Ruth & I saw the Magic Chef Mansion with the Happy Wanderers. This group from Collinsville, Illinois, booked a special tour and we tagged along. If it weren’t for them, we would not have had access to it because tours are given only on the first Saturday of each month. The Magic Chef Mansion on Russell Boulevard in St Louis’ Compton Hill Reservoir Square neighborhood is privately owned.
This stately home was built by Charles and Hedwig Stockstrom. Charles co-owned the Quick Meal Stove Company, which became the world’s largest stove maker under the name Magic Chef. When it was sold to Maytag in 1986, Magic Chef was the 249th largest industrial company in the United States. Its main factory was on The Hill, a largely Italian community back then and now home to many wonderful Italian restaurants. A smart businessman, Charles also patented a thermostat. He was also a big game hunter, and taxidermied heads abound in this mansion’s male-oriented rooms. He and Hedwig were also world travelers, spending time in Germany at the end of the 19th century, exploring Japan in 1906, and going to Egypt the year that their mansion was being built.
The Stockstrom’s daughter Adda, who lived to be 94, lived in this more-than-30 rooms house until Shelley Donaho bought it 27 years ago. Being only the 2nd owner, Donaho has a lifetime project in keeping it up. She lives in it surrounded by pristine splendor. Because its furnishings were sold at a public auction before she took possession, Donaho has made it her mission to also track down and return as many of the bought items as she can find.
In many ways a typical 20th century entrepreneur’s home, the Magic Chef Mansion has some unique features that make a tour essential. My favorites were the speakeasy and bowling alley in the basement, the circular formal dining room with built-in cabinetry, original stenciling, and a found and returned chandelier, and the 2nd floor. Built during Prohibition, the speakeasy’s restoration was yet-another Donaho project. Door hinges that remained from this clandestined adult hangout were a clue. Its 2nd bar was made from old library cabinets. The elegant bowling alley reminded me of the final scene in the movie There Will Be Blood. The Magic Chef Manison is used for many fun occasions like a bowl-in-the-new-year party. The 6 main rooms on the 2nd floor included a new invention in 1908, electricity, and they are all cleverly interconnected.
I’m sure the Happy Wanderers would agree that the Magic Chef Mansion is a 5 Compass attraction.