The General Daniel Bissell House was built between 1812 and 1819 and is an outstanding and early example of the Federal style of architecture in the Missouri Territory. Daniel Bissell was an important figure in the early military history of the region, and the house reflects its occupancy by five generations of his family before they donated it to St. Louis County in 1961 with many of its original furnishings. The house is open for tours by advance reservation only.
Daniel Bissell was born in Bolton, Connecticut in 1769. At nine years-old, he enlisted in the Connecticut militia as a fifer during the Revolutionary War. Ten years later, Bissell returned to the military when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1788, and he rose quickly through the ranks. In 1802, he was given command of Fort Massac, near Cairo, Illinois, where he also served as the port of entry inspector and collector. In 1809, as a lieutenant colonel, Bissell was appointed military commander of the Upper Louisiana Territory and took command of Cantonment Belle Fontaine, later known as Fort Belle Fontaine. This military post had been established in 1805 in the bottom lands of the Missouri River about seven miles west of the confluence with the Mississippi River. It was the first American military post west of the Mississippi River. Bissell found conditions at the fort to be unhealthy and the buildings in poor repair. He also considered the site to be in a poor strategic position. In 1810, Bissell received authorization to relocate the fort on higher ground and completed the rebuilding effort in 1811. The fort’s mission was replaced after the army constructed Jefferson Barracks in 1826 and the site was abandoned by the military in 1833. Today part of the site is St. Louis County’s Fort Belle Fontaine Park.
After serving in the War of 1812, Bissell returned to the St. Louis area from the war, he completed his brick house around a stone kitchen that may date to 1809. The house was constructed in stages and was finished by 1819. The placement of the house at the top of a rise and the fine proportions of the Federal Style home made the house a prominent landmark in the sparsely populated area north of St. Louis and east of the village of Florissant.
In 1821, General Bissell left the military and retired to his estate which he called Franklinville Farm. He built up the estate to 2,300 acres and became a prominent community leader in the early affairs of the St. Louis area. He lived in the house with his wife Deborah and their four children until his death in 1833. His family remained there for nearly 150 years, each successive generation contributing to the house and its furnishings. The Classic Revival front doorway and ground floor mantels date from the 1840s. The Victorian frame wing was added about 1890 to replace the detached stone kitchen. The Bissell House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
In the early 1960s the house, and what remained of Franklinville Farms, was donated to St. Louis County.