Neighborhood Gems: Scott Joplin House
The jovial notes of ‘The Entertainer,’ Scott Joplin’s ragtime masterpiece, are a cultural American treasure, one created right here in St. Louis. “Joplin represents the beginning of America moving away from European-style music and developing a unique music identity,” says site administrator Almetta Jordan. “Besides sacred music, ragtime is the first truly American music and the first representing African-American ingenuity.”
The Scott Joplin State Historic Site offers insight into the musician and the times during which he lived. The flat Joplin and his wife Belle called home from around 1901 to 1903 was built around 1860 and is a typical St. Louis tenant rowhouse of the time. Although Joplin was born in Texas and lived in various locations throughout his life, this is his only known surviving residence and where he wrote several of his masterpieces.
The house is maintained by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources as a state historic site. In 1976, after the local African-American community saved it from destruction, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark. Besides covering Joplin’s life and legacy, the home’s exhibits also discuss black urban migration, as well as racism, poverty, sanitation, and other related topics. It also gives visitors a sense of what life was like for the working class at the turn of the century.
Lit by gaslight, the modest apartment features era-appropriate furnishings. Naturally, the experience is accompanied by Joplin’s music, courtesy of an antique player piano. This glimpse into everyday life is unique, Jordan says. “Most of the homes that have been preserved as museums are very elegant, but the Scott Joplin House is just a regular person’s home,” she says. “Joplin lived among the working class.”
The site also includes The Rosebud Cafe, a newly reconstructed bar and gaming club that can be reserved for private events. “We modeled the venue off The Rosebud Saloon operated by Thomas Turpin, a friend of Scott Joplin’s,” Jordan says, adding that Turpin’s brother was the first elected African-American official in the city. Visitors can experience The Rosebud Cafe at various site-related events, including the annual tea held around Mother’s Day and the monthly Ragtime Rendezvous hosted by the Friends of Scott Joplin. The ragtime events take place at 2 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month.
Tickets to visit the Scott Joplin House are $6 for adults, $4 for children ages 6 to 16 and free for anyone under the age of 6.
when » March through October: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday; closed November through January; February: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday
where » 2658 Delmar Blvd.
why » To tour the apartment where Scott Joplin penned his music and see what life was like at the turn of the century
Photo courtesy of Scott Joplin State Historic Site