July 18, 2024

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Campbell House Museum holds memories and artifacts from 150 years ago | St Louis

After standing for more than 170 years, The Campbell House in St. Louis holds thousands of pieces of history in what is now a city landmark.

Robert Campbell was a pioneer and fur trader who came to St. Louis as an Irish immigrant. His success in business contributed to the popularity of the Campbell name, as he acquired considerable real estate throughout the country and ventured into gold mining, banking and hotel ownership.

Campbell purchased the house on Locust Street, not far from the future site of the Gateway Arch, in 1854. His family lived there until the death of his last surviving child in 1938.

Andy Hahn, executive director of the Campbell House Museum, said the museum represents an opportunity to see what life was like in the Gilded Age for the two generations who lived there.

“(Robert Campbell’s) one of the people that made St. Louis the gateway to the west,” Hahn said.

Since 1943, the Campbell House has been open to the public for tours. It opened less than five years after the death of the last member of the family, so much of what visitors see today is the way the family left it, Hahn said.

Throughout the 36 rooms, which combined are just shy of 11,000 feet, guests can see original furnishings, paintings, clothing, fixtures and more.

Hahn said the most captivating part of the museum is finding new information about the house or family history as time goes on. He was a contributor to the home’s history in 2018 after picking up an old book at a thrift store.

The book was published in 1802 and cost less than $1. After looking through the pages, Hahn recognized the Campbell name and his handwriting from previous documents.

“We are always learning new things, new ways to tell the story better,” he said.

The museum raised $3.5 million from 1999-2005 to address structural issues in the house, which was built in 1851. It was also an objective to decorate the house the way it would look in the 1880s when the Campbells were still living in the house.

Photographs from 1885 were rediscovered and used as “the most important piece of documentation supporting the accurate restoration of the museum’s exterior and interior,” according to the museum website.

Tours are guided by museum docents, and guests can expect their visit to last around an hour. This will take them through the house, the garden and the carriage house.

“The guides make it so special,” Hahn said. “They’re highly trained, and they’re very passionate and enthusiastic about what they share with people.”

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday and by appointment Monday and Tuesday, with the last guided tour at 3:30 p.m. everyday.

Reservations are not required, and the lengths of a tour can be lengthened or shortened to fit guests’ needs. Tickets are $10 per person and free to those under 12.

The museum is accessible, and information is available in Mandarin, German and French with advance notice.

In the warmer months, guests are welcome to schedule a walking tour of Lucas Place, the first private neighborhood in St. Louis where the Campbell House is located. Today, the Campbell House is the last remaining home in what was once a cultural and social hub.

Overall, Hahn said the museum hopes to give visitors an insight into St. Louis’ past as one of the city’s “hidden treasures.”

“When people visit St. Louis, they often don’t know about all the smaller, interesting things, and we are one of those things,” he said.

“But I would argue that the hidden treasures give you the best stories.”