Category Archives: Campbell House

Calling all servants…




If you’ve visited the Campbell House before, or have watched any of Downton Abbey, you know that one of the most important features of a large house with servants are the call bells.

At Campbell House, the original bells still line the top of the kitchen wall, waiting to ring. Eleven of the house’s rooms had a pull on the wall, and each bell made a different noise, allowing servants to go directly to the room required. If you’ve taken a tour, you know all of this. But what you don’t know is what is in the basement.

For the Campbell bell system to work, it needed a long series of cords and pulleys. For instance, a bell pull in parlor would require around 80 to 90 feet of cord to reach the kitchen! And this cord would have to be protected in some way to prevent it from snagging on loose nails or becoming tangled with other cords and wires.

The covered passage on the basement ceiling

The covered box on the basement ceiling, showing part of the cover cut away.

At the Campbell House, the cords were installed on the ceiling of the basement inside a covered box. This covered box still sits on the ceiling of the basement.

Using the covered box created a problem, however. To travel from the wall to the box cords now had to pivot 90 degrees three times: from the parlor wall to the basement ceiling, from that spot to the covered box, and from the covered box up to kitchen wall. To facilitate this process, the workmen installed metal pivots. Two of these pivots are still nailed to the basement ceiling near the front of the house. One of them has two separate pivots, perhaps with one for the front door and the other for the front of the parlor. The Campbells undoubtedly made use of several more of these pivots.

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This system was probably used thousands of times, whether to call for tea in the parlor, to give instructions for dinner, or to inform of the arrival of a guest. Although the cords themselves are long since gone, the remnants of the system are still there, waiting to call the servants into action once more.

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New Campbell Booklet Available!

Campbell FamilyFINAL REVISED-1A new booklet about the Campbell family is now available in the Campbell House gift shop on in our online shop! Written by Maureen O’Conner Kavanaugh, The Campbell Family of St. Louis: Their Public Triumphs and Personal Tragedies tells the story of the Campbell family in a visually exciting way.

The booklet is organized topically, detailing Robert’s rise to prominence, Virginia and Robert’s courtship (see below) and the growth of their family, and the family’s trip to Europe. Also included is a list of the family’s famous friends and guests, a discussion of the servants (both free and enslaved) who were integral to maintaining the Campbell’s lavish lifestyle, and a timeline of the house and family. Every page is lavishly illustrated by photographs and contemporary imagery.

The new booklet is the perfect counterpart to our previously published The Campbell House Museum: A Pictorial Souvenir, which tells the story of the house itself. Be sure to get your copy of The Campbell Family of St. Louis, either in our online store or in person at our gift shop, which is now stocked with new items for the new year!


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Click James' picture to learn more about becoming a Campbell House intern, and exploring St. Louis history!

Click James’ picture to learn more about becoming a Campbell House intern, and exploring St. Louis history!

Last time you met Caitie; now its time to meet James! James is diving deep into the history of the house, and also prepping to carry on our application for National Historic Landmark status. We’ll let James take it from here…

What are you studying and where? I am studying History and French at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Why Campbell House? I definitely wanted to do a history internship before graduating in December 2016, and the History Department placed me at this great museum and historical residence. I was unfamiliar with the Campbell House before my internship but I am eager to delve into its past.

What are you working on at CHM? Currently, I am studying the history of the house and the Campbells in order to give tours, while my internship project will be researching and amending documents toward the Campbell House Museum’s application to become a National Historic Landmark (carrying on an internship project that will continue for several more years).

When you aren’t having a blast at Campbell House, what are you doing? Usually, I am too busy with homework to do much else! However, in my free time I enjoy biking around our great city, vegetable gardening, singing karaoke, cooking, and partaking in the great microbrewery culture of St. Louis.

What is your favorite thing about CHM so far? So far, my favorite part about the Campbell House Museum is the decor. One of my favorite periods in history is the Victorian Era and to be immersed in a room like the Campbell’s parlor transports me back to that time.

iPhone or Android? Haha, currently neither. I have an old cell phone and have yet to upgrade to a smart phone. I will soon though, probably [One of our staff members recently “bit the bullet”, so to say, and made that transition recently too. The ranks of the “dumb phones” dwindle…].

Favorite color? My favorite color is green because it is the color of plants.

Favorite band/singer? David Bowie was and is my favorite musician. I was shocked like everyone else when he recently passed away, though the public outpouring of sympathy and respect for him and his music was impressive and comforting [The Groniger Museum in the Netherlands is representing museums well by extending hours to an exhibit they have about Bowie].

Andy Warhol said that everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame. What happened in your 15 minutes? I would hope it involves a sci-fi book that I am writing, and hopefully I’d be famous for how good it is rather than its wonderful abilities as a paperweight.

If you could live in a book, which one and why? I would live in a world of The Phantom Tollbooth. I first read it in grade school over 20 years ago, and still I wish I could eat words, mine for numbers, keep sounds in boxes, and listen to a symphony play music that paints the skies.

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