Friday, August 1, 2014

Campbell House Museum

Man oh man. This is one of those updates where I KIND OF wish I had linked to this on the Facebook page yesterday so that you could see the improvement, but on the other hand, that would be too embarrassing. Let's just say, I have learned a thing or two about photography (and got a better camera) in the last 4 years.

Of course, I got a better camera and then left it at home, but even my current cell phone is better than the pictures that were here before! I'm leaving out a ton for quality reasons, so if you are into historic houses (and you must be, if you made it this far) this is one you really must visit for yourself.

Campbell House Museum is one of the finest examples of a historic house in St Louis. Robert Campbell, fur trader and entrepreneur, built the house in 1851 in the chichi Lucas Place neighborhood. You know the only thing I love more than historic floor covering and light fixtures is period clothing, so I was thrilled to find that some of Mrs Campbell's gowns were still on display.

How did they know what colors to use in the restoration of the house? They took samples of the old paint and had them matched. This little section in the hall shows the restoration and sample section side by side.

As usual, I am obsessed with the fixtures, ceilings, and floors, and not so much with the details of the family who lived in the house and where their money came from. There is an extensive history of the family and neighborhood on the Campbell House Museum website.

I think our docent, Tom Gronski, has a lot to do with the extensive detail on the website, as I see he has his own tag on their blog, Intrepid Researcher Tom. Truly, one of the best historic house guides I have ever had. Tom clearly knows this house and family inside out.

Two things of note in the above photo: One, the ceiling and gasolier. Two, notice how there is a door on either side leading to the butlers pantry/kitchen (one door is behind the screen on the right). This is because when this dining room table is extended to it's full length, it goes from wall to wall (where the mirror is) and servants would not have been able to walk around it to serve. They had to actually leave the room and re-enter through the other door.

Three of the sons of Robert and Virginia Campbell to survive into adulthood (out of 13 children) lived in the house until they died; James in 1890, Hugh in 1931, and Hazlett in 1938. Hugh was reclusive and was hardly seen in the last 20 years of his life, and Hazlett was probably schizophrenic. It's awkward to say that this was a boon to the museum, but it certainly kept a lot of family heirlooms in the house. Most everything you see here is original to the house. Above is the china (each piece has a different flower/fruit/vegetable) painted on it, another cabinet is full of silver, and another, crystal.

I didn't get much of the second floor this time around, but I have to include my all time favorite historic house bathroom, though I may be the only person to bestow such an award. You have to step up from the hall, because the pipes are under the floor, and step down from the master bedroom. It's so much more elegant than the awkward bathrooms that were added to my 130 year old house after the fact.

I shrunk this blog down in a big way because I had a lot of information here that was, I don't want to say "wrong", but not the same facts as Tom gave us, so I highly recommend taking the tour yourself! This house is huge and amazing, and while I haven't been to all of the historic houses in town, I'm sure there aren't many as accurate.

Campbell House is located at 1508 Locust Street in Downtown St Louis (next to the YMCA). They are open Wednesday through Saturday 10am to 4pm and Sundays 12pm to 4pm. Admission is $6.


  1. wow - thanks, I have heard of this but had no idea how cool it is. That is an awesome house and they did a hell of a job on the restoration.

    BTW, I don't think flashes would hurt anything in a museum like this; I have only heard that on very old artwork, when you have hundreds of flashes per day it can do some degradation. I don't think the odd flash in a place like this would have any affect. Even places like the Louvre they allow flashes in most places, and only restrict it on some of the real masterpieces. U. Bill

  2. It's not something I like to encourage. I always think Elvis's wedding suit at Graceland, which is brown now from flash damage (obviously, hundreds of thousands of flashes at a place like that). The tour guide at Campbell House did thank me for not using the flash, though. There's "museum" setting on my digital camera that generally works pretty well as long as the light is overhead.

  3. Thanks for visiting our house! We're happy you enjoyed your tour and your blog post is great. :)
    Campbell House Museum