Metro-East News

When you retire, you can see houses like this one

Last week, I attended the kind of event that we retired people love.

I rode in style, comfortably ensconced in a big ol’ bus that delivered me to several stops on a tour sponsored by the Missouri History Museum as part of its 150th anniversary.

The highlight was a tour of the Magic Chef Mansion.

I had heard of Magic Chef stoves but I didn’t know one of the founders of the stove company in St. Louis, Charles Stockstrom, had built a large home in 1908 for his family at 4300 Russell Boulevard, just south of the Compton Hill Reservoir by Interstate 44 in south St. Louis.

Magic Chef was a product of the American Stove Co. until the company changed its name to Magic Chef. It later was bought by a conglomerate.

The house is a jewel, carefully restored by owner Shelley Donaho. She bought it in 1990 from the estate of the builder’s daughter, Adda Ohmeyer.

The mansion stands on two acres and is built of buff-colored brick with terra cotta accents. It has 12,000 square feet in three stories and a basement.

This genteel lady of a house was on the shabby side when Donaho paid $400,000 for it. The mansion furnishings and many fixtures were put up for auction at Selkirk’s. Donaho has spent much time and money since tracking down and buying back some of those pieces.

Donaho said she and some faithful helpers have worked on restoring walls, removing paint to reveal original ceiling stencils, restoring fallen ceilings and putting the house back as close as possible to its original condition.

The entire house cost $49,500 including the numerous stained glass windows and doors which were itemized at $230. It included a central vacuum system, gas fireplaces, quarter-sawn oak paneling, oak flooring as well as several stuffed animal heads. There are four full baths and two half baths.

A staff of seven was in service when the Stockstrom family returned from Egypt and Europe where they had been visiting while the house was built.

The white tile kitchen has era-appropriate appliances including, naturally, a Magic Chef stove that Doano uses, as well as a pair of old refrigerators.

The basement has a one-lane maple bowling alley with a Brunswick wooden ball return. The original scoreboard on the wall keeps score by innings instead of frames. The basement also includes a machine shop, a game room and a restored saloon.

The former owner’s granddaughter gave Donaho family photos showing the house and all sorts of interesting family moments. She plans to have graduate students come to examine and catalog the material.

A gallery of before and after photos at the website

Donaho said she started regular tours about three years ago. Tours are by appointment but the mansion will be open from noon to 3 p.m. on Nov. 5. Regular admission is $15 or $8 for children age 6-12. Children younger than 6 are free.

Special Christmas tours are from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 5 and 6. Admission is $15 in advance or $18 at the door. For more information, you can visit the website or call 314-664-3400.

“I’ve been here 26 years and actually have been giving tours since day one when things were crumbling,” she said. “I’m just charging now. The good thing is that even though it had fallen into disrepair, they didn’t alter it.”

It also helps that they found the original blueprints for the house.

“It’s fun to share the house,” Donaho said. “It’s been a great journey.”

And it’s not even over.