As this city boy drove west toward St. Albans to view the French estate of a local executive and his wife, I felt in some way that this must have been what it was like for the early 20th century scions of business when they moved from the Central West End to the outer limits of Ladue in search of larger parcels of land in which to build their manse.
Driving past residential areas and shopping centers that dot the landscape along the highways, eventually the brick-and-mortar structures became fewer and the peacefulness of the bucolic countryside took over. Ah, wilderness!
Passing through the gates of The Bluffs of St. Albans, an enclave of extraordinary homes nestled in timbers with wide vistas of the Missouri river greeted me. Proceeding uphill and arriving almost to the end of a winding road, I look to my left and there stands La Charrette, the magnificent French chateau belonging to Bob and Kim Brinkmann. La Charrette’s name comes from the last town Lewis and Clark encountered settlers in 1804.
Designed by Tulsa-based architect Jack Arnold and built in 1999, this 12,000-square-foot home is layered in details. Sitting atop 15.7 acres, the sweeping views of the river valley with Augusta in the distance is as spectacular as the home itself.
This home may be newer, but many of the building materials and the method used to build the home are not. The mortise and tenon beams in the great room, as well as the ones in the formal dining table, are made from an 800-year-old Washington State Douglas fir. The beams actually support the roof! The oak plank flooring originated in a Sears Roebuck warehouse in Chicago. And with Mr. Brinkmann being in the building business and all, this home was built like a fortress with beams and a metal undergirding beneath the main level floor, so if it were to be finished in the future, columns would not have to be used.
The interior walls are French stucco in the Old World style and the exterior is accented with stone quarried from Missouri topped with Vermont slate on the roof.
The ‘scumbled’ finish on the walls is the perfect backdrop for the French antiques that the couple has collected from their travels. An antique monk’s bench lines one hallway for conversation and interest. Lighting is an interesting mix of iron sconces and chandeliers, as well as found antler chandeliers to carry out the French country theme. Additionally, the mix of rare woods from the antiques and the custom cabinetry create an Old World charm in this sprawling chateau. French Wench Interiors and owners Pat and Terry Stratmann aided in designing the spaces throughout the home.
The Brinkmanns have thought out every area of this home: For example, the open loft above the kitchen houses the pool table. The adjoining room is the workout facility. The unfinished lower level offers storage, and the largest residential tool and woodworking shop I have ever seen in a home. With its impressive square footage, obviously, there is enough room for six bedrooms, eight baths, a four-car heated garage, seven wood-burning fireplaces, and a pool and hot tub. Plus, there also is a cave on the property where Lewis and Clark reportedly spent a night during their journey west, as well as an authentic log cabin.
For more information on La Charrette, which is currently on the market, visit lacharrettestalbans.com.