Saint Louis University

Cupples House Architecture and Design

Samuel Cupples chose the Romanesque style - more typically found in a church or city hall - for his house on West Pine Boulevard. Purple sandstone from Colorado was laid upon the pink foundation granite of southern Missouri. Tiffany-styled windows bathed the interior of the home with beautiful light that played upon expertly carved rich woodwork.  

The exterior of the house was just as richly detailed. Expert stone masons chiseled delicate vines along balconies while mythical animals and dwarves hug the rainspouts and gutters. Rounded towers clad in copper and fantastical chimneys shape one of the most interesting roofs in the city of St. Louis. Throughout the house, only the finest woods were used. The floors are English quartersawn oak, a material little used today but one of the hallmarks of the Arts and Crafts period style.  

Anglo-Irish Influence of Cupples House

Cupples admired most things English and took great delight in his Anglo-Irish heritage. A Celtic design motif can be seen throughout the house especially in the carved wood panels of the second floor reception room. He was also a great booster for the city of St. Louis included fleur de lis ornamentation throughout his home as well.

The home's architect was Thomas B. Annan, a man quite familiar with the innovative trends of the era. Cupples sent Annan to England prior to the execution of his design for the residence and it seems likely that, while in England, Annan confirmed his interest in the English Arts and Crafts Movement especially as exemplified by the designs of William Morris, who drew inspiration from the medieval world of church and manor and promoted the use of natural materials. He saw in the rounded arches and stone work the hallmarks of a simple, practical world. 

The Romanesque design of a home like that of Samuel Cupples easily accommodated stained glass, medieval-inspired furniture, and the tapestry-inspired images that Morris promoted. Furniture original to the Cupples House mirrors arts and crafts themes, as do the stained glass windows of the minstrel's gallery.

Design Elements Within Cupples House

Decorative inspiration from nature informs the house's exterior ornamentation of intertwining leaves and vines as well as the extensive woodcarving of the interior. A floral motif dominated the original wallpapers that one sees in the vintage photographs displayed in Cupples House today. Indeed, every room but the grand hall and the staff rooms at Cupples House were papered. (See vintage photos and floor plans of Cupples House.)

It is this vision that one finds still today. The decorative detail of the interior and exterior of Cupples House fixes the house to its time while also permitting Saint Louis University to use the Cupples House as a gallery space for fine art, furniture and American glass. The strength of its design elements permit the inclusion and display of artifacts without subverting the integrity and beauty of the residence.

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