Saint Louis, MO

Historic home of Zebediah and Mary Wetzell in St. Louis City

CJ Coombs
The historic home of Zebediah F. and Mary H. Wetzell.Photo byLiezl Moss, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Zebediah F. and Mary H. Wetzell House (historic name) is also referred to as the St. John Neumann House. This three-story historic home is located at 3741 Washington Avenue, St. Louis City, Missouri. On August 1, 2008, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Zebediah F. Wetzell

Wetzell was from Washington, D.C. He achieved his wealth and success from his drug and medical supply store along the St. Louis riverfront.

Wetzell's wife, Mary, was from Kentucky. Their three-story house was built in 1880. Back then, it was a stylish neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. The architectural style is Second Empire. When the house was built, there were several other homes in the area carrying the Second Empire style. Heading into the 1900s, those who were wealthy were relocating and the Midtown area of the city became more commercial.

Mary Wetzell died in 1897. After this, the house was turned into residential rental property. The north and west of the home was adjoined with a concrete block structure in 1946, but the buildings are no longer connected. From there, Albert A. Franklin ran his rug and carpet business.

Wetzell and his brothers came west when they were young and Wetzell settled in St. Louis by 1845. Wetzell was employed as a clerk and he established the Z.F. Wetzell & Co., a drug and medical supply store, within five years. He made a lot of money with importing and dealing medical supplies and medicines.

The Wetzells bought their home from an iron merchant named James B. Dean in the fall of 1870. They also bought an empty lot east of the home to widen their property. Their neighborhood was a reflection of status and prominent residents. Unfortunately, while Wetzell was in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, he died at a health resort on May 22, 1885, at age 64.

Mary inherited the house and property. She donated the western corner lot to Reverend William Harris so he could build his home. Mary was 70 when she died in 1897. Her fortune was divided between nieces and nephews. Attempts were made to modernize the home. This included installing new hardwood floors.

Both Zebediah and Mary Wetzell were laid to rest at Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.

The house

Up until 1986, other businesses were on the property. It was sold to a Catholic religious order of men called the Redemptorists which used the property for prenovitiate students (those in their immediate preparation for the novitiate, or noviciate) attending Saint Louis University. The novitiate is the period of training and preparation a person undertakes before taking vows in order to discover whether a vowed religious life is a calling. In 2007, the Redemptorists moved out of the building.

At the time the building was nominated for the National Register, it was vacant. The original architect is unknown and the signficance of the Wetzell House is the architecture.

When the house didn't sell at an auction in 1900, the property was divided into three parcels by the lawyers and auctioned in 1901. The eastern parcel was bought by a neighbor and attorney, and a neighbor to the west bought the west parcel. The central parcel containing the Wetzell House was acquired by a florist named Henry C. Ostertag.

The neighborhood lost its upper-middle class status over time. Ostertag never lived in the home but offered it for rent. Also over time, what was considered fashionably elite had changed because like most styles including architecture, they change and evolve.

The house was rented out through the early 1920s. It's believed Ostertag still owned the house. After Ostertag died in 1923, it's not clear who gained control over the property. The house was eventually converted into a boarding house.

Soon, the neighborhood was being populated with office buildings, car dealerships, and theatres. It was being more commercialized which was moving into residential areas to the point where homes were being converted into office space.

In 1946, the Wetzell House was purchased by Albert A. Franklin for his carpet and rug business. On the north side, Franklin built a two-story addition so he could have storage space.

In the 1950s, the house was bought by Nash & Kinsella Laboratories for its headquarters. In 1965, it was purchased by William and Barbara Budde who lived in the upper floors and rented out the rest of the home to the Red Stripe Company.

In 1971, the Buddes sold the house to a man named Bernard J. Brandon. He ended up combining the house parcel with the properties to the east and west. He sold it all in 1986 to the Redemptorist Fathers. In 2007, the Order relocated its students to St. John's University in Queens, New York.

At the time the house was being nominated for the National Register, a buyer for the three parcels was being sought. The Redemptorist Fathers in Denver, Colorado was the listed owner when the property was nominated.

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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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