The ladies parlor of Christopher and Kim Perry’s home on Lindell Boulevard is a time capsule created a dozen decades ago when St. Louis was getting ready to host the 1904 World’s Fair across the street in Forest Park.
The oval room still glows in all of its gilded glory, a showcase of turn-of-the-20th-century wealth, just as Marian Green, the wife of St. Louis industrialist James B. Green, intended in 1902.
“The ladies parlor and tea room are the most original in the house,” says Kim Perry, who keeps a thick binder documenting the home’s history. “The wallpaper and paint are original. All the gold trim. The oil painting mural on the ceiling. Not touched, except cleaned.”
Those two rooms are a marvel, but so is the rest of the 15,000-square-foot mansion that the Perrys, who are both physicians, bought in 2001. They have been carefully renovating the home, preserving original materials and design whenever and wherever possible.
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“It’s a piece of history — a work in progress,” she says. “We just love it.”
Green, who founded the Laclede Fire Brick Manufacturing Co. in 1869 in what is now Dogtown, amassed a fortune making the bricks used to build the growing city. While fairgoers could learn all about his wares at an exhibit in the Palace of Manufactures, this mansion was all about Marian Green’s wishes.
The Greens commissioned prominent St. Louis architect William Albert Swasey to design the impressive four-story residence, which cost about $80,000 to build, the equivalent of nearly $3 million today.
The Greens lived in nearby Washington Terrace and used their new state-of-the-art home to lodge — and impress — ambassadors and dignitaries coming to St. Louis for the fair, Perry says. Money was no object.
The house was not only spacious and lavishly decorated, it was among the first in the city to have both gas and electricity. The availability of electricity allowed for some innovative design features, including the ceiling in the dining room that incorporates dozens of lightbulbs, instead of a chandelier, to give the sense of dining under the stars.
The home’s grand staircase could serve as a movie set with its polished wood and elegant red carpet tucked under a sweeping stained-glass dome.
“This was Marian’s project,” Kim Perry says. “She loved the house so much they moved here after the fair. But she passed away in 1905 and didn’t get to enjoy it.”
The Perrys are the fourth family to own the home. Descendants of the Greens kept it in their family until 1960.
The mansion had been empty for a number of years and needed critical repairs to the roof, leaky basement and nonworking kitchen. But Chris Perry, who loves history, fell in love with it.
“My husband bought the house without me seeing it with the contingency that I would approve it,” she says, smiling. “I had just finished a shift in the ER, and he called and said, ‘You’ve got to see this mansion downtown.’”
The couple sold the home they had just finished renovating in Frontenac and used the profits to begin restoring Marian Green’s dream house on Lindell.
Kim Perry jokingly refers to the project as a 25-year plan. Twenty-two years in, there is still work to be done. They recently had St. Louis stained glass experts Emil Frei and Associates replace the original dome, which was beyond repair.
The Perrys are now putting finishing touches on the refurbished ballroom in the basement of the house. And, she points out, three of the home’s five bathrooms — some with original fixtures — are on their never-ending to-do list.
They take a hands-on approach to projects, doing as much as they can themselves.
“We do a lot of DIY,” she said. “We clean. We scrub. I like to get my hands dirty.”
Kim Perry is originally from Rhode Island and came to Missouri for medical school. After her parents moved to St. Louis, they enjoyed helping with the restoration, she said. Her father tinkered with the servant call box and got it working again.
The house is comfortably furnished, with family treasures displayed as thoughtfully as historical artifacts: Perry’s wedding gown and bouquet in one bedroom, family musical instruments in another room. In the men’s front parlor, she affectionately displays her father’s intricate Lego creations – a floral bouquet and a typewriter.
“We decorated ourselves, one room at a time,” she says.
That’s meant going to auctions or online markets to mix antiques and period pieces along with new furniture. Five of the home’s 12 bedrooms are decorated in themes to honor the ambassadors from Italy, France, Egypt, Sweden and the United States who stayed in them during the fair.
As busy as she is, Perry cleans the home herself, partly to ensure that treasured historical details continue to be preserved.
“I’m the only one who cleans this house, so don’t look too closely,” she says, laughing. “One floor a week, and then I start over.”