By Christine Imbs
It's no secret that St. Louis has some remarkable architecture.
But sometimes it's what you don't see that's really amazing.
Take for example the 40-year old hunt club with a personality
all its own; or the old slaughterhouse that's morphed into a
tree house-minus the tree. What follows is a small peek
into these and four other amazing spaces you simply won't believe.
When Susan Block first laid eyes on her home 15 years ago, it
spoke to her.
“It didn’t look anything like it does now. But there was something
about the place,” she says. “I just knew this was the house.
It had such a feel about it.”
The house, located in Huntleigh, was actually the former club
house for The Hunt Club which existed from the mid-1920s through
the early 1960s. As its name suggests, fox hunting actually
took place on the grounds. But by the time Block, who owns The
Designing Block in Clayton, saw the house it had changed hands
numerous times, and any indication of its former heritage was
either hidden or completely removed.
“There were these incredible stone floors throughout the house,
but they had been covered in carpeting. We didn’t even know
they were there,” she says. “There used to be a fabulous bar
off the dining room, but someone took it out and replaced it
with a 1970s-style kitchen. And the staircase and library had
this grass green carpeting. So I guess you could say it was
pretty outdated. But I knew it had potential.”
Today, the once 5,800-square-foot house has doubled in size.
The 1970s kitchen has been replaced with a beautiful bar area
complete with a painting of a fox hunt. This along with the
now recovered stone floors, animal print throw rugs, archways
and multitude of levels have brought back some of the feel of
the original hunt club. And yet the home still maintains a personality
all its own. Everywhere you look there is something that catches
the eye from Block’s collection of cigarette cases and lighters,
to the racks of colorful hats and feather boas.
“I like whimsy,” says Block. “And I buy what I like so nothing
in my house goes together. But it works. Believe me, you won’t
see too many homes like this.”
Stephanie Greytak admits it takes a certain kind of person to
live in a loft like hers.
“This is like living in architectural art,” she says. “I don’t
know that it’s for everyone, but it’s definitely for me. I like
the quirky and the offbeat.”
Greytak lives in one of the first lofts created in the City
Museum. Being one of the first, she had free reign in how she
wanted her loft to be designed. With her doing the dreaming
and Bob Cassilly doing the designing, the outcome is simply
“I told Bob the things that were important to me and he dreamed
this up around me,” she says. “And it’s really strange in a
way how it all came together. But it’s that Bob Cassilly magic.”
Cassilly’s touch is apparent the minute you enter the 1,379-square-foot
loft. You just naturally walk toward the right into the living
area where a bank of windows looks down upon the climbing structure
outside the City Museum. And coming from the bedroom into the
kitchen you again experience that natural rhythm.
“Unlike a lot of lofts there’s a very definite separate area
for the living space and bedroom,” says Greytak. “But it flows
so nicely it’s not like you’ve boxed everything up. Walking
around the curve from the bathroom into the kitchen, it’s like
you just naturally walk that way. You just fall into the design
and don’t even realize it.”
Much of the design that you find at the City Museum is also
found in the loft including an abundance of “creative recycling.”
The light over the pool table came from the Bankruptcy Court
Building. A mirrored panel on the wall was actually a piece
of the Barnes Hospital building façade. The huge iron tanks
that make up part of the interior curvature are core processing
tanks from American Milling. And Mystic Juice bottles stacked
end-to-end curve around to form the bathroom shower.
“There’s a lot of metal and concrete in here, but somehow it
has a very warm feeling about it,” comments Greytak. “It’s amazing
how things came together. I’ve lived here two-and-a-half years
now and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a true indication of who
“Hello? Room Service?”
The first night Diane Breckenridge and her husband, Don, spent
in their new condominium, they ordered room service.
one of the benefits of living in a hotel,” she says. “When you
don’t feel like cooking dinner you can have someone bring it
Breckenridge lives on the tenth floor of the Sheraton City Center
in downtown, one of her late-husband’s last development projects.
It’s a 6,000-square-foot condominium on one level with an incredible
expanse of windows. As owner of Diane Breckenridge Interiors,
she designed the space herself, but admittedly not without some
“It was this big empty space when we got it. But I like dividing
things up, because I prefer a more cozy atmosphere over a loft,”
she explains. “And then there were these 18-foot windows that
we had to deal with. That was the most difficult part of the
project because they were so huge.”
