Wipe your feet at the door, feel free to sit on the furniture and use the restroom. Fred and Mabel-Ruth Anheuser’s home, aka the Anheuser Estate, in the country near Kimmswick, welcomes visitors on Thursday afternoons and during special events.
The stately house belonged to Frederick Straub Anheuser, the great-grandson of Eberhard Anheuser, a soap and candle maker who founded the E. Anheuser Brewing Company in St. Louis in 1860. The Anheuser family used the home as a summer home from 1916 until Fred moved in permanently in 1945, after his father’s death. Fred lived on the 23-acre property with his wife, Mabel-Ruth Bandy Anheuser, until his death in 1984. His yellow work coat hangs behind the front door. He was the last Anheuser to work in the brewery and retired as its vice-president.
The house and grounds—formerly known as Fredmar Farms—overlook the Mississippi River, at Water’s Point north of Hoppies Marina. On this day, the river rushed by, swollen with spring rains.
“Everything that is in the home was theirs. The only thing we ever change out are the seasonal decorations and flowers,” said one of the two tour guides onsite. Recently repainted, the museum directors matched the home’s original colors as closely as possible. Mabel-Ruth liked mauve.
To understand the atmosphere of the home, it is necessary to learn about Fred and Mabel-Ruth’s history. Both born in 1903, they met while at college in Columbia, at the University of Missouri. He took her French class. They secretly married on Valentine’s Day in 1926. Supposedly, they spent a lot of time at the farm and had started renovating it before they inherited it.
Upon entry to the formal living room, guests are introduced to the couple’s personalities. From the aforementioned brewery yellow coat, to exhibit cases filled with brewery memorabilia and Westward Ho crystal, to the family crests hanging over the front room fireplace, the house is theirs and it feels welcoming, yet elite. Money lived here, and with this tour, the visitor gets a glimpse of life of St. Louis aristocracy.
Photos of the couple adorn the walls. In particular, a 50th-wedding-anniversary photograph hangs in the sunroom that overlooks the river. “You see in most of her pictures, she’s wearing that Mona Lisa look? Where she doesn’t smile, but she is smiling? I think that’s what she was going for,” commented a tour guide. Mabel-Ruth’s golden dress and accessories from that occasion hang in the nearby hallway.
The Anheuser Estate’s entrance originally faced the river and boasted beautiful columns. By the 1930s, the home had been remodeled, and a gentlemen’s card room became one of its prominent features, located off the glassed-in sunroom.
Personalities on Display
Upstairs, three airy, sizeable bedrooms with extraordinarily large windows offer views to either the river or the Buttercup Riding Arena, named after Mabel-Ruth’s prize-winning horse, Buttercup Meyer. One of the rooms holds World’s Fair 1904 twin beds, handcrafted in Germany, and purchased by Fred’s parents.
The personalities of the pair shine throughout the Anheuser Estate. For Fred, who is remembered as detailed and meticulous, memorabilia including items from the Free Masons and his beloved photographic equipment lie on display and hang on the walls.
For Mabel-Ruth, her equestrian accomplishments, tatting projects, exquisite clothing, costume jewelry and an award from the French government—bestowing upon her its highest national award for scholarship, the Palmes Academiques in 1954—give us a glimpse into her life.
In fact, the tour guides talk about Mabel-Ruth as if they knew her personally. Mabel-Ruth spent the last days of her life (in 2000) surrounded by her memorabilia in the lovely library near the sunroom with a view of the river. Her nurses, who kept journals, reported that she played cards and that a beautician visited regularly to do her hair and nails.
Ride On St. Louis
The sounds of horses whinnying and children laughing waft into the home from outdoors where Ride On St. Louis (ROSL) operates. The ROSL Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy Program is a nonprofit charitable organization for adults and children with disabilities. “We thought that she would have approved of having the horses here,” commented a tour guide.
The estate is available for weddings, receptions and parties. It recently added a gazebo with a grand river view.
The Anheuser Estate is open from April through November, on Thursdays, from noon to 4 p.m. Cost is $5 per person. Private tours are available for groups of 15 or more. Call 636-464-7407. The grounds are open daily, from dawn till dusk. Visit the website to learn more.
The Anheuser-Busch Connection Explained
The tour guides said that many visitors do not understand the Anheuser-Busch connection, but it plays a role in this setting. Adolphus Busch married Eberhard Anheuser’s daughter, Lily, in a double wedding—along with her sister, Anna Anheuser, and his brother, Ulrich, in 1861. The company became Anheuser-Busch in 1879.