Discover a piece of Arkansas history.
The Peel Mansion Museum & Heritage Gardens’ mission is to preserve the rich history of Post-Civil War Northwest Arkansas through the interpretation of historic buildings, significant objects, and educational garden spaces that connect the past with the present.
Colonel Samuel West Peel and The Peel Mansion
A pioneer businessman, lawyer, father of nine, and the first native Arkansan elected to the United States Congress, Colonel Samuel West Peel built this extraordinary Italianate mansion on the outskirts of beautiful Bentonville, Arkansas in 1875. At this time in history, the house was surrounded by approximately 150 acres of property including mostly farmland but some forested areas as well. The Peel family’s major crop was apples grown in orchards around the house. The family also cultivated a large vegetable garden.
The dream to build the Peel Mansion starts with a marriage proposal. According to local lore, Samuel West Peel proposed marriage to a woman he was courting, Mary Emaline Barry, several times in the 1850’s. Mary Emaline turned down proposal after proposal. Finally, during his last proposal, Samuel West promised to build Mary Emaline a mansion like the ones that she remembered from her childhood in Alabama. After hearing this promise, Mary Emaline agreed, and they were married on January 30, 1853. It took Samuel West Peel 22 years to fulfill his promise, but he finally built the home that we know as the Peel Mansion today. In 1875, the Peel’s named the mansion “The Oaks” for the large oak trees found throughout the property. One of those majestic trees remains on the property.
The Mansion Museum
The Oaks, or what we know today as The Peel Mansion Museum, has 14 rooms, originally housed 8 fireplaces, and is crowned by a tower on the 3rd floor. It was initially a brick residence (the stucco was added by another owner later in its history) built in the Italianate style. The interior and exterior walls are 18” to 24” thick and the ceilings are 12 ½ feet high throughout the house. An icehouse was built near the home. The 1-foot-thick walls of the structure ensured that the Peel’s had ice well into the summer months.
Today, guests can visit the historic mansion museum and take “a walk through time” viewing fascinating artifacts displayed in period rooms that give visitors a glimpse of what it was like to visit the Peel family in the late 19th century.
The Heritage Gardens
Today, the heritage gardens feature flowering plants trees and shrubs that reflect on Post Civil War Arkansas while still creating relevant garden spaces for today’s world. The 8 Garden spaces are each unique and reflect the landscape trends of the late 19th century Victorian style gardens into the early 20th century. The gardens at Peel Mansion will bring renewed perspective to the uses and pleasures of a rose garden, herb garden, apple orchard and more.
With the dynamic plant combinations throughout the garden, you will experience something new and exciting season after season.
The Peel Mansion Heritage Gardens are above all a space for education, check with us throughout the year for programs and learning opportunities at Peel Mansion Heritage Gardens.
The History of the Land
The property where the mansion sits has a story of its own. Before European settlers moved in, the land was part of the Osage Tribe’s ancestral territory. The Osage Tribe was semi-nomadic, which means that they depended on hunting and gathering as well as gardening to thrive as a people. Each year, hunting season brought the Osage to what is now called Northwest Arkansas, and the men hunted deer, bison, elk, bear, and other game to bring back home to their families. The United States government forcibly removed the Osage from their lands in Arkansas and Missouri in the early 1800s forcing the tribe to move to a reservation in southeastern Kansas.