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Solarium across front of Bridgeton house wowed couple, years before they bought it

Solarium across front of Bridgeton house wowed couple, years before they bought it

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When Conrad Bowers saw the house, he instantly regretted telling his wife, Linda, to pick any house she wanted, as long as it was in Bridgeton.

It was 2002. The St. Louis Airport Authority just bought the Bowerses’ family home in Bridgeton to make way for a $1 billion runway. The Bowers needed a house quick.

Bridgeton couple Linda and Conrad Bowers have lived in 3 homes in the city.

Yet, when Conrad saw Linda’s first pick, a solar house with no heating system, he instantly said, “No damn way.”

The house was love at first site for Linda, who attended a party in it 13 years before the house was hers. At the time, Linda was an art teacher at Pattonville Junior High School. She frequently passed and admired the house on her way to school.

“It’s an art teacher’s house,” Linda says. “It has more personality than any house in the neighborhood.”

Despite his original disdain of the house, Conrad’s opinion would quickly change.

The Bowerses have doubled the size of the house since they bought it. Bradley Bowers, Conrad and Linda’s son, designed the addition himself. He agreed with his father when he first saw his mother’s pick. The entire house needed updating. Cedar siding that covered the exterior of the house was falling apart.

“My first reaction was, ‘It’s ugly,’” Bradley says through a laugh, “but now, I love it.”

Bradley always liked Mission-style and Arts and Crafts-style homes. He says he merged those styles together with Frank Lloyd Wright in mind to fit with the house’s modern design.

Bradley’s design curved around the original structure in the shape of a U, which allowed him to move the kitchen into the new space and turn its old spot into a dining room.

Altogether, the addition added 2,000 square feet to the house. The Bowerses added a library in the back and a first-floor master bedroom. They also fitted the basement to include a walkout living room.

At Home with the Bowers

The kitchen leads to the house’s library and master bedroom. Bradley Bowers designed much of his parent’s furniture including their kitchen table.

Architect Jack D. Whaley of St. Charles designed the original floor plan in 1980. When it was built, the house shouldered three bedrooms on the second floor. Each had a loft and sliding door entrances to a solarium that covers the front of the house.

The solarium was what attracted Linda to the house in the first place. It stays warm year-round, and served as the main source of heat for the house before the renovations. In it, Linda grows orchids, jade plants and other plants. She and Conrad placed a small table in the middle of the room where they sometimes eat meals. During warmer months, they grow grape vines up the outside of the solarium so the room doesn’t get too hot.

But it’s not just the solar house’s sleek design and crafty renovations that enamor the house to the Bowerses. A tornado hit in 2011 that leveled two subdivisions directly behind them. Their house remained standing thanks to its flexible steel beams.

“That’s another reason why this house was such a great buy,” Conrad says. “The house that I wanted was this beautiful display home that was still being built at the time, but it was destroyed by the tornado and this one remained standing.”

The Bowerses’ house stands out among their neighborhood’s collection of brick-and-siding ranches. The peak of the solarium juts higher than any other roof on the street.

Though they finished most fixes for their house in 2006, the Bowerses are constantly adding little things to it. Bradley designed and built many pieces of furniture for the house. Conrad grew up on a farm that sold peaches commercially. The Bowerses bought an adjoining lot to the west, where Conrad rekindled his hobby of raising peaches.

They only have one thing left to do: wait for the pandemic to end so they can host family there again. Part of the reason why the Bowerses made the addition was to make space for large family dinners they previously had every Monday night.

“I used to have up to 15 people over, but now we haven’t seen some of the family in like a year,” Linda says. “We can’t wait to have them over again.”

At Home with the Bowers

Linda and Conrad Bowers have lived in their home in Bridgeton since 2002, photographed Thursday, March 4, 2021. Photo by Hillary Levin, hlevin@post-dispatch.com

Conrad and Linda Bowers

Ages • Conrad is 85. Linda is 78.

Occupations • Conrad and Linda are both retired. He was an engineer and the mayor of Bridgeton for 28 years. She taught art and headed the art department at Pattonville Heights Junior High School.

Home • Bridgeton

Family • They have three grown children: Bryan, Bradley and Adrienne.

Amy Bertrand • 314-340-8284

@abertrand on Twitter

abertrand@post-dispatch.com

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