Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More Treasures of St. Louis

As a writer, I find architecture, history and historic landmarks fascinating. Maybe that's why day trips like the one I took last week are so exciting that I have to share what I learned.

Our lunch stop was Hannegan's Restaurant on Lacede's Landing, at the foot of the Mississippi River, not far from the Gateway Arch. The Landing was settled in 1784 by Pierre Laclede, one of the founders of St. Louis. Linda, our tour guide, told us that a huge fire in 1849 claimed the buildings on the Landing, except for the Old Cathedral and the Courthouse (where the Dred Scott Decision was rendered.)

We walked from the bus along the landing over the the red granite pavers (which we were told are not cobblestones because cobblestones get worn down by water and aren't good for horses). The red granite pavers were hand hewn and came from the quarry at Elephant Rock State Park.

Hannegan's is housed in the old Witte Hardware building. It sits across the street from the original Boatman's Bank, which was formed for riverboat workers to deposit their money before the spent it all on food, drink, and carousing the streets near the river.

Robert Hannegan was a Missouri Democrat who delivered over 30,000 votes for FDR in the 1940 Presidential election. He was later appointed Postmaster General, and he convinced FDR to recruit then Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman to become his Vice Presidential his running mate in 1948.

The inside of Hannegan's is a replica of the U.S. Senate Dining Room in Washington, D.C. On each table, a brass plate sits at the foot of the green-shaded lamps. Etched on the brass plates are the names of senators and the states they represent. The significance of the names of the senators is that they are the senators who voted to repeal Prohibition.

Let the good times roll! Or as Pierre Laclede would've said, "Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez."

Our next stop was the magnificient Historic Samuel Cupples House on the campus of St. Louis University. Commissioned in 1888 and designed by architect Thomas Annan, the Cupples House is a lovely example of the Romanesque Revival style, build out of purple Colorado sandstone, complete with gargoyles.

The mansion has 42 rooms and 22 fireplaces, stained glass windows and intricately carved woodwork. My photos don't do justice to the exquisite interior of the mansion. I was so wrapped up in looking at all the antique furniture, sculptures, works of art and the glass collection, I almost forgot to take photos.

Many of the paintings, including a pair of paintings by 18th century Dutch Rocco master Jacob de Wit, were brought to St. Louis in 1845 by Jesuit priest Pierre DeSmet. The glass collection includes works by Suteben, Tiffany, and Lalique in the art noveau and art deco style.

The Zodiac windows (on the left) feature stanzas by St. Louis poet Eugene Fields.

The story of Samuel Cupples is intriguing. He was a self-made man of wealth, yet his personal life was filled with tragedy. His first wife died in childbirth, and his second wife (his first wife's sister) bore three children who died before the age seven.

His home was bought by St. Louis University in 1946, and was headed for the wrecking ball in the 1960s until Jesuit priest Father Maurice McNamee became the champion for its rescue.

The Historic Samuel Cupples House is located in the West Pine Mall on the campus of SLU in Midtown St. Louis. I plan to make a return visit. Who knows--perhaps I can work some of the history of Laclede's Landing or the Cupples House into a story--maybe a mystery even.


  1. What a loss if that building had been destroyed! Thank goodness Father McNamee saw what a gem it was.

  2. Cool pictures, Donna. And great post about your tour. You should be a travel writer. Think you could fit that in with all your other zillion jobs.

  3. Hi Sioux,
    You are so right. It would've been a great loss. It's so sad to see some of the buildings in my old neighborhood in St. Louis that are crumbling--or even worse now vacant lots.

    Hi Lou,
    Love your new photo. Thanks. I figure if I don't write it down it will be forgotten.


  4. So interesting! And I didn't know that about cobblestones. Wonder why they were so widely used if they hurt the horses? Cost, probably, even back then.

  5. I've been through St. Louis many times and have spent a couple of weekends there (many, many moons ago). Your travelogue makes me think I should plan another visit.

  6. The Cupples house would be a great setting for a mystery with a ghost, Donna! Is it haunted?

    I wonder if they used cobblestones to cut down on the dust or mud, and to make cleanup up of horse droppings a lot easier. Does anyone know?

  7. Hi Lisa,
    I'm not sure about the cobblestones. Our tour guide mentioned them as the bus was parking, so there weren't a lot of questions about them.

    Hi Sally,
    You should visit St. Louis. If you ever do, let me know and we can meet for tea.

    Hi Clara,

    I'm not sure if it's haunted. I didn't see a ghost. Maybe it was too hot for them.

    Our tour guide didn't say anything about using the red pavers to cut down on dust and mud. But it is a good question.


  8. I always love seeing photos. I've been to St. Louis, but it's clear I missed the best stuff!

  9. Thank heavens for Father McNamee! Hope you do work it into a mystery. I find it very inspiring that you've been touring St. Louis.

  10. Nice photos! Missouri has some of the best American architecture, in my opinion. Have you ever read Sidestreets St. Louis? It's a collection of essays from an old newspaper column about interesting episodes in the city's past. well worth picking up.

  11. Sorry all for responding so late. I was out of town over the weekend.

    Hi Melissa,
    There's lots to see in the Lou.

    Hi Tammy,
    Touring my home town has been fun.

    Hi Sean,
    Thanks for the tip. I haven't read the book about the sidestreets of St. Louis. I'll have to check it out.



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