Tag Archives: Campbell House

Calling all servants…

bells

 

 

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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The Wandering Chimney Pots

As the cold winter weather approaches it is a perfect time to take a closer look at what else, chimney pots.

If you have visited the Campbell House recently, you may recall three chimney pots as part of the Lucas Place exhibit. As we moved the chimney pots back into storage, we thought it might be interesting to recount their history. For supposedly stationary objects, these pots have moved around quite a bit, perhaps emphasizing the truthfulness of the old adage, “Not all who wander are lost.” This, then, is the tale of the wandering chimney pots.

The three chimney pots, from left, are A, B, and C for this article's purposes.

The three chimney pots, from left, are A, B, and C for this article’s purposes.

 

But what is a chimney pot? A chimney pot is made of terra cotta and is placed on top of the chimney to expand the length of the chimney inexpensively, and to improve the chimney’s draft. A chimney with more than one pot on it indicates that there is more than one fireplace on different floors sharing the chimney.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the chimney pots were never the subject of historical photographs at Campbell House. Luckily, however, there are just enough photos of the side and rear of the house that their presence can be discerned. In one of the 1885 photographs, for instance, the chimney pots can be seen sticking up above the carriage house. Upon closer examination, the octagonal pot (we’ll call it Pot B for now) sits on the rearmost chimney, servicing the kitchen and rear third floor. The round pot (henceforth Pot A) is on Mrs. Kyle’s Bedroom’s chimney. Interestingly, in another angle of the house, another round pot can be seen on the rear parlor chimney. Pot A could be either one of these.

Notably, there are no pots of the Pot C variety. To find them, we have to fast-forward to 1930, when suddenly there are eleven of them. For some reason, when those pots went up, the decision was made to save pots A and B, and place them together on the rearmost chimney on either side of Pot C. As grateful as we are for the decision to save them, we can’t help but wonder: why put the fanciest two pots on the least visible chimney?

It’s easy to overlook the chimneys in this photo, but looking closely reveals that two of the three pots on the rear chimney are different in size and shape. Pots A and B have moved again!

 

Whatever the reason, pots A and B remain on the back chimney in this photo from the 1960s. The C pots, however, have been rearranged, possibly by the museum. Now, two C pots rest on each of the parlor chimneys, providing better symmetry than was present in the 1930s.

Although hard to make out, Pot A is circled in red, and Pot B in blue.

Although hard to make out, Pot A is circled in red, and Pot B in blue.

 

The pots are rearranged yet again after the museum’s first restoration in 1968. Evidently looking for the best aesthetics, the museum plopped pot A on the rear parlor, and pot B on the front parlor. It may have been at this point that pot B was plugged by cement, although for what reason (and why only this pot) is unknown.Campbell House, early 1990s

 

Despite decades of exposure, the collection of chimney pots survived whatever Mother Nature threw at them, suffering little more than staining and discoloration. That all changed in 1998, when a strong gust of wind sent one pot, of the “C” type, hurtling towards the ground below. Luckily, no one was injured, although the pot lost much of its upper third. This pot now lives in the basement.

Its a hard life, being a chimney pot.

Its a hard life, being a chimney pot.

 

When The Restoration began in 1999, the pots were moved yet again. With scaffolding thrown up around the whole house, the decision was made to temporarily remove pots A and B for their safety. Naturally, the pots have never returned to the roof. For some reason, pot C was also moved off the roof.

This brings the saga of the chimney pots back to where we began, with the pots heading towards storage. Given their propensity to move around, though, maybe we’d better keep a close eye on them…

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Picture Yourself in St. Louis History—#PictureYourselfSTL

LouisThe Campbells didn’t have smart phones, and of course never took selfies. But we bet Robert and Virginia would pull out a selfie stick now, especially since they could win some great prizes by doing so in their own house! This Labor Day Weekend kicks off a special collaboration between the Campbell House Museum and eighteen other cultural institutions, and all you have to do to take part is visit us and photograph yourself.

The new Missouri History Museum exhibit, “A Walk in 1875 St. Louis,” links area historic sites that share a mission of preserving and telling the story of St. Louis.

Each participating location has two picture frames for hand-held use by visitors. Five locations will receive a larger “hub” picture frame and two hand-held versions – the Missouri History Museum, the Forest Park Visitor Center, The Old Courthouse, the Susan Blow Kindergarten and the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Hanley

Hanley House

Visitors will be invited to take their pictures in and around the frames showing a distinctive background inside the attractions, and distribute their images via social media. An Instagram hashtag, and a web page on the Missouri History Museum site will be available where visitors can post their “historic” pictures with #PictureYourselfSTL or @missourihistorymuseum. Visitors can also email their shots to
PictureYourself@mohistory.org.

That’s it! There are monthly prize drawings, with rewards including hotel stays, attraction tickets, and more. One grand prize winner at the close of the contest wins a tintype portrait session!

The contest is open until February 14, 2016. You can visit each of the nineteen sites and take selfies at each to increase your chances, or to just enjoy a journey through 1875 St. Louis with “Louis” as your guide.

Here are the participating locations:

WhiteHaven

Ulysses Grant’s White Haven

So open up your phone’s selfie mode, and take part in all the fun and experience St. Louis in 1875!

Read more about the program in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch.

The “Picture Yourself in St. Louis History” project has been developed and is financially supported by the Museum Innovators Group organized by the Missouri History Museum (MHM).

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