Are you curious about the history of the houses in your neighborhood? Ever wandered around Kirkwood and wondered what it was like to live in a mansion at the time it was built? A house museum can unlock those secrets and so many more. The St. Louis area has an abundance of them — beyond the Lemp Mansion and the Campbell House. Learn about the history and architecture of the 19th century through tours of upper-class mansions, migrant workers’ homes and farmhouses.
Gina Siebe, president of Historic Florissant which runs Gittemeier House, believes that it’s important to continue to visit these historical landmarks, especially the smaller ones, in order to preserve local history.
“The smaller ones lend themselves to history. We have all the history for Florissant. (Gittemeier) was just a farmer, but he had 10 kids and they married into prominent families and each had kids of their own, so they helped to populate Florissant. It’s important for these houses to be preserved and educate people on history,” she says.
Most of these houses have been saved, preserved and are run by historical societies and many are open during the holidays as part of larger house tours.
Darius Heald House
Originally known as Stoney Point Plantation, Darius Heald built his brick home in 1884 on his 1,000-acre farm. Heald House’s architecture is German-Italianate-Victorian, which means that it has hipped-roof construction and coal-burning fireplaces. Visit the Darius Heald House to see its original interior woodwork.
Fees for tours of the Heald House also include tours of the fort next door.
Where 1000 Jessup Lane, O’Fallon, Mo. • Hours Noon to 3 p.m. Sundays • How much $5 • More info 636-379-5614; ofallon.mo.us
D.D. Collins House
D.D. Collins House is the perfect place to explore the Greek revival of the mid-1800s. The house was built in the early 1800s and is painted white to resemble a marble temple. Surrounded by a large front porch, the entrance is of vault design with a low roof and wide-band cornice trim.
The rooms are filled with period pieces and furniture.
Where 703 West Main Street, Collinsville • Hours 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday • How much Free • More info 618-420-0288; friendsoftheddcollinshouse.org
Emma Kunz House
The Emma Kunz House was built in 1852 and is a place to explore daily domestic life of the working class in the Victorian age. Built for plasterer Jacob Krill and his wife, Nancy, the brick cottage showcases a typical German street house from the time period of immigrant laborers. The house is named after Emma Kunz, the last resident of the house, who lived there for 77 years.
A parlor, hall, bedroom, buttery, kitchen and dining room are all on display.
Where 602 Fulton Street, Belleville • Hours Tours are by appointment only • How much Suggested donation of $6 for adults, $3 for children • More info 618-234-0600; stcchs.org
Gen. Daniel Bissell House
An important military figure in the St. Louis region, Gen. Daniel Bissell built this house between 1812 and 1820. The home is chock full of history, as it is believed that the 2,300 acres of farmland it originally stood on used to be operated by slaves. Today, the old slave quarters stand not far from the boundaries of the grounds.
Built as a Federal-style home, the Bissell House is now a museum that offers a variety of historical and recreational activities year round, such as costume re-enactments, fairs, lectures and seminars.
Where 10225 Bellefontaine Road • Hours Tours by appointment only • How much $4 for adults, $2 for children, children under 8 are free • More info 314-615-8800; stlouisco.com
The Gittemeier House was built in 1860 by Franz Gittemeier, a Missouri farm hand who worked the California gold fields for seven years and found enough gold dust to afford land in Missouri. The two-story brick house was occupied until 1990 when Shell Oil Co. acquired the property for commercial use.
Due to community outcries against the destruction of the farmhouse, Shell gave Historic Florissant Inc. the house for restoration.
Where 1067 Dunn Road, Florissant • Hours Tours by appointment • How much $3 • More info 314-565-1468; historicflorissant.com
Historic Hanley House
Built in 1855 by Martin Franklin Hanley, the Hanley House is the oldest structure in the city of Clayton. Now, the farmstead has been restored to depict 19th century Missouri life. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Hanley House displays family letters and records passed down through generations alongside family furnishings and artifacts.
Where 7600 Westmoreland Avenue, Clayton • Hours Tours by appointment only • How much $5 for adult, $2 for children (6-12) • More info 314-290-8505; claytonmo.gov
Built in 1810, Jarrot Mansion is considered to be the oldest brick building and one of the oldest masonry buildings open to the public in Illinois. The Federal-style mansion was built by Nicholas Jarrot and his wife, Julie. The size and style of the house indicates that the Jarrots were well off and had influence in Cahokia. Even though the house has passed through several hands and was at one point a convent, limited changes have been made, and it is now maintained by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Where 124 East First Street Cahokia • Hours tours by appointment • How much Free • More info 618-332-1782; jarrotmansion.org
A red-brick antebellum style home, Mudd’s Grove is 150 years old. Built in 1859 by John Hoffman, the house is one of the largest Greek revival homes in St. Louis County. It has three stories and a two-story wood portico. Although it has undergone several alterations, Mudd’s Grove still retains its original decorative features including all nine Greek revival mantels and double chimneys in the parapet gable.
