St. Louis has a long history of settlers coming to this city in the 18th and 19th centuries to find their fortune—and sometimes, fame.We have several home sites that have survived the wrecking ball of progress, including Campbell House, Eugene Field House, Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion, Cupples House and the Lemp Mansion. I would like to add to that list a home that may not be on your radar, Hawken House in Webster Groves.
Christopher Hawken’s family hailed from Switzerland and came to America in the 1700s. His father, Jacob, came to St. Louis from Hagerstown, Md., in 1807. He purchased a home from Thomas Hart Benton and set up his rifle shop on the Mississippi River, not far from where the Arch stands today. The Hawken rifle (produced from 1815 to 1915) was unique, as each one was made by hand. Well-known frontiersmen like Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Robert Campbell, Jim Bridger and Kit Carson preferred the brand.
Christopher was the second of four children to Jacob and Catherine Allison. He left the family business upon his father’s death in 1849, and headed west for the great Gold Rush. He returned in 1854 and married Mary Ann Kinkead Eads (he was just shy of 30, she was 18).
Christopher purchased 100 acres at 25 cents an acre. He built Hawken House and continued buying up land, which eventually totaled 265 discontinuous parcels. The late Greek Revival home was large enough for their nine children. The house has Victorian-inspired woodwork, and the brick was fashioned from clay near a pond on the property. The home has several small closets, a unique feature for the time. Complete with two family parlors, dining room and kitchen (added at a later date), the first floor has all the creature comforts for a ‘gentleman farmer.’ The upstairs has well-proportioned bedrooms that accommodated the needs of the large family. The family entertained often and enjoyed the company of their neighbor, Ulysses S. Grant, on several occasions.
Mary Ann died in 1878 at age 42, reportedly from cholera. Christopher, who never remarried, died from complications resulting from a fall from a hayloft in 1905 at age 79. For more information, visit HawkenHouse.org.