Visitors Guide to the
Field House Museum
634 South Broadway
St. Louis, MO
314-421-4689

Accessible Parking Accessible Interpretive Exhibits Accessible Missouri Historic Site Accessible Gift Shop Accessible Restrooms MetroLink Station Nearby

   

The Field House Museum is the boyhood home of Eugene Field, the "Children's Poet." It was also the home of his father, Roswell Field, a well-known St. Louis attorney who filed a lawsuit on behalf of Dred and Harriet Scott, two slaves seeking their freedom, a case that eventually reached the Supreme Court of the United States and helped hasten the Civil War. Today the home is a museum and contains many furnishings that belonged to the Field family. Several rooms are dedicated to displaying toy collections and traveling exhibits.

In 1845, Edward Walsh leased the land from the school system and built twelve row houses on it. These buildings on S. Fifth Street (now S. Broadway) became known as Walsh's Row and were convenient to the river and centers of enterprise, and therefore popular with business and professional men. The house on 634 Fifth Street was made of brick and rose three over a low basement of dressed stone. Its trim was made of stone and wood painted to match it with a Greek Revival wooden frontispiece. The house was an ample residence, with lofty ceilings and handsome detailing, yet economical with space, designed to appeal to well-to-do renters of the mid-nineteenth century.
 

Roswell M. Field
(February 22, 1807 – 1869)

Roswell M. Field was in Vermont in 1807, graduated from Middlebury College in 1822, and began to study law under his uncle. In 1839, at the age of 32, he left Vermont for St. Louis. Field initially specialized in cases involving land claims, especially the complicated Spanish land claims. Real estate law soon became the primary focus in his legal work, which was a good specialty in an expanding city western city like St. Louis. In 1850 Field and his wife leased the house on 634 Fifth Street. This property was considered removed from the heart of the city, in a quiet residential neighborhood removed from the effects of the recent citywide cholera epidemic. By this time Field was a successful attorney, respected in his field and reasonably prosperous.

As a New Englander by birth and inclined to oppose of slavery it seemed only a matter of time before Roswell Field would become involved in a slave case. Some of these cases would have been about the property and business issues of slavery. In addition to the many cases involving the business law of slavery, some slaves were able to challenge their own status through litigation in what became known as “freedom suits.” Freedom suits based on free state residence were reasonably common in St. Louis. Roswell Field became involved in the second case of Dred Scott, a slave who the Missouri Supreme court ruled against in his first attempt to use the courts to gain his freedom.

Sometime between 1850 and 1853 Irene Emerson transferred ownership of Scott to her brother, John Sanford, who was a resident of New York. Roswell took the Dred Scott case without fee devised a new strategy to sue for Scott’s freedom in federal court by using “diversity jurisdiction.” Diversity jurisdiction occurs when the parties to a lawsuit are citizens of different states. Thus a case normally heard in state court could become a lawsuit in a federal court. This was Roswell Field’s great contribution to this case and to the history of American law. He became the first lawyer to argue that a slave should be considered a “citizen” of a state for the purpose of federal jurisdiction. This theory brought Scott’s freedom suit in the U.S. Circuit Court in St. Louis.

The case ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court although Field was not involved with the case at that time. Most cases before the Supreme Court at this time were argued by a small group of Washington lawyers, often assisted by members of Congress. Lawyers from the west rarely traveled to Washington to argue a case as the costs were prohibitive and Field had taken the case for free and had no Supreme Court experience or political connections. A colleague, Montgomery Blair, argued the case for Dred Scott before the Supreme Court in December 1956.

On March 6, 1857 the Supreme Court ruled in Scott v. Sandford that that slaves had no claim to freedom; they were property and not citizens; they could not bring suit in federal court; and because slaves were private property, the federal government could not revoke a white slave owner's right to own a slave based on where he lived. Although Chief Justice Roger B. Taney believed that the decision settled the slavery question once and for all, it produced the opposite result. It strengthened the opposition to slavery in the North, divided the Democratic Party on sectional lines, encouraged secessionist elements among Southern supporters of slavery to make even bolder demands, and strengthened the Republican Party.


Eugene Field

(September 2, 1850 - November 4, 1895)

Roswell and Frances Reed's first son, Theodore, died within a year of his birth during the cholera epidemic that swept the city in 1848 and 1849. Their second son, Eugene, was born on September 2, 1850 at the rented row house on South Fifth Street. After the death of his mother in 1856, a cousin, Mary Field French, in Amherst, Massachusetts, raised Eugene and his brother Roswell Jr. The two boys continued to visit with their father in the home on Fifth Street during the summers until 1864. After dropping out of three different colleges Field started work as a journalist for the Gazette in Saint Joseph, Missouri, in 1875. The same year he married Julia Comstock, with whom he had eight children. For the rest of his life he arranged for all the money he earned to be sent to his wife, saying that he had no head for money himself. Field soon rose to become city editor of the Gazette. Fields worked for or was editor of a number of papers in the Midwest including the Morning Journal and Times-Journa in St. Louis, the Kansas City Times, and the Denver Tribune. In 1883 Field moved to Chicago where he wrote a humorous newspaper column called Sharps and Flats for the Chicago Daily News.

Although throughout his life Fields' occupation was a journalist he is best known for his children's poetry and humorous essays. Fields first started publishing poetry in 1879, when his poem "Christmas Treasures" appeared in A Little Book of Western Verse. Over a dozen volumes of poetry followed and he became well known for his light-hearted poems for children, perhaps the most famous of which is "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod". Eugene Field died in Chicago in 1895 at the age of 45.
 

The Eugene Field House as a Museum

In 1934 Walsh's Row was scheduled for demolition and a committee was formed to save the house. The Board of Education took possession of the house. In 1935 and 1936, during the Great Depression, school children from the public schools of St. Louis collected nearly $2,000 to help the Eugene Field House. It was restored and opened as a museum in December of 1936, and to this day, school groups from the public schools of the city of St. Louis are admitted free.

In 1968, the Board of Education gave up active operation of the museum, which is now professionally operated under the supervision of the Board of Trustees of the Eugene Field House Foundation, Inc. A complete renovation and restoration of both the exterior and interior began in 1999. Except for the vanished service wing, the house has survived remarkably intact. It is a rare example of a type of row house once common in downtown St. Louis. Today the house is a museum reflecting the era in which Roswell, Frances, and Eugene Field lived. The first floor is furnished as a parlor and dining room. The second floor has the master bedroom and Roswell's study (photo left) which is now an exhibit room on the Dred Scott case. The third floor has a gift shop, a bedroom, and a small area with changing toy exhibits. The Eugene Fields House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007, the highest such recognition accorded by the nation to historic properties. In 2016 the Eugene Field House opened a 4,000 sq ft expansion with rotating exhibit spaces, a library, and a gift shop.
 

Visiting the Field House Museum
     Visiting Hours
          Wednesday - Saturday: 10 am - 4 pm
          Sunday: 12 pm - 4 pm
          Mondays & Tuesdays by appointment
          January & February by appointment

Admission: Adults- $10, AAA-$9, Children 7-16-$5, and Children 6 & under are free.


Location: The Field House Museum is located near the riverfront in downtown St. Louis down the street on Broadway from Busch Stadium. The Field House Museum is a short distance from the Busch Stadium MetroLink station.

GPS Coordinates
N  38  37.202
W 90  11.531

Learn more about the St. Louis area.


Field House Museum - Use the official site of the Field House Museum for answers to all the questions you may have.

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