Currently, Mudd’s Grove serves as the museum home of the Kirkwood Historical Society, furnished with 19th and early 20th-century pieces. The house and the grounds are also available to rent for weddings, receptions and birthdays.
Where 302 West Argonne Drive, Kirkwood • Hours 1-4 p.m., Sunday and Thursday • How much $5 • More info 314-965-5151; kirkwoodhistoricalsociety.com
In 1853, George Ingrahm Barnett was commissioned to build the Oakland House. The home is built out of white limestone, has 14-foot ceilings on the main floor, 24-inch thick walls and a fireplace in every room. Now it is a restored mansion and historic museum. Louis A. Benoist kept the home as a country house for his third wife. On display is the original free-standing Honduras mahogany staircase and a four-story tower, which is part of the Italian Renaissance design. “It has a three-acre lawn, and the landscape and lawn is just as pretty as the inside,” says Nancy Herndon-Ulrich, conservator and vice president.
Where 7801 Genesta Street, Affton • Hours Call for appointment • How much $5 for adults; 12 and under are free • More info 1-314-352-5654; oaklandhousemuseum.org
Overland Log House
Dating back to the mid-1800s, the Overland Log House is two stories built in dogtrot design, meaning that it was designed with an area between what was actually two log cabins. The house was dismantled and moved from its original location overlooking the Missouri River just west of Wild Horse Creek Road. It includes a parlor, a bedroom and a keeping room with items from the 1800s. There is also a working loom, and the log barn exhibit includes tools and farm implements alongside a covered wagon and buggy.
Where 2404 Gass Avenue, Overland • Hours Call for hours • How much Call for prices• More info 314-426-7027; overlandhistoricalsociety.org
The Payne-Gentry house is the only surviving historic Missouri house with a restored doctor’s office from the 19th century period. The house has six entrances and a gable roof. Featuring many of the Payne family possessions, and lace curtains that are similar to those described in the diaries of Mary Elizabeth Payne and her daughter Mary Lee Gentry, the home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Candlelight tours are available around Christmas and include a tour of the house, which features a Victorian Christmas tree adorned with antique ornaments and surrounded by toys. Many other collectibles and original furnishings are also on display.
Where 4211 Fee Fee Road, Hazelwood • Hours 1 p.m.-4 p.m. the first Sunday of each month • How much $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens, $2 children (4 to 15 years old), free for children under 4 • More info 314-739-5599; bridgetonmo.com
The Sappington House is believed to be the oldest brick house in St. Louis County, built in 1808. The Federal architecture that was popular during the post-Revolution era is on display here. Period furnishings adorn the house, and there are extensive grounds to wander.
Where 1015 South Sappington Road, Crestwood • Hours 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday-Friday • How much $5 for adults, $1 for children • More info 314-822-8171; cityofcrestwood.org
History buffs unite at the Col. Benjamin Stephenson House where culture, politics and architecture meet in 1820. Stephenson was one of the founding fathers of Edwardsville and the state of Illinois — he was also one of the writers of the Illinois Constitution.
Stephenson’s home is a two-story Federal-style house with four rooms containing period furnishings and four original Adams-style fireplaces. Trained docents in period style dress give tours of the house and provide details on how the upper class lived during the 1800s.
Where 409 South Buchanan, Edwardsville • Hours 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday-Saturday; noon. to 3 p.m., Sunday • How much $6 for adults, $3 for children (6-12 years old), free for children under 6 • More info 618-692-1818; stephensonhouse.org
Thought to be the oldest building in University City, the Sutter-Meyer House is a little white-painted brick home built around 1873. The house was built on the land of John Sutter, an immigrant from Germany. No original objects were left in the house, although it was occupied for more than 100 years. There is a period room in the farmhouse that re-creates what the parlor may have looked like circa 1890s. Featured in the farmhouse yard is a horse-drawn plow and a horse-drawn seeder.
Where 6826 Chamberlain Court, University City • Hours By appointment for fall tours • How much Free • More info suttermeyer.org
Taille de Noyer
Dating back to 1790, Taille de Noyer is a historic antebellum home with stately pillars across the front veranda. It is one of the oldest remaining homes in St. Louis County.
A tour of Taille de Noyer features the oldest section of the house: a two-room log cabin that was used as a fur trading post.
Where 1896 South New Florissant Road Florissant • Hours 1-4 p.m., Sunday • How much $3 for adults, $1 for children • More info 314-409-9478; florissantvalleyhs.com
Victorian Home Museum
Step into the life of a wealthy Belleville family in the Victorian era at the Victorian Home Museum built in 1866. Originally built for businessman Morris Dobschutz, the house includes a dining room, parlor, library, child’s bedroom, master bedroom and the Richard “Pete” Kern Room, which houses rotating exhibits on the history of St. Clair County.
Purchased by the St. Clair County Historical Society in 1963, the Victorian Home underwent extensive renovations and was opened to the public in 1968.
Where 701 East Washington Street, Belleville • Hours 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday-Friday • How much $6 for adults, $3 for children under 12 • More info 618-234-0600; stcchs.org