In 1861, Mr. Henry Caldwell of Virginia built a beautiful home on the bluffs of St. Mary, Missouri overlooking the Mississippi River. Mr. Caldwell sided with the South during the Civil War, and it’s been documented that his home was built with the help of slaves. He also included on top of the home a special lookout tower where the movement of the Union troops could be viewed during the war.
This home later was purchased by John Tlapek. Mr. Tlapek was educated in his native city of Prague, in the Czech Republic, but in 1865, he came to St. Mary, and he became involved in many business and financial enterprises in southeastern Missouri. He clerked in his father’s store and also managed the flour mill. He built a lumber yard in St. Mary and also had branches in various parts of Ste. Genevieve and Perry Counties. Some of Mr. Tlapek’s other business interests included Western Lime, Bank of Perryville, and the Electric Light Company of Ste. Genevieve.
At the turn of the century, Mr. Tlapek was the president and general manager for Mr. Louis Houck’s Cape Girardeau, Perryville, Ste. Genevieve and Farmington Railroad. Mr. Tlapek also became partners with Mr. A.R. Ponder, president of the Texas railroad, in the Southeast Missouri Telephone Company of Ste. Genevieve and Cape Girardeau. Their interests in this telephone company later became part of the Bell System. Mr. Tlapek managed his affairs from his home until his death in 1937.
After his death, the home was not immediately sold but had been used by various non-profit groups. The Sisters of Mercy used this beautiful home for a spiritual renovation program for their Sisters. The Sisters of Mercy added a dormitory wing, chapel, and a chaplain’s quarters. The porches were enclosed with glass for sunrooms and dining area. On September 11, 1954, Cardinal Ritter assisted at a dedication ceremony. The home and surrounding area was called Marian Cliff.
Later the Montfort Fathers had a seminary at this location. The Montfort Fathers, while residing at Marian Cliff, added a special touch to the local community. They helped teach Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) Classes, managed a Teen Center, and provided entertainment for the local celebrations.
Marian Cliff Manor was purchased by Harris Care Centers in January of 1986, and it has been home to many since then.