However difficult it may have been, the result was well worth
the effort. The light that comes in the windows brightens the
condominium even on the dreariest of days.
“It’s so true. It’s always cheery in here,” Breckenridge says.
“You never feel depressed and you never feel like you’re closed
in. And at night it’s so beautiful to look out over the City.”
In addition to the great view and natural light that streams
in through the windows, Breckenridge also enjoys a large kitchen
with wrap around breakfast bar, a dining area with a crystal
chandelier, a cozy media room and library, three fireplaces
and every girl’s dream—a huge walk-in closet.
“Actually there are two—one is mine and the other was Don’s,”
she says smiling. “But Don and I had the same taste—very traditional.
We wanted this to look like a home. And with 17 grandchildren
we also wanted it to be kid friendly. That was very important
to me. And even though I’m in the heart of the City, up here
you very rarely hear anything. It’s just very peaceful. I love
“A Slaughterhouse Meets Swiss Family
Artist Don Wiegand lives in a tree house.
“Actually, it was the old slaughterhouse,” he says. “I saved
it from the headache ball back in 1965. Now it’s kind of like
a tree house without the tree.”
Wiegand’s parents started the old Smokehouse Market in West
St. Louis County. The slaughterhouse, built in 1926, was the
original building for the Smokehouse. Wiegand says he fell in
love with the old building and when he learned it was going
to be demolished, asked his parents if he could save it and
make an art studio out of it.
“I was in junior high at the time,” he says. “I did the design
and we physically built it. Everything you see is studio hand
built—the glass tiles, concrete, telegraph poles, everything.
My inspiration was the Swiss Family Robinson.”
And that’s exactly what comes to mind when you enter the building.
This art studio/art gallery/home is not only multifunctional,
but multi-leveled. To reach the clay loft where Wiegand does
sculpture, you have to climb a set of narrow wooden stairs winding
up and around, while dodging low beams. Once in the loft you
can look down on more levels of studio space containing his
artwork in various stages of completion. And then there’s an
atrium filled with all types and sizes of plants and flowers.
“I love horticulture and trees,” he explains. “And being an
artist I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford to go anywhere. So
I planned on this room early, so I could have my plants. We
have more outside around the patio and I bring them in when
the weather gets cold. It gets a little snug, but it brings
a little of the rain forest inside during the cold winter months.”
But perhaps the most interesting and unique room is the actual
slaughterhouse section of the building. With a very distinctive
medieval atmosphere, it looks as if it were lifted out of old
England and placed in this spot.
“I dreamt as a kid about having a place that was so universal
for any age, color, race, and creed,” says Wiegand. “We’ve had
guests from France, England, and Germany and they all say the
same thing. This looks like my homeland. I think it’s because
the pieces of furnishing are real. They are high quality, fine
pieces of work and they identify with that. And everything in
this space was placed in a specific way. It’s a sculpturer’s
vision of the space. And of course, art is a universal language.”
“Where Art and Nature Coincide”
It took a solid year for John Russell’s curiosity to get the
better of him.
“I lived in the old part of Kirkwood and went bike riding down
here all the time,” he says. “This house was on the market for
over a year. I finally just had to see what was wrong with it.”
was wrong is that the house was outdated and needed a lot of
work. But it was the setting that immediately attracted Russell
“I was thinking about buying a house at Lake of the Ozarks,
but decided I couldn’t be gone that much,” he explains. “This
felt like it could be a real vacation house, as well as a house
to live in.”
Nestled within the woods along Sugar Creek, Russell’s home is
definitely a place to relax and get away from it all. A narrow
driveway takes you across a wooden bridge and up the hill where
artwork and nature blend effortlessly. Entering the house you
find more of the same as artwork by such local artists as Brother
Mel Meyer, James Godwin Scott, Drew Wojcik, and Fred Conway
are displayed throughout. And the large floor-to-ceiling windows
not only let in the sunlight, but make the outside garden a
natural extension to the living area.
“I love the outside gardens. I bought 400 Hostas when I first
moved in here. I found if I drank a couple martinis and then
just threw the Hostas out it looked more natural,” says Russell
laughing. “I put a sprinkling system in 12 years ago so now
I can grow lots of things here.”
