Saint Louis University’s Cupples House

Last weekend Tom and I took Grant on a college visit to Saint Louis University. A very pleasant surprise was the visit the school planned for the parents to the Samuel Cupples House, which sits in the middle of campus.

Cupples House exterior

I’d walked by the house a number of times before on previous visits, but had never been inside. The only camera I had with me was my iPhone, and the pictures don’t nearly do the house justice, but I wanted to share some of them with you anyway.

One of my favorite rooms – the library – was one the first rooms we saw

Cupples House Library

The walls of the library are lined with built-in shelves with glass doors on them.

Glass Library Shelves

The cases hold the most amazing book collections.

Library book detail

The wood on the bookcases, just as everywhere in the house, is incredibly detailed. It’s not surprising the house took three years to build.

Carved wood detail

The library fireplace has the words “vita hominid sine literis mors est” carved above it, which translates as “life without literature is death.” (Four years of high school Latin and I still had to Google that!)

cupples house library fireplace

Here’s a closer look at the fireplace detail. There are 42 rooms in the house and 22 fireplaces.

Library fireplace detail

Did you catch the reflection of the chandelier in the mirror earlier? Here is a better look at it.

Library chandelier

And here’s the detail of another lovely fireplace and the reflection of another beautiful chandelier.

Fireplace detail

This fireplace is in a room that we were told would have been used for entertaining by the woman of the house, and it was very light and feminine compared to the rest of the house.

Cupples House Fireplace

Next are a couple of dining room shots.

Dining Room

Including a closeup of the beautiful fabric on the chairs.

dining room chair detail

Just off the dining room is the other of my favorite rooms, the butler’s pantry.

cupples house butler's pantry

I am completely charmed by butlers’ pantries. This one is the size of large kitchen it today’s homes.

butler's pantry wall

I couldn’t resist opening one of the drawers. It had candles inside.

butler's pantry storage

Here’s a closeup of one of the many pieces of lovely blue transferware the room holds.

blue transferware

Another room has walls with amazingly intricate wall covering.

wall detail

And I was completely taken with this table that seemed made for the beautiful green glassware that is on it.

cupples house table

The house is also full of beautiful artwork. Between the art and the library, I could have stayed there all day. This oil painting was a favorite.

Oil river scene

And this one of a Paris street scene.

Paris street scene

I was interested in this lithograph of Missouri wheat farmers. I’m a Kansas girl…aren’t all wheat farmer from Kansas? I guess not.

Missouri Wheat Farmers

And even though the reflections in the glass made it hard to take a picture of this piece by Mary Cassatt I wanted to share it.

Mary Cassatt

An antique ivory Crucifix.

Cupples House Crucifix

And a beautiful profile in oil on wood.

portrait of a young woman

Finally, would you guess that this is the ceiling of a playroom? It was added to the house for the grandchildren. It’s used as a conservatory for music performances today.

convservatory ceiling

A few final tidbits I found interesting about the house:

  • Cupples was a Methodist who apparently had a beef with the Jesuits who founded Saint Louis University, at least in part because they erected buildings which blocked the view from his house. When he died he said the house couldn’t be sold until 8 years after his death and even then couldn’t be sold to Saint Louis University.
  • In 1919 the Cupples family sold the house to the Brotherhood of Railroad Telegraphers, who used as their corporate headquarters.
  • It was then sold to Saint Louis University in the 1940s and it was used as a student union.
  • The house was scheduled to be demolished in the 1970s until Fr. Maurice McNamee asked to be allowed to raise the money to save and restore it.

How fabulous that Fr. McNamee succeeded in saving the house. I’d love to visit the Cupples House again and when I do I promise to bring a better camera.

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  1. Wow what a fabulous place! The details are amazing and that table with the green glass is wonderful. I’d be scared to be near it! That playroom ceiling is stunning- what lucky children to have played in there!

    1. Agree, Liz. Incredible details.

  2. Truly stunning woodwork; thank you for sharing. I love historic homes!

  3. Norma Wagner says:

    I am so glad you enjoyed this tour. I live in St Louis County and enjoy the older buildings in the city This a great University. Good luck on your search

    1. Thank you, Norma. 🙂 We are quite impressed with SLU.

  4. Nan, Odessa DE says:

    Julie! Where are you?

    Please give us some tips on buying inexpensive roll up shades for a sunporch used 3 seasons but need protection in DE summer. Thanks!

  5. Ashley Christian says:

    Hi! I am actually the great-great granddaughter of Samuel Cupples! I’ve been recently curious to learn more about him and his house and came across your article. I loved seeing your pictures! I have to add to one of your reader’s comments, my grandmother was actually able to play in that playroom when she was little before her family moved out to Warson road in Ladue. I’m so happy I came across your article, thank you for sharing!!

    1. Ashley, how cool! I’m glad you stumbled across this post and took the time to leave a comment.

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