- About Benton Park
The Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion, built in 1848 in the historic Benton Park neighborhood and one of the few remaining examples of Greek Revival architecture in St. Louis, provides an in-depth glimpse into the lives of two French families. The house museum is unique among St. Louis' historic homes in terms of breadth of events with which it is intimately linked, from the earliest years of the trans-Mississippian fur trade to the relationship between French-American and native Americans to the development of St. Louis into a great Midwestern city and the excitement of the 1904 Worlds Fair.
Final tour given 1 hour before closing.
Closed in January
Adults - $4.00
Children - $1.00
Group Rates available
Open Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Open Tuesday - Saturday 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
To arrange for Parties, Reception or Weddings - call 771-5829
All income derived from the Mansion, DeMenil Restaurant, and the Museum Shop are used to maintain and develop this Historic landmark.
We invite you to join the Chatillon-DeMenil House Foundation at one the following levels:
$40 - Associate
$75 - Family
$100 - Madame Chouteau Associate
$500 - Henri Chatillon Associate
$1,000 - Nicolas N. DeMenil Society gift
The construction of the house spans two building programs undertaken by families of very different styles of living, yet each reflecting significant aspects of St. Louis' French cultural heritage. Henri Chatillon (18 13- 1873)and his second wife Odile Delor Lux (1 8 10- 1888) completed the earliest portion circa 1850: a two-story brick house, now comprising the southwestern section of the building. A guide and hunter for the American Fur Company (St. Louis), Chatillon was immortalized in The Oregon Trail by historian Francis Parkrnan (1 823- 1893), a Harvard educated Bostonian. The book chronicled the western expedition the two men made together in 1846 during which Chatillon proved a valued companion and able guide fluent in Sioux Indian languages, French and English. Parkman gained intimate knowledge of Native Americans through the family of his guide's first wife, Bear Robe (died 1846), the daughter of Bull Bear, a prominent Oglala Sioux chief. This house is the only extant property directly associated with the life of Henri Chatillon.
The Chatillons sold their house in 1856 to Dr. Nicolas Nicolas DeMenil (1 812-1882), a physician and pharmacist born and trained in France. DeMenil came to St. Louis in 1834; two years later he married Emelie Sophie Chouteau (1 8 13- 1874), a descendant of St. Louis' founding family. The DeMenils used the Chatillon property as a summer retreat for a few years before making it their permanent residence in 1863. Beginning that year, the DeMenils enveloped the Chatillon house with the addition of the imposing Greek Revival east facade and adjoining rooms.
Following the deaths of his parents, Alexander Nicolas DeMenil (1 849- 1928) continued toreside in the house to the end of his life. Alexander pursued an active public life as a lawyer, city councilman, businessman, civic leader and author. A prolific contributor to journals, Alexander devoted much of his life to study. His French heritage and cultural interests gained him a Directorship at the 1904 World's Fair, where he oversaw the French exhibit. The third generation of the DeMenil family also grew up in the home: Henry Nicolas (1 879- 1924), the child from Alexander's marriage to Lillian Rober (1857-1937), and George Shelley (1890-1957), the son from his marriage to Bessie Bacon (1855-1935).
DeMenil heirs retained title to the house until 1945 when they sold to entrepreneur Lee Hess, who capitalized on the natural system of caves underlying the DeMenil property. Hess developed a popular tourist attraction, Cherokee Cave Museum, open from 1950 to the early 1960s when the path of Interstate 55 forced the closure of the caves and threatened demolition of the DeMenil house. Intervention from the newly organized Landmarks Association of St. Louis rescued the house through Union Electric's gift of the $40,000 purchase price. Restoration work began in 1964; formal dedication took place in May, 1965 when the house was turned over to the Chatillon-DeMenil House Foundation.
Architecturally, the house today largely retains its appearance chiefly from its years of occupation by the DeMenils. All of the ceiling medallions and marble mantelpieces, as well as the parquet floor and chandelier in the foyer, are original to the house. Most of the furniture, including original pieces belonging to the DeMenil and Chouteau families, dates from circa 1820 to 1880. Wallpaper, draperies, and carpets throughout the house are are reproductions of authentic nineteenth century designs.