Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn to herald a grand holiday tour covering the St. Louis region on Dec. 1. Eugene Field, author of “Little Boy Blue,” would be proud to learn that his home is open to the public for an event appropriately dubbed, “A Spirited Holiday Past.”
Field’s home at 634 S. Broadway Ave. is full of toys and mischief and volumes of his poetry and personal columns from his years as a journalist. Field is famous for his love of children and his habit of spending his entire newspaper salary on toys for poor tots, much to the chagrin of his exasperated wife.
“If people want to see holiday toys of yore, they need to drop by our house on the first Saturday in December,” said Stephanie Bliss, director for the Field House Museum. “If they haven’t been here for a while, they should know that we expanded in 2016 and there is much more to see.”
The National Historic Landmark across from Busch Stadium has received a 4,000-square-foot expansion and visitors can discover St. Louis history through more than 1,700 impressive artifacts, furnishings and toys.
In what’s billed as the first year of a tradition called “A Spirited Holiday Past,” a consortium of societies with the name Historic St. Louis will open 26 houses, museums and private homes for grand tours on Dec. 1.
Historic landmarks opening their doors for the Saturday festivities include Thornhill Governor’s Mansion at Faust Park and the Daniel Boone Home on the western periphery, and city of St. Louis gems like the Blair-Huse McAvoy Mansion, the Scott Joplin House and the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion.
“Here at the Field House Museum, we are decorated and ready to go,” said Bliss. “Our first floor has a 10-foot Christmas tree made of goose feathers from the 1870s. Our second floor has a four-foot tree made of turkey feathers. An old music box plays near that tree and it’s all very magical.
“After visiting us, people should stop at the Campbell House Museum on Locust. It is one of my favorites,” continued Bliss. “They do a wonderful job decorating for the season with plenty of Victorian Christmas regalia.”
Of course, if you are in the downtown area, Bliss also recommends a visit to the Old Courthouse on North Fourth Street.
“It’s where the trials for the Dred Scott slavery case, including a Missouri Supreme Court hearing, were held,” said Bliss. “A lot of people don’t realize that Roswell Field, Eugene’s father, argued that case on behalf of Dred Scott’s freedom.”
A Notable Visitor
A notable visitor to the Campbell House, as well as to the downtown Court House, was Ulysses S. Grant, who became the commanding general of the Union Army in the Civil War and the 18th President of the United States.
Before his duties under President Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War and his own presidency, Grant was stationed at Jefferson Barracks. He courted Julia Dent, who lived on a farm in the vicinity. Several years after their marriage, the Grants moved in with Julia’s family in what is now the Grant’s White Haven Historic Site.
Grant’s White Haven, southwest of downtown St. Louis, is one of the 26 sites on the Dec. 1 tour event, “A Spirited Holiday Past.” Julie Northrip is chief of interpretation at Grant’s White Haven in Grantwood Village.
“Here at White Haven, we will be decked out with mid-19th Century decorations that mirror the times of the Dent family,” explained Northrip. “We will have little holiday skits from room to room from different years to give the flavor of seasons over time.
“We also will have skits that show what the slaves at the home endured, but the respite that the holiday season usually provided for them,” continued Northrip. “We will have talent from the living history program of the Missouri History Museum.”
Grant’s White Haven also will host renowned foodie Suzanne Corbett, who will explain holiday cooking traditions. She will be presenting gingerbread cookies and cakes to provide some of the enchanting aromas of earlier times.
“We will be encouraging our guests to visit other homes of contemporaries of Julia Dent and Ulysses Grant,” said Northrip. “Just up the road from us is the home of the Sappingtons. In the city can be found the home of their friends, the Campbells at the Campbell House.”
Nearby Holiday Homes
The Sappington House Historical Site, 1015 S. Sappington Road in Crestwood, will share in the holiday house tour fun. The home was built in 1808 and is believed to be the oldest brick house in St. Louis County. Period furnishings and seasonal decorations will add to the authentic holiday ambiance.
Christmas greenery will adorn the Sappington House, a sturdy residence which is sure to provide a window to the St. Louis region’s rich family past, according to Sally Cakouros, resident manager of the Sappington House.
More nearby historic sites include the Hawken House Museum at 1155 S. Rock Hill Road in Webster Groves and the Mudd’s Grove home at 302 W. Argonne Drive in Kirkwood.
“Obviously, no one will be able to visit all 26 sites on this very full day,” said Northrip of Grant’s White Haven. “One way to manage it is to choose one of the many themes offered and to visit homes that are part of a specific thematic tour.”
Among the many tours are: Victorian, Germanic, French Heritage, Early American, Civil War, African American, Country, Story Connections and more. Admission varies by location.
For more information about the holiday history home tours on Saturday, Dec. 1, visit www.historicsaintlouis.org.
- Bellefontaine Cemetery - 4947 W. Florissant, St. Louis
- 1820 Col. Benjamin Stephenson House - 409 S. Buchanan, Edwardsville, Illinois
- Blair Huse McAvoy Mansion - 2043 Park Avenue, St. Louis
- Campbell House Museum - 1508 Locust Street, St. Louis
- Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion - 3352 DeMenil Place, St. Louis
- Faust Park & Thornhill - 15185 Olive Blvd., Chesterfield
- Field House Museum - 634 South Broadway, St. Louis
- First State Capitol State Historic Site - 200 South Main Street, St. Charles
- Gittemeier House - 1067 Dunn Road, Florissant
- Griot Museum of Black History - 2505 St. Louis Ave., St. Louis
- Hanley House - 7600 Westmoreland Ave., Clayton
- Hawken House - 1155 S. Rock Hill Road, Webster Groves
- Historic Daniel Boone Home - 1868 Highway F, Defiance
- Historic Sappington House - 1015 S. Sappington Road, Crestwood
- Jarrot Mansion State Historic Site - 124 E 1st St, East Saint Louis, Illinois
- Laborer’s House – Jefferson Barracks - 360 North Road, St. Louis County
- Magic Chef Mansion - 3400 Russell, St. Louis
- John B. Myers Home - 108 Dunn Road, Florissant
- Mudd’s Grove - 302 W. Argonne Dr., Kirkwood
- Old Courthouse - 11 North Fourth Street, St. Louis
- Scott Joplin State Historic Site - 2658 Delmar Blvd, St. Louis
- Sutter-Meyer House - 6826 Chamberlain Ct., University City
- Taille de Noyer - 1896 S. New Florissant Road, Florissant
- Tappmeyer House - 2 Barnes W Drive, Creve Coeur
- Twillman House - 11840 Bellefontaine Road, St. Louis
- White Haven - 7400 Grant Road, St. Louis County