In the 15 years that Russell has owned the property he’s done
a complete remodeling job, which included a huge loft area on
the upper level, a finished lower level complete with a wine
cellar and large windows overlooking one of the deck levels,
and the addition of a gourmet kitchen.
“I like to cook, but I don’t know that I’d call it gourmet,”
he says. “But I do like to have parties. With the way the house
is set up and with the different levels to the deck it’s easy
to have 50 people. And they can all go off and find different
places to sit and talk.”
Russell says there is really only one drawback to his home—the
driveway in winter.
“That hill can be a bit scary,” he explains. “Even in the fall
when you have wet leaves it can be a little treacherous. But
still, the leaves are so beautiful in the fall. Everything is
golden and red all around you, and it comes right into the house.
It’s wonderful. I haven’t found any place that I like better
“A Spiritual Place”
Cheryl and Jamie Andrews knew they made the right move the first
night they looked out their front door and saw snow falling
on Lafayette Park.
“It was just gorgeous,” she says. “If we had any doubts at all
about moving here, that did away with them. I’m not religious,
but this really is a spiritual place.”
Andrews and her husband are two of the tenants in Abbey-on-the-Park,
luxury condominiums developed in what once was a 120-year old
Presbyterian church in Lafayette Square.
“It’s a bit of new mixed in with the old and I love that,” explains
Andrews. “Outside it definitely looks like a church with this
beautiful stonework and stained glass windows. But inside it’s
totally new, so you don’t have all the problems you generally
have with an older home.”
The Andrews’ condo has 14-foot cathedral ceilings and a 12-foot
high stained glass window. Their front doors are the original
church entrance. Other units feature the original stairway,
choir loft, balcony, and church pipe organ. And several of the
units even have fireplaces designed to replicate the Gothic
arch of the windows.
Andrews says what drew her and her husband to Lafayette Square
and this condominium in particular was the sense of community
and access to the park.
“It’s amazing here,” she says. “The neighbors really look out
for and care for one another. And then there’s the park. Behind
our large wooden front doors we have triple paned French doors.
So we can open up the wooden doors and we have a wonderful view
of the park. Who could ask for more than that?”
But Andrews admits living in an old Abbey does pose one challenge.
People still think it’s a church.
“It’s not unusual to have people walk right up and peek in our
living room. And they’re really startled when they see someone
sitting on the couch,” she says laughing. “But really, it hasn’t
been a hindrance to our living here and we work with them as
best we can. I think as time goes by they’ll get used to it
being condos and we won’t have that problem.”
“Never Before in America a House Like
That’s how the 1949 advertisement in “The Saturday Evening Post”
described the Lustron house. And to date there hasn’t been another
house like it.
by Carl Standlund between 1948-50, Lustron houses were all-steel
prefabricated homes developed as an answer to the severe housing
shortage plaguing the country at the end of World War II. Like
automobiles, they were manufactured in a factory, assembly line
fashion and distributed through dealers across states east of
the Rocky Mountains.
Although one and three bedroom Lustrons were eventually developed,
typically it was a two-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot home built
on a slab with an exterior sheathing made of two-foot square
steel panels. The exposed steel was covered in a porcelain finish
which was baked onto the steel panels and roof shingles. Because
of the size, built-ins accounted for 20 percent of the total
interior space. And you could order a Lustron in pink, tan,
yellow, aqua, blue, green or gray with either a beige or gray
Standlund produced nearly 2,500 Lustrons before declaring bankruptcy.
Only a fraction of them still remain, many in the Midwest. St.
Louis resident and Lustron aficionado Tom Bakersmith has documented
over 70 Lustrons in the St. Louis region.
“I’ve talked with well over half the people who live in these
homes and found only one elderly woman who didn’t like it,”
he says. “Of course, she was a renter. But people who live in
a Lustron tend to like them very, very much.”
Bakersmith adds that of the Lustrons in the St. Louis region,
he’s found only three that needed roofing work in the last five
decades. And each one of those was due to storm damage.
“Being totally metal except for the glass windows, the houses
are nearly maintenance free,” Bakersmith says. “Of course if
you’re fussy, you can hose them down and scrub them with a brush.
Some owners even use automotive paste-wax on the walls to renew
the shiny finish.”