This summer, we are launching a Capital Campaign to raise $100,000 to
maintain and preserve the Historic Hawken House, built in 1857 for Christopher
and Mary Ann Hawken.
We have given much thought to this serious and ambitious undertaking. It
requires commitment and teamwork from the Webster Groves Historical Society
Board, along with the involvement and support of the communities that we serve.
I understand that the first thing you might ask is – what do you need the money
As with any old house, especially ones that are 162 years old, we have
considerable maintenance and repair work to do. This work is critical to the
preservation, the safety, and the long term viability of the Hawken House
Museum. Protecting both the historic structures and our rich heritage
distinguishes our community from many others in the St. Louis region, and it is
an important reason why Webster Groves is such a desirable place to live.
Here are some things that are on our list:
* restoring the upper and lower side porches
* fixing interior damage in the kitchen and the sewing room
* replacing shutters
* replacing the cellar door
* repairing soffits and corbels and windowsills
* and painting
In addition, we are seeking to re-build our reserves that were significantly drained
due to prior expenses totaling over $40,000, the result of piering the northwest
corner of the Hawken House – twice over the course of several years – along
with the purchase of new heating and air conditioning units for both the Hawken
House and the Hearth Room.
The second question you might be asking is WHY? What's so special or so
important about the Hawken House that it warrants this significant fund raising
Over a year ago, those of us on the Board of Directors were asked to write a
sentence or two that described exactly why we thought the preservation of the
Hawken House was important. This was actually a challenging and thought
The conclusion that I arrived at was as follows:
To me, the Hawken House embodies a family’s history. It’s not my personal
history, it’s the Hawken’s history, BUT it is a shared history in that it reflects how
people lived in a particular era, right here in Webster Groves.
By having a historic home in our community, we have the unique opportunity to
make this past come alive through tangible artifacts and interesting stories.
Guests learn about the history of this house, and in so doing, they may discover
ways in which aspects of that history relate to their own.
(I wonder, did my great grandma sleep on a rope bed? Did she lose four of her
children before they reached adulthood? Would I return to Missouri to live in this
house after my father had sent me to live with cousins in Colorado when I was
four years old? And if I had been a slave like Aunt Mollie, would I have stayed on
with the Hawkens after the Civil War was over?)
To me, this is history with a little “h” – not history with a capital “H” – that’s like the
Civil War, or the 1929 Stock Market crash, the moon landing, the civil rights
marches, September 11th, the genocide in Rwanda, Columbine, etc. These are
major events of tremendous import; most certainly we should study and learn
from them with the intent of applying lessons learned and a resolve to do better
going forward. But this little "h" history, as exemplified by the Hawken House, is
more intimate; I view it as a bridge between our present and the past. Our
historic home, the Hawken House, is a valuable section of that bridge. It’s a
repository of interesting artifacts, fascinating knowledge, and relatable family
stories, not just for our community but for guests that come visit us from all over
the country. (And come they do! History lovers find us.)
Our Capital Campaign has a phased approach and will be directed to multiple
audiences over the next year or so. But however you come to learn more about
this – whether through a letter, or here on our website, or in an article in the
Webster Kirkwood Times, all I ask is that you take the time to read about it, and
think about how fortunate we are to have such a valuable reflection of history
right here in Webster Groves.
President, Webster Groves Historical Society