with a bridge leading to it. She had many grand parties and decorated the house lavishly. Her money ran out in 1905 and she was forced to sell Elfindale.
Alice O'Day was offered $259,000 for the house, but she sold it to the Sisters of Visitation for only $30,000. She did this because she believed the house should be set aside for a special purpose by God. In May, 1906 the sisters arrived from St. Louis and established the St. de Chantal Academy of the Visitation, a boarding and day school for girls. This school operated out of the mansion until 1964. While the Sisters lived at Elfindale they built two other buildings on the property: a three-story brick residence for the priest, built in 1908, and Our Lady of Visitation Chapel, built in 1959.
After the school closed in 1964, Elfindale became a retreat center. A small bookstore called De Sales operated out of the house until 1978. In October of 1978 the building was sold by the Sisters, who wished to relocate, to a group of Iranian investors known as the RNT Corporation. On September 1, 1980, the RNT Corporation loaned the building to the Cornerstone World Outreach Center, a charismatic religious group. An interesting sidelight is that Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine, considered buying the property as an addition to his publishing empire. Most of Springfield breathed a sigh of relief when this deal fell through.
In 1990 the Springfield Symphony Guild chose Elfindale as the Designer's Showcase House. For this fundraiser the entire house was remodeled and redecorated and admission was charged for the public to see the finished house. In June of 1990 the house opened as the Mansion at Elfindale Bed and Breakfast. It is currently a bed and breakfast with 13 rooms available, each with its own bathroom. The rates are $70.00 to $125.00 per night.