Kirkwood Historical Society turns 60 | Webster Kirkwood Times
Diamonds are the Kirkwood Historical Society’s best friend this year as the city’s dedicated historical custodians mark a jubilee with the organization’s 60th anniversary.
Kirkwood made history in 1853 as the first planned suburb west of the Mississippi River. There is no doubt that the founder of the city, James Pugh Kirkwood, would be delighted with these decades of achievement.
Founded in 1961 by Mary Miller Mabrey “Mrs. Harry ”Donovan, the Kirkwood Historical Society was granted nonprofit status in July 1963. As a passionate community leader, Donovan has chaired several educational, civic and religious organizations. In addition, her husband’s family were instrumental in being the architect of the current Kirkwood Stone Station.
This momentous anniversary is yet another reason Kirkwood was named one of the ’24 Coolest Suburbs in America’ in 2019, citing the town’s remarkable history, town pride, bustling downtown area. , various dining options, unique boutiques, family activities, outdoor recreation, lively arts scene, sense of community and unique cultural options.
“We are an all-volunteer organization that preserves and promotes Kirkwood’s long and rich history. We strive to be a source of community pride, ”said Gina Jaksetic, Chair of the Kirkwood Historical Society Board of Trustees.
“It’s remarkable what the first members did together. There aren’t many volunteer groups like this that have lasted this long and accomplished so much, ”she added.
These accomplishments include the publication of 235 “Kirkwood Historical Reviews” quarterly since the first published in March 1962, the publication of “A History of Kirkwood” by June Dahl in 1965, the hosting of the popular annual strawberry festival since June 1972 and purchasing two homes for the company’s head office and raising $ 300,000 for major home renovations.
The Kirkwood Historical Society is headquartered in Mudd’s Grove, a 162 year old house located in the heart of Kirkwood at 302 W. Argonne Drive. Purchased in 1992 for $ 195,000, it was listed on the St. Louis County National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Mudd’s Grove was featured as the Junior League of St. Louis Designer Showhouse in 1994, benefiting the Programs of Cardinal Glennon Children. The house and the grounds can be rented for special events of 50 to 100 people.
Mudd’s Grove is actually the second estate owned by the company. The original property, owned by the organization from 1972 to 1992, is located at 549 E. Argonne Drive and is currently home to Phyllis and Bill Ravensberg. Originally known as the ‘Lizzie McLagan House’, the Ravensberg House was inscribed on the List of Historic Places in 2002. When members of society used the property as a museum, it was called the ‘ House of History ”.
Visit Mudd’s Grove on June 12
While the COVID-19 restrictions have affected public celebrations the Kirkwood Historical Society may be planning, the group currently has at least two events scheduled.
Mudd’s Grove will be one of 25 homes featured in the annual Historic St. Louis sponsored home and garden tour on Saturday, June 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will feature live music and vendors such as the Honey Bees Food Truck, Cafe Teleo and Sugarcreek Gardens.
In December, the Kirkwood Historical Society will once again participate in the annual tour of Christmas History House, also sponsored by Historic St. Louis.
Clayton Caringer, a recent graduate of Kirkwood High School, who has volunteered at Mudd’s Grove for two years, is a volunteer guide who is expected to help with the June event, as well as other summer tours.
“As some of my family are from the Kirkwood area, I knew the history of Kirkwood. I decided to take the opportunity to learn more about the city and share it with others, ”said Caringer. “Additionally, I wrote articles for my high school newspaper, The Kirkwood Call, on the history of Kirkwood and the community in general.”
In an article, Caringer shared, “What many may not realize is the story Kirkwood holds inside the walls of some of its early buildings. From a world-renowned physicist to a prominent figure in the Missouri suffrage movement, Kirkwood Homes have served many important residents since its inception.
Caringer said he was happy to volunteer at Mudd’s Grove for another summer before heading to Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri to study accounting in the fall.
Book it at the library
The on-site Harlan Gould Library in Mudd’s Grove is a loan-free repository that offers an extensive collection of historical resources, including books, newspapers, periodicals, maps and publications.
The library is named after former government official, accountant and community volunteer Harlan Gould, who lived in Kirkwood from 1913 until his death in 1996 at the age of 92. Gould was the first president of the Kirkwood Historical Society.
Sadly, the company’s librarian for over 20 years, Susan Burkett, passed away earlier this year. She is remembered for her quick wit and ability to help preserve and uncover the history of Kirkwood. She received the Mudd Award for Outstanding Service to the Kirkwood Historical Society in 2007.
Mudd’s Grove Harlan Gould Library is generally open to the public Thursdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Due to the pandemic, however, it remains closed temporarily.
See the treasures of the museum hall
New exhibits and exhibits are typically presented at Mudd’s Grove throughout the conventional years. Each exhibition is offered for three to six months and covers a range of interests.
One of the most popular recent exhibits was the Wedding Dress Exhibition, showcasing wedding attire and accessories from the 1900s to the 1950s, according to Peggy Childress, director of the museum and curator of the board of trustees.
Childress said the current exhibit sheds light on artifacts from the life of Francis E. Nipher, a pioneering American physicist and professor at the University of Washington who organized the Missouri Weather Service in 1877. He died in 1926 afterwards having lived in Kirkwood for years. It is the namesake of Nipher Middle School on Kirkwood Road.
At Christmas, the annual exhibition features dozens of antique and fragile glass ornaments from several generations.
Before the pandemic, the museum was also open on Thursday and Sunday afternoons. It also remains closed for the moment.
The next 60 years
John Crowley, docent and public tours coordinator for the Kirkwood Historical Society, said interest in reservation-only tours is starting to return as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
He added that recent tours have been limited to five guests at a time and more tours are currently scheduled for July and September.
Kirkwood Historical Society president Jaksetic said board members are working on a plan to help the society catch up on engaging and retaining audiences over the next several years.
“We are delighted to open up to visitors, give people better access to our resources and take advantage of the facility and the yard for pleasant impacts on our community,” she said.
Board member Tom Whittaker also expressed his enthusiasm.
“I am proud to be on the board of such a talented and energetic group as we celebrate our 60th anniversary and chart our way forward,” said Whittaker, owner of Good Cause Strategies in Kirkwood.
“I am personally excited to grow our membership and help pass on our town’s rich past to our next generation of Kirkwood history buffs,” he added.
Kirkwood native Ron Krieger, 85, has been a member of the Kirkwood Historical Society for three decades. He said he liked to communicate about the city. In fact, he is the editor of the company’s quarterly newsletter, the Kirkwood Historical Review.
“I’ve never known anything other than Kirkwood when it comes to living in a community, but it’s a great community,” said Krieger, whose family operates OK Hatchery Feed & Garden Store, Inc. .
For more details on the organization and its events, as well as updates, visit KirkwoodHistoricalSociety.com.