Tag Archives: Kansas City

211 Years of Robert Campbell #happybirthdaybob

guess who's turning 211

It’s birthday time! (and also an excuse to photoshop a hat on Robert. It never gets old.)

This Thursday, February 12 marks the 211th birthday of our main man Robert Campbell. Born in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland in 1804, Robert rose from obscurity as one of millions of Irish immigrants to this country in the early 19th century to become one of the major players in the history of the American West as a mountain man, fur trader and entrepreneur. The City of St. Louis would  look much different today without his influence (heck, he was also a founding landowner in Kansas City, MO and El Paso, TX. This guy was all over the place).

This weekend we’re celebrating Robert’s big day with a half-price birthday bonanza at the Campbell House Museum. Adults are just $4 each. Seriously, folks. Four dollars. Still looking for a cheap, unique experience for you and your special someone on Valentine’s Day weekend? We’ve got you covered. We’ll be here from 10am-4pm on Friday and Saturday and 12-4pm on Sunday, February 13-15.

We’re looking forward to a fun, historically-inclined weekend and we hope you’ll join us to celebrate the life and legacy of one of St. Louis’ most important figures. Click here to join our event on Facebook… it’s going to be a blast!

Did you know…

Robert shares a birthday with Abraham Lincoln (born five years later in 1809), Charles Darwin (also 1809) and Judy Blume (1939)?

110 years after Robert was born, on February 12, 1914, the first stone of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. was put into place.

138 years and 359 days after Robert was born, on February 6, 1943, the Campbell House Museum officially opened to the public.

159 years after Robert was born, on February 12, 1963, construction began on the Gateway Arch.

 

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Country Folk and City Slickers

We tend to focus on history within the boundaries of St. Louis City here on the blog, but St. Louis County residents rejoice! This one’s for you. Last year the Campbell House started a collaborative lecture series with the Historic Hanley House in Clayton, Missouri and we’re continuing the series next Wednesday.

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Top: Lucas Place neighborhood at the western edge of St. Louis City in mid-19th century. Bottom: Hanley House in St. Louis County around the same time period.

What makes a CHM/HH collaboration so neat is that, even though both houses are located in the midst of bustling urban centers today, back in the mid-19th century St. Louis City and County could not have been more different. The Campbells’ 1851 townhouse sat in the Lucas Place neighborhood at the very western edge of mid-19th century St. Louis City (today, it’s smack dab in the middle of town). The Hanley’s country farmhouse was considerably farther out, a full day’s journey from the city center (if that’s not living in the boonies, we don’t know what is). But despite this major difference, there are actually some interesting parallels between the Campbell and Hanley families and their homes. Here are just a few:

  • Our main man Robert Campbell was born in 1804 and died in 1879. Martin Hanley, namesake of the Hanley House, was born ten years after Robert in 1814 and also died in 1879.
  • Hanley House was built in 1855 in the Greek Revival style, imitating the grand plantation houses of the South. Campbell House was built four years earlier in 1851. It’s also considered a Greek Revival (as well as Early Victorian) style house because of the columns framing its front door and its roof-line ornamentation.
  • Martin Hanley and his wife Cyrene had 11 children, 10 of whom survived to adulthood. Robert and Virginia Campbell had 13 children, 10 of whom died in childhood.
  • The Hanley family sided with the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Robert Campbell sided with the North as a Conditional Unionist, believing that the Union should be preserved with slavery intact. Both men were slave owners, and the Hanley family could be somewhat vocal about their secessionist views since  they lived far away from the city center. Robert had to tread more lightly, in some ways straddling the fence between Northern and Southern sympathies, in order to stay in good graces with his neighbors and political friends in the city.
  • Martin Hanley helped establish Clayton as the St. Louis County seat after the city/county split in 1876, donating four acres of his own land. Robert Campbell, in addition to owning large tracts of land in St. Louis City and County, was one of the founding landowners of Kansas City, MO and El Paso, TX.
  • The Hanley House was continuously occupied by members of the Hanley family from the time of its construction through 1968, when it was purchased by the City of Clayton and turned into a museum. The Campbell House was continuously occupied by members of the Campbell family from the time they moved in in 1854 through 1938 when the last Campbell son passed away, opening as museum shortly thereafter.

Click the images to enlarge

Pretty interesting, right? Well now that we’ve got you hooked, here’s our shameless plug. Join us a week from today, Wednesday January 28 at 7:00 p.m. at the Church of St. Michael & St. George in Clayton for a more in-depth discussion of the parallels between the city slicker Campbells and country folk Hanleys. Campbell House Executive Director Andy Hahn will be joining Hanley House Curator to discuss medical practices in urban vs. rural 19th century St. Louis (and perhaps offering clues as to why the Hanley children survived and so many of the Campbell kids did not). For more information, see below or call the Clayton Century Foundation at (314) 290-8553. We hope to see you there!

Treating the Sick in St. Louis City & County
Wednesday, January 28 at 7:00 p.m.
Church of St. Michael & St. George
(Great Hall)
6345 Wydown Blvd in Clayton, MO

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Would Robert have been a Royals fan?

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We couldn’t resist. #madphotoshopskills

Even though St. Louis fell short of the World Series this year, the fact that our friends in Kansas City are doing so well brings an interesting question to light… would Robert Campbell have been (gasp!) a Royals fan?

Even though Robert lived the majority of his adult life in the city of St. Louis, he has significant ties to the KC area. Mr. Campbell began investing in real estate shortly after he retired from the fur trade in the late 1830s. Most of his property was scattered throughout the St. Louis area, ranging from his family’s Lucas Place home at what is today 1508 Locust Street downtown all the way out to a plot of land that would eventually become Creve Coeur Park. But a lesser-known fact about our buddy Rob is that he also played a crucially important role in establishing what is today the bustling metropolis of Kansas City, Missouri.

Robert actually owned 1/7 of Kansas City’s original town site, buying the land as early as 1841 and making him one of the city’s founding landlords. He then went on to sell the land to his nephew John Campbell, who would build the city’s first three-story brick warehouse, serve as an alderman and found the KC Fire Department. Without Robert Campbell, Kansas City would look very different today.

Robert, of course, died long before the Royals were running the bases, but it’s fun to think: would Robert Campbell have been a Royals fan? Quite possibly. But probably only if the Cardinals were out of contention.

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Kansas City has grown a bit since Robert’s purchase of part of the original town site in the 1840s.

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