During a visit to St. Louis several years ago, one of the unexpected delights was a visit to the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion. This was an unplanned sightseeing tour that came about when I spotted a pamphlet in the hotel. It didn’t take long for me to decide upon a visit the following afternoon.
This beautiful 1863 Late Greek Revival Home was slated for demolition when the interstate was being planned, but, through great effort, was eventually saved. However, you’ll notice in the picture that the frontage of the property was barely saved. Unfortunately, an interstate ramp skirts directly in front of the mansion. Consequently, entry to the mansion is at the rear of the structure and taking pictures of the front of the house means braving an onslaught of cars heading for that ramp, but I was determined.
The house is filled with beautiful antiques. Above is a picture of a lamp that I found particularly interesting and one of the reasons I enjoy visiting old homes. Even though I had no plans to write a book about this particular mansion, you never know what artifacts and/or antiques you’ll see on such a visit—and one of those objects may make it into a later book.
The mansion was constructed in two sections by two different families. When first purchased by Nicolas DeMenil the home was a summer retreat. From many of the windows, there was an exception view of the Mississippi River that afforded the residents cool breezes as well as a pastoral setting.
Unfortunately, that view was lost when the caves beneath the area became the focus of several breweries wanting to produce beer. The caves provided the cool temperatures required to age the beer. Soon, the DeMenil mansion was surrounded by brick buildings that blocked their beautiful view. Distraught that his view had been blocked, DeMenil had an artist paint pictures on the window shades in the dining room so he and his guests wouldn’t be forced to look at the brick buildings while dining. I was intrigued by such an ingenious idea and eventually will use it in one of my books—perhaps the one I’m currently writing.
Each of the plates and serving pieces pictured below has a different floral design and the silver epergne was used to serve delicacies of the day. I’m a visual learner so seeing these beautiful table settings helps me as I write.
And take a gander at this wall safe hidden behind a picture. Now that’s a perfect place to hide those important papers and fancy jewelry—just have to hope the house doesn’t burn down. Each time I visit an historical site, I’m struck by the volume of history each one contains. For those of us who love history, it’s always an adventure and downright fun to discover something new from our past.
If you’re interested, you can find out more about the mansion on their website.
How about you? Have you discovered anything new from the past? If so, I’d love to hear about it.