At the turn of the 20th century, St. Louis, Missouri, was the nation’s fourth-largest city. Mansions lined the streets; the opulent train station, filled with stained glass and decorated tiles, was said to be the busiest in the country. The city was abuzz over the upcoming 1904 World’s Fair. Lewis Dozier caught the spirit of celebration. A prominent soda-cracker manufacturer (his company later would become Nabisco), Dozier built, in 1896, a 12,000-square-foot mansion in the florid, academic Beaux-Arts style. Set in the fashionable Westmoreland Place neighborhood, the location of the house was ideal: just across from Forest Park, the site of the upcoming Fair.
Dozier, who was on the Fair’s Steering Committee, designed his home with the event in mind. The second and third floors were devoted to bedrooms (11 of them in all) to accommodate the anticipated stream of guests. The basement would be conceived as a medieval-style banquet hall and ballroom of 2,000 square feet, for entertaining. Indeed, among the many visitors who came to the mansion over the years was silent-movie star, Rudolf Valentino. He had his own key.
When Ron and Joy Christensen saw the then-hundred-year-old mansion in 1996, it was love at first sight. The exterior is wildly impressive. Interiors are just as grand; a reception foyer is centered on a carved fireplace with an onyx surround, and a carved-walnut staircase leads past a musician’s gallery on the landing. Main rooms boast 12-foot-tall ceilings and open into one another for large gatherings.
A fireplace and built-in benches accommodate visitors in the reception room. The Gentlemen’s Library and dining room can be glimpsed to the left. New murals are based on the gardens of the 1904 World’s Fair.
Beautifully detailed woodwork welcomes visitors.
A detail of the staircase shows the fine carving.
Ornateterra-cotta detailing required only cleaning and repointing.
Vermicular (i.e., worm-like) bands adorn the columns at the entry.
A COMMEMORATIVE The owner painted these murals of Forest Park, the nearby site of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, in the entry and reception hall, to recall the Fair's romantic gardens.
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