Monday, July 19, 2010
An exotic escape once grew along Moreau Drive, hidden in a sunken garden behind the century-old home built by William and Katheryn Mueller.
Stone paths led from the home to a rose garden, multiple reflecting ponds and plantings all around of various unique plantings.
The property at 1110 Moreau Dr. was honored as a Landmark in May by the Jefferson City Historic Preservation Commission. And in its prime, shortly after being built by 1912, the home attracted statewide attention and was featured in building magazines of the day.
Today, only the carriage house and loose stone once used for paths and borders remains there, as the property was divided into lots over the years and the gardens were not kept up.
However, owners Mary Ann Hall and Stu Murphy have found leftovers, such as evergreen cane bamboo, yellow jonquils and peony, from the once “showcase” gardens designed by the St. Louis Botanical Gardens.
“Many stone paths, steps and walls led visitors throughout the acreage planted with exotic trees, bushes and flowers,” according to a News Tribune article from April 13, 1941. Mueller raised pheasants and had peacocks on the property.
“The 3-story carriage house ... provided living quarters for a gardener, space for carriage/ vehicles and work shop and on the lower level two sections for storage, feed and tack room.
“When the home was built, the property was outside the city limits with no water line or fire hydrant. A large, deep well provided water for the house, barn and grounds. An irrigation system was set up throughout the gardens.”
Bordering McClung Park and Lincoln University, the backyard could deceive someone for a more rural location.
“From the patio, it’s all woods and no neighbors,” Mary Ann said. “It’s like living in the country with the town in the front yard.”
She grew up on a farm and later in the Moreau Drive area. So when she was looking for a home with a “barn” and a natural setting 10 years ago, she was surprised when Stu found it just around the corner from their home at the time on Fairmount Avenue.
During her childhood at the Old Moreau Heights School, Mary Ann remembered walking along a now absent humpback bridge into a “jungle,” which she recognized as this lot.
With Stu as a Master Gardener, the Murphys do keep some gardens, including a bee and herb garden and a pond featuring the two-hump slide from McClung Park Mary Ann remembered from her youth.
Their neighbors share remnants of the once expansive gardens, too. And across Moreau Drive and down the street are other properties which that boasted magnificent gardens, such as Ott Park and Vineyard Square, she said.
But it was the home Mueller built, because he had a fondness for Key West, that can be seen from the road.
The porch was enclosed by a later owner. And this spring, the Murphys restored the front door to its place in the center of the many windows facing the circle drive and manicured front lawn.
Mary Ann’s son Sean built an iron fence for the front yard, where the Landmark medallion will be mounted.
Inside, the original exterior transoms and the Craftsman-style trim and door designs are repeated around the home. The birdseye maple floor and a grand, stone fireplace at the entry reveal the class of the bungalow for its day.
As an artist, Mary Ann enjoys the interesting reflections and shadows that change as the sunlight shifts throughout the day.
“I’m so fortunate to live in the historic neighborhood where I grew up,” Mary Ann said. “I want to share it; it’s a fascinating place.
“It’s a fun place to experiment and play.”
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