Bothwell Lodge – Sedalia, Missouri - Atlas Obscura

Bothwell Lodge

Sedalia, Missouri

This historic cliffside mansion uses a natural cave for air conditioning. 


Anyone who has ever complained about the high energy costs associated with modern air-conditioning should take a page from the builders of the Bothwell Lodge who simply relied on natural caves beneath the house to provide a pleasant breeze.

The Bothwell House was built over 31 years by wealthy Sedalia lawyer John Homer Bothwell. He built the commanding edifice atop a high bluff that looks out over a lush Missouri valley, and originally named it Stonyridge Farm. Bothwell intended the site to be a luxurious locale where he and his friends could kick back and enjoy the natural beauty of the state. The sprawling estate covers 12,000 square feet with 31 rooms of summer home. The structure was designed in a sturdy Craftsman style with medieval European influences such as a tower with a decorative parapet.

The most unique feature of the home however are the trio of natural caves that were discovered beneath the site during construction. Taking advantage of the naturally-formed boon to the estate, access to the caves was built into the lodge at various points so that the naturally cool cave air could provide a sort of ambient air conditioning.

When Bothwell passed away in 1929, he left the estate to a group of relatives and close friends dubbed the “The Bothwell Lodge Club.” The club could retain the property so long as at least five of the members were alive, but once the number dipped, the estate was given to the state of Missouri who continues to care for the site today. 

Visitors can hike and mountain bike around the grounds, and tours of the estate are available. The interiors, which were outfitted with opulent, relaxing decor, remain mostly unaltered from Bothwell’s day. And you can still feel the cool air coming from the caves.  

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