New Franklin, MO

Discovering the historic Rivercene house built in 1869

CJ Coombs
Rivercene house near New Franklin, Howard County, Missouri.Photo byPhotographer: Piaget-van Ravenswaay, Library of Congress, HABS MO-1459.

Built originally by a riverboat captain named Joseph B. Kinney in 1869, this house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 16, 1973.

Known as Rivercene, it is a large historic home located close to New Franklin, Missouri. This two-story square-shaped house was constructed in the architectural style of Second Empire

If you were standing in front of the Rivercene house on a cloudy day, it might appear rather imposing and steer the imagination that it could be haunted. The house faces the Missouri River to the south-southeast.

The exterior of the house was built with orange-colored brick. There was a time when the bricks were painted gray and the paint began to come off. The house was built with four wooden porches with low mansard roofs.

A mansard roof, also known as a curb roof or French roof, is a 4 sided gambrel style of roof. The upper slope of the roof is steeper than the lower slope and descends to the top of a low parapet wall or railing. It was originally developed to allow extra space in attics for servants and staff without compromising interior ceilings and rooms below by using dormers. (Source.)

The front door opens into a large hall with central stairs that lead up to the second floor. To the west is a large doorway leading to a double parlor. Service rooms and the kitchen are at the rear of the house. Behind the east room are two stairways. One goes from the basement to the attic and one leads to the second floor.

In some areas, the walls and ceilings were chiefly made with painted plaster. The woodwork on the first floor is walnut and cypress with false graining is on the second floor.

Early on, carbide gas lights were used. When the house was nominated for the NRHP, some of the fixtures were still in place. The fireplaces had white marble mantles. These were used to heat the house. As a side note, the Kinney family stayed here in the summer because they usually spent winters in New Orleans.

The Rivercene house is adjacent to a gravel road. There are stone posts that mark the entrance to the property. There is a gravel drive leading up to the house. Other buildings that used to be on the property included a barn and a buggy house. There was a brick structure and smokehouse still on the property.

If anything, this house exhibited architecture that was rare in the community. The architect was G.W. Osborn. At the time of the NRHP nomination, there were extensive repairs being performed “under the ownership of the original owner-builder's great-granddaughter and her family.”

Joseph Beeler Kinney

Captain Joseph Kinney was born on October 30, 1810, in Washington County, Pennsylvania. He started out in the mercantile business in Madison, Indiana, and Boonville and St. Louis, Missouri.

In the 1830s, Kinney purchased an interest in the Robert Fulton steamer. In 1856, he finally prospered after experiencing financial problems between the mercantile business and steamboating. After he built his house in 1869, while he kept his interest in the steamboats, he wasn’t active on the river.

Kinney picked the site for his house because he didn’t want to pay Boonville’s high city taxes. On his property, he had a large farm and vegetable garden. Interestingly, the boats could dock south of his house at the gate. The river has receded leaving a stretch of land between the river and the house.

Kinney died at age 81 on March 3, 1892. He supposedly named the steamboats he owned after his daughters and he had several of them. His first wife was Mary Collins and they had one daughter named Mary Jane Kinney.

When Kinney married his second wife, Matilda Clarke, 11 children were produced. After he died, the house stayed with Matilda and his unmarried daughter, Alice. Later, two of his widowed daughters, Cora Hurt and Margaret Ravenel, moved in.

In 1948, original furnishings and contents were sold at auction. For 17 years, the house was empty until Cora’s granddaughter and her husband purchased it (Mr. and Mrs. Mike Cenatiempo) in 1965.

In 2011, with hopes to restore the house, it was purchased by Donn Upp, a writer, and Joe Ely, a biology professor.
Photo byRivercene Mansion via Facebook.

Rumored-to-be haunted

Allegedly, after Kinney’s 26-year-old son, Noble, was killed from falling over the second-floor handrail and landing on the stairway steps, stories later emerged the house was haunted by his ghost. 

Supposedly, many have encountered Noble’s ghost. The house has been listed on sites as being haunted, and there might have been tours in the past. Several members of the family had died in the house. I also believe, though, an old house can look as haunted as you want.

According to the Bike Katy Trail website, the bed and breakfast which was operated at Rivercene is no longer open. Also, the website associated with Rivercene appears to belong to another vendor. Click here for images of the house from the website.

Thank you for reading!

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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