Walk Through History
The Central West End is a vibrant neighborhood brimming with popular local businesses and restaurants, but among its standout features are the many stately residences. The Central West End Association gives the rest of St. Louis a peek inside these historical gems with the biennial CWE Home & Garden Tour. Held June 15 and 16, this year’s self-guided tour lets participants explore the private mansions of Kingsbury Place. One homeowner has given T&S early access to his family’s 104-year-old property.
How long have you lived in the house?
We bought it in November 2014 and moved in the following year.
What is its history?
It was built in 1915 by Nathaniel Ewing. From what I understand, Ewing started one of the first electric light companies in St. Louis. He went to the World’s Fair in 1904 and saw a massive display of residential electrical lights. He realized the potential, started his company and then built the house.
What attracted you to the property?
My wife and I have the old home bug. When we got married, she had a house that was more than 100 years old, and I was living in an old home, too. Our previous home together was built in the 1920s. We enjoy all of the architectural details and quirks that come with older properties. We also wanted a house that we could work on and make our own. The owners before us had lived here for 40 years, so we saw a lot of things we could update. My wife fell in love with the open foyer. It’s also unique for an older home to have an attached bath for each bedroom. We have two younger boys, and each getting his own bathroom was a big draw.
Tell me about some of the renovations you’ve done.
The kitchen is where the most dramatic changes happened. That remodel essentially took everything down to the studs. There was a significant amount of termite damage in the floors and walls, and it originally was divided into three rooms: the existing kitchen, a pantry and a laundry room. We opened the entire space. We wanted to have a large island and room for the family to spend time together. We also redid the butler’s pantry by adding a new bar area with a sink, cabinets, dishwasher and fridge.
Were there any surprises during the process?
The laundry was originally in the kitchen, and we wanted to move it to the second floor. There was a trunk room that was upstairs next to an existing bathroom and had access to plumbing, so it was the perfect spot. The original plan for the bathroom was to keep a lot of the original fixtures, including the sink, toilet and tile. But when we broke through the wall and floor to access the plumbing, the builders found that everything around the toilet had rotted. So our initial idea was out the window, and everything had to be replaced. This bathroom is right above the kitchen, so we’re lucky we found the problem before the floor collapsed onto our extensive remodel.
Did the age of the house impact your approach to renovations and design?
Both my wife and I are of the mindset that a house is meant to be lived in. It’s not a museum, and we didn’t shy away from updates that made sense for how we wanted to use the space. But we still wanted to respect the original design. We didn’t want to make anything too modern, and we tried to keep everything traditional in terms of style and materials. For example, we restored the original floor in the foyer. When we bought the home, that room had linoleum, and it apparently had been like that for 60 years. When we pulled it up, we found the flooring underneath wasn’t in bad shape. It just needed some reconditioning and a little polish. We also used pedestal sinks in the bathrooms to reflect their past.
What do you like to use your outdoor space for?
The patio is relatively new. It’s something we wanted to include with the original renovation in 2015, but we weren’t able to get to it because of the surprise plumbing problems and other things we ran into. We completed it last fall, so this will be our first season to use it. We look forward to entertaining and enjoying the sun and weather with protection. It’s adjacent to the kids’ playset, so we can enjoy time outside together.
What do you like about living in the Central West End?
There’s a really healthy sense of community. I don’t think there any many areas in St. Louis that are this close-knit. After we bought the house but before we officially moved in, we’d stop by and show it to friends. We probably met more of our new neighbors in those first 30 days than we did in the five years we spent in our previous neighborhood. Everyone is always out and about, enjoying the public spaces and interacting in a cool way.
Why did you decide to participate in the home tour?
It happened through our kids’ school. One of the other parents is affiliated with the tour, and she asked if we were interested. We didn’t commit right away, but she was very good at following up, and we couldn’t think of a reason not to participate. It’s good for raising awareness about the neighborhood. People who don’t live in the Central West End can see that it’s a great place with lots of beautiful, old homes. Plus, it raises money for the Central West End Association. We are excited and happy to support the organization.
the cwe home & garden tour
Spend the day exploring the mansions of one of the Central West End’s most elegant, tree-lined private boulevards, Kingsbury Place.
June 14: A Kick-Off Party will be held from 6 to 11 p.m. at 25 Kingsbury Place.
Tickets: $100 for CWEA members, $125 for non-members; includes food, open bar and entry to the house tour. Purchase at thecwe.org.
June 15 & 16: The tour will be held rain or shine from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All ticket holders need to get a wrist band at the registration desk located outside of 25 Kingsbury Place. Shuttles will drop off and pick up at this location.
Tickets: $20 for CWEA members, $30 for non-members. Purchase online at thecwe.org and day of.