On the corner of Broadway and Cerre St. about a block from the southeast corner of Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis sits a house. It’s an old house – from the mid-1800s – that doesn’t draw much attention amongst the bars and Cardinals love doting the area, unless you know what you’re looking for.
But inside the house and its adjoining museum is a look back in St. Louis’ past, and at a classic author’s childhood home. This house was Eugene Field’s boyhood home, and during the seven years Field lived here with his parents and brother, his father, Roswell M. Field, took up Dred and Harriet Scott’s freedom suit. Field argued on Scott’s behalf and carried the case into the Federal Courts, leading to the infamous Supreme Court decision in Scott v. Sandford.
The house tour and the adjoining museum detail the family’s involvement in the case with artifacts and anecdotes, that share a new perspective to the famous legal suit, as well as details of the house’s place in St. Louis’ history, Field’s writing career, and his fascination with children’s toys.
Known as “The Children’s Poet”, Eugene Field is perhaps most famous for his poems, which include “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” and “Little Boy Blue”, though he is also well known for being the father of the personal column in newspapers.
While a student at the University of Missouri, Field co-founded the campus newspaper and served as it’s literary editor. He continued his journalism career in Missouri, writing for the St. Joseph Gazette as well as St. Louis’ Morning Journal and Times-Journal.
Field’s first published children’s poem, “Christmas Treasures”, was written during the first of two stints in St. Louis during his adult life. Field’s newspaper career also took him to Kansas City and Denver, and finally to Chicago, where the Chicago Daily News hired him to write “exactly what I please on any subject I please.”
The Field House Museum, which elaborates on his career, family life, and peculiarities (he was terrible at keeping his finances and turned all money matters over to his wife), was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007. The house opened December 18, 1936 as the first historic house museum in St. Louis, and has recently undergone an extensive renovation for its museum and restoration of both the exterior and interior of the house.
Today the house is a museum and memorial that reflects the era in which Field, his parents, and his siblings lived within its walls. Featured rotating exhibits also include toys from every era that reflect Eugene Field’s abiding interest in collecting children’s toys and dolls. The Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has also been named a City of St. Louis Landmark.
The museum is located at 634 South Broadway and is open Wednesday – Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4:00 p.m. The museum is closed on all major holidays. Admission for Adults is $10.00, though they honor an AAA discount, and children seven to fifteen years of age are $5.00. The museum and the first floor of the historic house are handicapped accessible.