#1 Upper Warson Residence
St. Louis, MO
Spencer Brickwork, Inc.
Architect: Contacts Without Company
Reflecting his unbridled enthusiasm for big game hunting, the owner asked the architect to design a residence that combined the distinctiveness of an Old World hunting lodge with the pastoral grace of a 300-year-old English country cottage. The architect responded with a 14,000-square-foot creation, designed in the tradition of an historic English country house.
The residence features a steeply pitched roof, dormers with small windows and an asymmetrical design that makes extensive use of Gothic arches. The overlapping gables on the front elevation are typical of Tudor Revival architecture, while the turret roof is of obvious English origin.
As a country dwelling, the residence stresses the informal. The trim around the windows and port-cochere is simple wood rather than elaborate cut stone. The field stone, a mix of Cottonwood and Silverdale limestone, is set in an informal rubble pattern typical of period cottages. Relatively large, medium-grade sand was used to create historically accurate two-inch mortar joints, and 320 tons of stone were used.
The front and rear of the home feature extensive terraces complete with stone balusters and rails, as well as many stone courtyard walls and columns. Extensive quantities of rock-faced, honed-topped stone steps are displayed throughout the exterior.
There are five fireplaces with herringbone fireboxes (two are Rumford style) and four chimneys. The craftsman honed the stone for the dining room and master bedroom fireplace surrounds so that it appeared to be cut stone. The Rumford units arrived as extremely heavy panels that had to be lifted into place.
Perhaps the home's most striking feature is its massive main fireplace, inspired by designs by architect Edwin Lutyens. The carved stone facing measures 14-feet tall and 10-ft. wide. At mantel height, the facing angles in on each side as well as from front to back all the way up. Reflecting the owner's love of the hunt, several of the stones are decorated with carvings of ducks and symbols of the outdoors. As each piece was assembled, it was taped to prevent smearing from grease and dirt.
Smaller stone pieces of 300-400 pounds were set by hand. Setting the larger pieces of 1000-1300 pounds required special equipment to wrestle them into place at a height of eight feet. After a Lull brought the stones in, a chain hoist, scaffolding and angle irons were coordinated to anchor them with steel pins and epoxy.
The firebox is approximately 6-ft. wide x 6-ft. high x 38-in. deep, encompassing more than 700 firebrick laid in a herringbone pattern. Two separate throats with 20-in. round flue-liners were required to draft the 38-ft. tall chimney. The fireplace alone took six days to construct.
From the beauty of the home's arched entryway to its distinctive fireplace, this Old World residence successfully transplants the essence of the English country experience into the middle of America.