The classic Field House Museum sits quietly at 634 S Broadway, within the shadow of Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.
The federal style building, circa 1845, was once part of 12 row houses known as Walsh's Row. Within the restored walls of this National Historic Landmark and its new expansion, visitors will discover the history of St. Louis through more than 1,700 historically significant artifacts, furnishings and toys.
The row was set to be torn down in the 1930's when a newspaper columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Irving Dilliard, wrote a column decrying the destruction of the Field house, the birthplace of poet Eugene Field, known fondly as The Children's Poet. Jesse Powell Henry and Carl Peyton Daniel, Sr., formed a committee to save the house.
The Board of Education opened the Field House in 1930 as a museum. During the depression, a group of school children in the St. Louis Public Schools raised more than $2,000 in pennies to help save the Field House. In the 1960s, the Landmarks Association took possession and created a non-profit to run the musuem.
A capital campaign began in 2015 to raise private funds to build $2.4 million expansion, which added exhibit space for permanent and changing exhibitions, a library for the attraction's rare collections, new offices and a gift shop. The windows on the front of the expansion facing S. Broadway represent where a doorway would have been to one of the row houses. Architects Dennis Tacchi and John Guenther came up with the concept to emmulating the former row of houses.
The new space now houses two exhibits: What's Past is Prologue: A House Brimming with Stories, which explores the history and context of the Eugene Field House in a timeline format; and, Field of Play: The Joyful Collections of Don and Shirley Zork. focusing on the couple's collections of bears, Mickey Mouse items and peanut butter tins. Artifacts on display encompases St. Louis as an early settlement through the Field family. Eugene's father, Roswell Field, was an attorney who represented enslaved couple Dred and Harriett Scott in the famous slavery trials that were a contributing cause of the Civil War.
Barbara Decker, guest curator of the exhibit, 'What's Past is Prologue: A House Brimming with Stories,' said she wanted to include all the stories connected to the house, because there are so many and they are very diverse. "I started with the land before the house was built, which gets into the early history of St. Louis and native Americans whose skills in furs really attracted founder Pierre Laclede to the land."
Decker used many large illustrations from early St. Louis so that visitors will get a sense of the energy of the stories through the visual images. The exhibit also follows poet Eugene Field's story, including items he collected such as rare wind-up toys. He is famous for works such as Wynken, Blynken and Nod, and The Gingham Dog and The Calico Cat.
During the holiday season, the original home is filled with traditional 19th century Christmas decorations including two rare trees created from feathers. The ornaments are from the 1920s and 1930s as well.
The Field House Museum is open from March through December, Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Sundays from noon until 4 p.m. The home is open Mondays and Tuesdays by appointment for groups of 15 or more. Admission is $10 for adults and children 16 and over; $5 for children ages 7 to 15; andchildren 7 and under are free with a paid adult admission. Seniors 60 and over, military and students with a valid ID are $7. Members are admitted for free and discounts are available for groups of 15 or more.
Field House Museum is located at 634 S. Broadway, St. Louis, MO 63102. For more information, call 314-421-4689. (Field House Museum is closed until further notice.)