Metro-East News

Belleville Historical Society working to renovate home for museum

The Belleville Historical Society is working hard on making the Midcentury Modern Architecture Museum a reality, the Trio Foundation of St. Louis gave the society $10,000 to help with the project. A room in the museum is dedicated to Belleville architect Charles E. King.
The Belleville Historical Society is working hard on making the Midcentury Modern Architecture Museum a reality, the Trio Foundation of St. Louis gave the society $10,000 to help with the project. A room in the museum is dedicated to Belleville architect Charles E. King. dholtmann@bnd.com

What better place for the Midcentury Modern Architecture Museum than a midcentury modern home designed by Belleville architect Charles E. King in 1952?

The Belleville Historical Society is working hard on making the museum a reality, and received a nice gift in December when the Trio Foundation of St. Louis gave the society $10,000 to help with the project.

The home at 8501 W. Main St., in Belleville, which was built for Terry and Thelma Blazier, was only used as a home for 10 years. In 1962 it was converted to a funeral home for about 50 years. It also was a small church before the historical society bought the home in November of 2015 and launched a $150,000 renovation project to turn it into a museum, dedicated to Charles E. King and the many homes and buildings he designed in the Belleville area.

Larry Betz, president of the society, said they planned three phases of improvements and are nearly through with the first phase. First came roof repair, then painting, window replacement and floor repair. A pair of double doors installed for funeral purposes was removed and the front of the house repaired. Soon workers will repair the original terrazzo floors.

Two of the four furnaces in the house were replaced as well as the water heater. Electrical and plumbing updates were necessary and some landscaping.

Phases two and three involve more repair and renovation. In the kitchen, the original wooden cabinets and the pink tile need a layer of white paint removed. Betz said that happened not long before the society was able to get the house.

The house will feature lots of furnishings from the 1950s, such as furniture and decorations. It also will have a complete 1956 General Electric Wonder Kitchen, donated by a St. Louis woman.

No one has figured out the original configuration of what used to be the two bedrooms, since the funeral home knocked out separating walls to make a viewing room.

“Unfortunately, we’re in the dark there,” Betz said. “We don’t have the blueprints of the house. They were known to have been seen about six years ago, but now they are gone.”

Family members have tried to help, but only have vague memories of where things were, Betz said.

Some things survived fairly intact.

“If you want to step back into the ‘50s, come in here,” Betz said, showing off what used to be a guest bathroom.

With pink tile on the floor, art deco fluorescent lights framing the mirror and gray tile on the walls, the bathroom more recently was the women’s room.

A set of 10-foot-wide sliding pocket doors survived with just a little bit of distortion to the metal frame. The etched glass doors are between what used to be the family room and the living room and have a bamboo motif.

The custom copper fireplace in the family room had a matching copper table the Blaziers had made. A family member donated the table to the society.

“That’s the only piece of original furniture we have,” Betz said.

A mother-in-law apartment is right across the driveway from the house and the society is renovating it as well, with plans to use it as a bed and breakfast, perhaps with Airbnb.

The society is kicking around other ideas for bringing in money to help maintain the house once it is finished, Betz said, and is finding some demand.

“After the Christmas party here (in early December), we’ve had so many offers,” he said. “People want to use it for receptions, parties, even weddings. So, it may be part house and part museum. We may leave the bedrooms as one space to use to raise revenue.”

The society has raised $60,000 toward the project and will continue to work both on the house and fundraising. Members hope to have the museum up and running by next fall. Their next fundraiser is a trivia night, March 4.

For more information about the society and its ambitious projects, you can visit its website at Bellevillehistoricalsociety.org.

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