The Samuel Cupples House is a historic
42-room, castle-like mansion located on the campus of Saint Louis
University. The building is a rare example of Richardsonian Romanesque
architecture in Saint Louis and is listed on the National Register of Historic
Places. It has been restored to its original splendor with many of its
opulent original furnishings. The McNamee Gallery is located on the lower
level and houses educational and art exhibits. Portions of the University's
permanent collection of fine art are displayed throughout the house.
Samuel Cupples was a
St. Louis businessman who opened up a woodenware business selling brooms and
other household goods in 1851 along the riverfront where the Gateway Arch
stands today. The demand for woodenware in the growing city made him very
wealthy. Cupples gained a partner, Robert Brookings, and together they
developed the Cupples Station complex in 1891. This group of 23 seven-story
buildings covering 30 acres, served as a giant freight depot. Most of the
city’s heavy wholesale trade, amounting to more than $200 million annually
at the turn of the century, was handled there.
In 1888 Cupples
commissioned prominent architect Thomas Annan to design a mansion worthy of
his success in business. The result was an impressive castle-like mansion
with turrets and gargoyles with large airy wood paneled rooms and
elaborately ornate furniture and décor. Cupples died in 1913 and his heirs
sold the house to the Railroad Telegraphers Union in 1919 for use as the
organization's office headquarters. It had been Cupple's fervent wish that
Saint Louis University not get the building, so irked was he when the
University built DuBourg Hall on Grand Avenue spoiling his view to the east.
But in 1946, the Telegraphers Union sold the property to the University.
Renamed Chouteau House after the University's first student, the house
served as a student union and faculty office building. Restoration of the
house began in the early 1970s and the restoration work continues today. In
1970 the name was changed back to Cupples House and efforts were undertaken
to restore the building.
The exterior of the
building is in the Richardson Romanesque style with fortress-like towers and
limestone gargoyles. The forms of the Romanesque Revival actually derive
from the 11th and 12-century architecture of France and Spain. The style
enjoyed a resurgence in the 1880s due to the work of architect H. H.
Richardson. Romanesque Revival was rarely the choice for home because of the
financial cost of the masonry construction. The most prominent Romanesque
Revival building remaining in St. Louis is Union Station. The Cupples House
is constructed of purple Colorado sandstone and pink Missouri granite from
the Elephant Rocks quarries in southern Missouri. Stone carvers brought from
England to do the job did the elaborate stone carvings on the building. The
building cost $500,000 when it was constructed in 1890 (approximately $15
million in 21st century dollars) and about the same $500,000 to restore it
in the 1970's.
house has 42 rooms and 22 fireplaces and is filled with imported English oak
woodwork. The Grand Hall, modeled after the galleries in English country
houses, runs the full expanse of the main floor. Its furnishings include a
13th century French Gothic bishop's throne and a rare Steinway duo musical
player piano originally used in the house. Annan designed the hand-carved
oak desk in the library. The commode in the Music Room is an exact copy of a
Louis XV commode designed by Riesner for the bedroom of Louis XVI at
Versailles. Many rooms throughout the house are furnished with period pieces
Flemish Room is decorated with an 18th century Dutch desk cylinder, an
elaborately carved 17th century Flemish breakfront of walnut with inserts of
green marble from Port Sory in eastern Scotland, a hand-carved walnut 19th
century English library table and paintings by Flemish artist Pieter Cocke
Van Aelst and a 17th century Dutch artist.
Leaded glass windows (photo left) fill the house with light. Louis Comfort
Tiffany windows are on each floor. One of the most intriguing windows is the
Zodiac Window on the Minstrel's Balcony overlooking the Main Hall. It is
from a design by the English Pre-Rafaelite artist Burne Jones with a poem by
St. Louis poet Eugene Field.
University's has one of the largest collections of glass art in the Midwest
and many of its pieces (photo left) are on display in the Cupples House. The
Cupples House's Turshin Glass Collection of American and European art glass
- including Pairpoint, Steuben, Tiffany, Webb, Lalique and Venetian glass -
chronicles the history of glass from 1800 to 1950. Also in the house are
Northern and Italian Renaissance paintings, many of which were brought to
St. Louis from Belgium by Father Peter DeSmet, S.J., an early Jesuit
missionary in the St. Louis area. Portraits of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)
and his family are also on display. The lower level, which now houses the
McNamee Gallery, used to be Samuel Cupples' bowling alley.
Cupples House is one of three art museums on the campus of St. Louis
University. The Cupples House, the St. University
Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary
Religious Art are within blocks of each other and can be easily viewed
in a morning or afternoon.
Visiting the Samuel
- Saturday: 11 am - 4 pm
Closed in January and
on national and Catholic holidays.
Tours are held on
Monday and Tuesday. Advance reservations required for groups of 15 or more
Admission. There is no admission
for SLU student and faculty or guests under 18 years of age.
Location: The Samuel Cupples House is located
on the campus of St. Louis University. It is located in the
Grand Center neighborhood of St. Louis, which is centered on Grand Avenue
just north of the Grand exit of I-64/US-40. Only metered street parking and
paid lots are available.
Learn more about the
St. Louis area.
Cupples House - Official site of the
Samuel Cupples House.