About the Witherspoon/Hilt Mansion
The official name for this magnificent French style estate is "Bienwillow Manor". "Bien is a French word meaning "the welcome mat is always out". "Willow" was the first half of Mr. D. J. Witherspoon's mother name, and by combining the two, we arrive at "Bienwillow".
The foundation of the home was begun in late 1969, and the house officially completed in the summer of 1971, although the Witherspoon family took up residency on December 25, 1970. Bienwillow was built out of white marble from Georgia and the total cost of construction was almost $1,000,000 including the 4.7 acre site. The residence was donated to the University of Nebraska by the Witherspoons and subsequently purchased by Tom and Norma Hilt, the former owners, in 1995. The Hilt's extensively updated and remodeled the residence as well as adding an entire wing on the southeast side. A fire in January, 2009, totally destroyed the home and contents. Subsequently, the Hilt's donated the property to a non-profit organization known as Flatland Group dba Flatland Church. (See flatlandchurch.com). The Flatland group has recently sold the property and the remaining portions of the burned out structure have been demolished. It is assumed the property will be subdivided for further development. Nebraska's excessive property taxes, in all probability, will prohibit construction of such magnificent homes as the Witherspoon/Hilt mansion being constructed in the future. It is the end of a grand era.
The structure featured a grand 2 story entry giving over completely to a more formal French detailing, which could first be seen in the graceful curve of the bronze stair railing. The entry floor was marble. The entry was sparsely furnished so it could accommodate large groups of people, and so the important antique furnishings could readily be appreciated to the best advantage. The home had 8 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, a cherry wood library, an updated cherry wood kitchen with granite isle, a walk-in pantry, a large breakfast room overlooking the patio and outdoor pool, 2 family rooms, large dining room and butler pantry, formal living room, exercise room, game room, billiards room, and a large theatre-multipurpose room. Total finished above ground square footage was 13,000 square feet, including the attached private caretaker and maids quarters of 800 square feet. The finished basement was approximately 6,000 finished square feet.
Other amenities included a tennis court, 2 lane bowling alley, indoor and outdoor swimming pools - both with his and hers cabanas, a large exercise room, 2 wet bars, 2 laundry rooms, cherry wood library, and kitchen, 5 car garage with storage space for 2 additional vehicles, and a workroom.