A chance to step back in time
A visit to St. Louis’ Sappington House Museum
My friend and I seized on a chance to go to the beautiful Thomas Sappington House in St. Louis for a meal and tour. The Barn restaurant outside of the house is a combination gift shop and tea room that serves hearty fare. We sampled the breakfast meal, but they have some truly delicious-looking desserts and fine-sounding lunch items as well. We traversed up the steep steps to brave the loft gift shop and browsed there before taking our tour.
The Sappington House claims to be the oldest house in St. Louis County. Built in 1808 by Thomas Sappington for his bride, Mary Ann Kinkead, the home is built in a Federal architectural style. The Federal, or Adam, style dominated the American architectural landscape from roughly 1780 to 1840. The style evolved from Georgian architecture, and the term “Federal” connotes a period in American history when our federal system of governance was being developed and honed.
The Sappington House was built by slaves. This history was previously unknown to me. Since Missouri was a border state, it permitted slavery, and in the 1850s, St. Louis was a huge slave auction center.
When they were in Kentucky, the Sappingtons were friends of Daniel Boone. They followed him to Missouri in 1804.
The area where the Sappington House was built was new territory when Thomas Sappington built his home. The area had just become part of the United States in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. According to legend, on the day of transfer of the territory to the United States in 1803, St. Louis flew three flags in one day – French, Spanish and American.
The Sappington House is built of bricks made on site with wooden pegs used to secure its frame. Set on 2.5 acres, the home and garden are located next to the Grant Trail. The house was occupied by family for many years, and the last family member kept the house pretty close to original. The house was restored in 1966 by the Sappington House Foundation and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
While the furnishings that fill the home today don’t all belong to the Sappington family, the home is furnished with lovely, authentic early 19th century pieces, and the guides are able to tell how items in the house were used. The house is furnished with items made before 1835 and is decorated as if the Sappingtons were still living there. During our tour we learned the story of the very large Sappington family. Our guide said that family members still stop by today. Check out the Sappington Facebook page and you may see notes from family members.
Also part of the Sappington House complex, the Library of Americana includes resources on American history and decorative arts. The Sappington House complex is staffed by more than 100 volunteers who operate the gift shop and library and act as docents in the museum.
Tours of the house are available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and every third Saturday of the month. Admission to the Sappington House is $5 for adults and $1 for children. Special group tours may be arranged. A video tour of the house and its history is available for individuals who are not able to physically tour the Sappington Museum. The closed-captioned video is 19 minutes long and can be viewed in the wheelchair-accessible Library of Americana. Admission fees and times are the same as for the walking tours. Go to http://sappingtonhouse.org/ for details.
Cindy Ladage of Virden is a children’s book author and an explorer.