The year is always 1885 at 1508 Locust St. Located in Downtown St. Louis, the Campbell House Museum provides a detailed glimpse at wealthy life in the late 1800s, as well as information about the fascinating St. Louis family who made the house famous. Find out more in this installment of #mySTL’s 5 Photos/5 Facts.
The First and the Last
The lot that would eventually hold the Campbell House was purchased by the first owners, John Hall and James Donaldson, in 1851 for $5,000. It was the first home built in the Lucas Place neighborhood and is the only original building still remaining.
Designed by St. Louis architect Thomas Waryng Walsh, who was then in partnership with Joseph Edgar, the Campbell House doesn’t fit a specific style of architecture. Gothic details can be seen in the balcony, while the entryway fits the Greek Revival style, says the organization. And while some may be tempted to call it a row house, it has always been freestanding.
Robert and Virginia Campbell were the third owners of the home at 20 Lucas Place. They bought the house for $13,667.50 in 1854. A well-to-do family—Robert was one of the richest men in the state—the duo entertained a plethora of influential individuals at their exclusive dinner parties including President Ulysses Grant, Henry Shaw, General William Sherman and James Eads.
From a Home to a Museum
Merely three of the 13 Campbell children outlived their parents: Hugh, Hazlett and James, who died in 1890. St. Louisans grew concerned over the fate of the Campbell House after the death Hugh in 1931, as Hazlett was deemed of “unsound mind.” The museum reports that Hazlett appears to have suffered from a mental disease—possibly caused by lead poisoning from exposure in the home’s lead pipes, paint and cookware—and required intense medical attention after suffering from a stroke. Hazlett died in 1938, and after a time consuming legal battle among other relatives, the museum was able to open in 1943 thanks to citizens who recognized its importance. Many of the home’s original items have been returned over the years, and extensive restoration work began in 2000 and completed in 2005.
A Plethora of Photos
In the 1970s, the Campbell House Museum acquired 60 large-format photographs of the home’s interior, exterior and neighborhood from roughly 1885. These were found in the trash of the law firm that represented the family’s estate, and have assisted greatly in the restoration of home. The museum, however, is unsure of the photo’s original purpose. Speculations include sentimental or insurance reasons.