Campbell House Museum
1508 Locust Street
St. Louis, MO 63103
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by Betty Moore, SLFP.com
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com) - The quiet elegance of the three-story Campbell House Museum, located at 1508 Locust Street in downtown St. Louis, is nearly overshadowed by today's modern skyscrapers and a bustling warehouse loft district along Washington Avenue.
In the mid 1850's, this area was part of St. Louis' first suburban neighborhood. Lucas Place was a very expensive, upscale residential neighborhood with very large homes. From 1854 to 1938, the house was the home of wealthy entrepreneur Robert Campbell and his family. The house was also one of the centers of St. Louis society, hosting notable Americans as President Ulysses S. Grant, General William Tecumseh Sherman and Sioux Chieftain Red Cloud.
In a recent interview at the Museum, Andrew W. Hahn, executive director of the Campbell House Museum, said the house is the only surviving building from the Lucas Place neighborhood. More significant, is the large collection of mid-nineteenth century furniture, fixtures, painting, furnishings and artwork that were left in the house. "When the last member of the family died here, a group of St. Louisans fought to save this house from the wrecking ball. They purchased the furnishings and the house and opened the museum in 1943," stated Hahn.
Hahn noted that thousands of pages of family documents were saved. "We have a very unique set of 60 photographs that the family took of almost every room in the house in about 1880. So we know exactly how the house looked like on the inside at its height."
Hahn related that Robert Campbell bought this house when he was fifty years old. Campbell had come to St. Louis thirty years earlier as a young immigrant from Plumbridge, a small village in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Campbell's birth place is preserved as a museum, as part of Ulster American Folk Park.
Campbell initially found work as a fur trader and headed west to the Rocky Mountains with close comrades including Jim Bridger, William H. Ashley, Jedediah Smith, William Sublette. His career as a fur trader was legendary. In terms of opening up the West, Campbell would literally build, with help of course, Fort Laramie, which became one of the most important stops on the Oregon Trail.
After settling in St. Louis, Campbell began an important business career which included the fur trade, dry goods, steamboats, banks and real estate. He also helped develop places like Kansas City and El Paso, Texas. At the end of this career, Campbell owned the Southern Hotel, the biggest hotel in St. Louis.
Hahn stated that Robert and his wife Virginia had a big family of thirteen children, including eleven boys and two girls. All but three of the children died before the age of eight. The three survivors were all bachelors who lived for a very long time in the house.
Docent-led tours at the Campbell House Museum now provide a memmoriable experience for visitors. Many of the rooms within the seven levels of the house feature meticulous displays of furniture, paintings, objects and clothes once worn by the Campbell family and even their servants. The exhibits offer a wonderful glimpse into what life was like in St. Louis in the nineteenth century for one particular family.
As a result of the endeavors of the Campbell House Museum Foundation and its many supporters, the story of the Campbell family and the quality of the best-preserved Civil War era home in St. Louis will live on as a treasure that that is unparalleled in this region.
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