Ferguson, MO

Wildwood House: a 166-Year-Old Ferguson, Missouri landmark

CJ Coombs
Historic Wildwood House in Ferguson, Missouri.Photo byChuck Morris, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The historic Wildwood House looks amazing for its age. It's located in Ferguson, Missouri and it is privately owned. It was built in 1857 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 5, 2006.

This two-story house has a stone foundation and brick walls. It is unknown who the architect was. The architectural style is Italianate. It was built for Major Joseph LaMotte and his wife Ellen Mullanphy Chambers LaMotte. You could say that for the year it was built, it was a showplace home.

This house is rectangular shaped and painted white. The main side of the house faces east and away from the street. The balustrade on both levels goes across the full width of the porch. The front porch was carefully rehabilitated.

The ceilings on the first floor are 12 feet high. A staircase was replaced before Ellen LaMotte died in 1911 with the current center hall staircase. The house has a forced-air heating system and only a portion of the main house has a basement. It's said the house does have a lot of closet space.

The house and property were sold in 1928 to a man named Eugene Zeppenfeld. There was a two-story kitchen wing that had fire damage and he removed that. He also painted the house white. In 1956, a man named Arthur Rekart bought the house and later removed the cupola. He also replaced the floors with oak and closed most of the fireplaces.

In 1988, the house was rewired and upgraded to electrical service. In 1998, the house was sold again. The first-floor and second-floor foyer were renovated. The floors were also refinished, plaster was repaired and new wallpaper went up. Interestingly, when the front porch was rehabilitated, the owners copied each piece of wood needing to be replaced.

Photo byWildwood House/NRHP Nomination Form.

House history

Ellen LaMotte's grandfather, John Mullanphy, (1758-1831) built the Wildwood House. Mullanphy was a significant figure in the early days of St. Louis. Mullanphy, his wife, and his first child migrated to Philadelphia in 1792 from County Fermanagh, Ireland.

When Mullanphy left Philadelphia, before coming to St. Louis in 1804, he was also in Maryland and Kentucky. His success came from trading in cotton which afforded him to be able to invest in real estate in St. Louis and Florissant.

Mullanphy had 15 children. He spent the remainder of his life putting a lot of his fortune into charity. In 1827, he established the St. Louis Convent of the Religious of the Sacred Heart. In 1828, he gave the Sisters of Charity a hospital (now the DePaul Health Center). After he died, he left $25,000 for charity and education.

After Mullanphy died, his children carried out his benefactions. Mullanphy's only son, Bryan, was mayor of St. Louis in 1847.

John Mullanphy's name is perpetuated in St. Louis by the hospital and orphan asylum so designated, and the name of his daughter, Mrs. Ann Biddle, is preserved in the Biddle Home and St. Ann's Foundling Asylum which she founded. (Source.)

Out of Mullanphy's seven daughters, three of them had country estates around Florissant. Ellen LaMotte's parents, Charles Chambers and Jane Mullanphy Chambers also had a large home known as the Taille de Noyer built on land given by Jane's father who was John Mullanphy. That house was also listed on the National Register. The Taille de Noyer home is now a museum. Visit here for images.

In 1850, John Mullanphy's grandson, Owen Augustine Chambers, was given land a year after he was born (1849). After Owen died in 1841, his surviving nine siblings divided that land gift between themselves. One of the lots went to Ellen LaMotte. Her older brother sold his 118 acres to Ellen's husband, Major Joseph Hatch LaMotte in 1851. The LaMottes now had 200 acres so they built Wildwood after Major LaMotte retired which was around 1857. However, developing their estate was interrupted by the Civil War.

Major LaMotte (b. 1808, d. 1888) was a native of North Carolina. After graduating from West Point in 1827, he served with the First Infantry. While he was stationed at the Jefferson Barracks, he met Ellen and they were married in 1842.

The LaMottes had two sons and three daughters. After Major LaMotte died, Ellen continued to live at Wildwood with her daughter, Ellen Jane. Ellen died on February 16, 19 11, at age 92. She outlived three of her children. Ellen Jane "Nellie" LaMotte Coppinger died a month after her mother on March 11, 1911. Her husband and five children received the house.

Although Thomas Coppinger lived until 1926, he had already moved out of the house. The home became open to vandalism and supposedly the house was referred to as a haunted house. In 1928, the Coppinger heirs, who lived elsewhere sold part of the estate including the house to Eugene W. Zeppenfeld.

Zeppenfeld and his wife, Mary, made some improvements to the home. By this time, Ferguson was growing and starting to edge out toward the Wildwood estate. Ferguson was considered a stylish suburb when it was incorporated in 1894.

In 1955, the Zeppenfelds sold the property to Henry Cernicek who subdivided it as Hartnett Place. The subdivision was arranged to allow the Wildwood House to stay on the lot.

In 1956, Arthur Rekart bought the property. Since then, there have been several other owners.

The house is 166 years old and it's still standing. That's good news.

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Multi-genre writer and author/publisher with a BA in Eng Journalism/Creative Writing. I worked in law firms for 30+ years and retired early to pursue writing. I was born into the Air Force, so you could say I'm from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, research, history, true crime, reading, art, and travel.

Kansas City, MO

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