Saint Louis, MO

The Samuel Cupples House built in 1888 was restored as a museum in St. Louis, Missouri

CJ Coombs

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Samuel Cupples House, campus of Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri.Farragutful, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Samuel Cupples House located at 3673 West Pine Mall in St. Louis is an old mansion that looks more like a castle. Construction for this mansion began in 1888 and took nearly two years to complete. It's located in St. Louis, Missouri on the campus of Saint Louis University. In 1976, the mansion was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The name of the architect is Thomas B. Annan and the style is Romanesque Revival. The owner of the mansion was a wealthy entrepreneur, Samuel Cupples. The house contains 42 rooms and 22 fireplaces. While the first floor was used for entertainment, the house didn’t have a ballroom. Cupples, a strict Methodist, didn’t approve of dancing, so there weren’t any ballrooms.

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Interior of Samuel Cupples home.Public domain, via picryl.com.

In 1946, Saint Louis University purchased the mansion for $50,000. It was initially used as a student center. It had a bar and bowling alley in the basement. There was also an office for academic advising.

In 1973, restoration of the mansion began, and thereafter it was converted into a museum. The restoration was spearheaded by Rev. Maurice B “Father Mac” McNamee (b. 1909, d. Jan. 28, 2007).

Samuel Cupples

Cupples (b. Sept. 13, 1831, d. Jan. 6, 1912) was an American businessman and entrepreneur who landed in St. Louis from Ohio. Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he was the son of Irish immigrants who came to the U.S. in 1814.

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Internet Archive Book Images, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons.

When Cupples was 15, he moved to Ohio and worked in the woodware business and moved to St. Louis in 1851 where he started his own woodenware business. His company was Samuel Cupples & Company which changed to Cupples & Marston after he partnered with Thomas Marston in 1858. Although the business was successful, in 1870, the partnership was dissolved.

The company returned to its original name after acquiring new partners (H.G. and Robert S. Brookings and A.A. Wallace). With the Brookings brothers on board, the company took off. In 1883, the company became Samuel Cupples Woodenware Company with Cupples as the president.

Cupples also built the St. Louis Terminal Cupples Station & Property Company helpful to the railroads, and a convenient location for the shipping and receiving of goods. Cupples also established the Samuel Cupples Envelope Company.

In 1888, Cupples built his house for $500,000 which would be around $1,251,779 today.

In 1900, company assets worth $4 million were turned over to Washington University. He also was on the university's board of directors. By the time Cupples was 30, he was already a millionaire.

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One of the many fireplaces in the Cupples home.Public domain, via picryl.com.

Cupples family life

In February 1854, Cupples married Margaret Amelia Kells. They had a child who died at birth. Five years after they married, Margaret died of tuberculosis.

Cupples then married Margaret's sister, Martha Sophia Kells in 1860. Allegedly, this was Margaret's wish before she died. Together they had three children who all died before reaching adulthood of either cholera or diphtheria. Due to the loss of his children, Cupples and Martha adopted their 12-year-old niece, Amelia Ross Lowman, the daughter of Margaret’s older sister.

On January 22, 1909, Cupples and his adopted daughter, and Amelia Lowman Scudder and her three daughters boarded an ocean liner called the RMS Republic in New York City. They were headed for Jerusalem and Egypt. Due to heavy fog, their ship collided with another and eventually sank after a little over 30 hours. Cupples and his adopted daughter survived.

The ship was T-boned in very dense fog by an incoming Italian ship, the SS Florida, in the early morning hours of January 23, 1909, about 50 miles south of Nantucket, Massachusetts. (Source.)

Interestingly, the ship wreckage was located in 1981 by Martin Bayerle. Click here to read the report associated with this finding. Allegedly, many passengers who were traveling to Europe were wealthy.

The McNamee Gallery

The basement houses the McNamee Gallery, which hosts art exhibitions of Saint Louis University students and faculty, as well as visiting artists.

The historic Samuel Cupples House on the campus of Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri serves as a gallery for SLU's collection of fine and decorative art dating from before 1919. (Source.)

The McNamee Gallery serves as a teaching gallery for Saint Louis University's Studio Art program in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts. The gallery is named after Maurice B. McNamee, S.J. who pioneered "the study of studio art and art history at Jesuit universities and who single-handedly preserved and restored the Cupples House."

The Cupples fortune

Even after Cupples gifted millions to Washington University and others, his estate was still worth $1.5 million. It was his wish that not until eight years after he died could his house be sold. The house was in his family until 1919.

The house was sold to American Railroad Telegraphers' Union and remained in their possession until 1946. At that time, it was sold to Saint Louis University for $50,000.

Because the house could come close to demolition by 1973, it was essentially saved by McNamee as he spearheaded the remodeling and renovation.

Thanks for reading. Keeping history alive.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

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