The front porch represents the ideal community in America. It's a picturesque, quintessential structure that has brought families and neighbors together for generations. The front porches in our community are an iconic design element of both century-old homes and elaborate new construction.
On the 60th anniversary of the Kirkwood Historical Society, Board Members Deb Hill-Jablonski, and Tom Whittaker along with President Gina Jaksetic, gathered to reflect on the past, present, and future of the organization, and the breezy and beautiful front porch that wraps around the historic Mudd's Grove mansion.
The beautiful Mudd’s Grove house, which began construction before the Civil War, sits on the corner of West Argonne and South Harrison Avenue and makes an impressive statement about the city of Kirkwood and the value we place on our history.
"The front porch is a wonderful focal point," notes Tom. The open space, the wooden floors, and the rocking chairs evoke the feeling of a warm welcome to anyone who walks up the steps. "Whether it's a home tour, a wedding, a concert, or a private event, we want to provide an inviting place for families and friends to gather as an entry point to exploring all that the Society has to offer,” he said.
"As would be expected for a century-old house, our historic front porch needs repair," stated Gina. Estimated porch repairs are around $150,000. Since the Kirkwood Historical Society is entirely independent of the City of Kirkwood government, the Society has established a Go Fund Me page for their Porch Project. They are also pursuing grant opportunities.
"We need this house to stick around so that the collective past has a strong foundation to build a great future,” she said. “Raising funds for the porch project is just one example of what is required to maintain this historic gem."
What does the future hold for a new front porch? “It serves as the front door to new opportunities, said Deb. She wants Kirkwood residents to view Mudd’s Grove as their house where they can gather with friends and to celebrate our town’s storied history in fun and creative ways. "I envision hosting cocktail parties on the porch for people before seeing a performance at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center. Maybe we can even shuttle them down there," she said with a smile. Porch concerts are another great way for bringing people together on our beautiful front lawn. "There are all sorts of things we can do to make the front porch at Mudd’s Grove come alive as a gathering place. Our goal is to make Mudd's Grove feel both historic and current."
People move to Kirkwood for many different reasons, but our city's historic look and feel certainly makes an undeniable impact.
Clayton Caringer's family moved to Kirkwood when he was 10 years old. "In high school, Clayton would spend time in our library looking at old maps, researching his favorite Kirkwood homes, and studying the stories of the families who lived there," stated Deb. Clayton became Mudd's Gove's youngest Docent.
Six-year-old Brice Butler is the Society’s youngest donor. "Brice loves Mudd’s Grove," said Deb. "Instead of presents for his sixth birthday, Brice made a donation box in the shape of a house and collected donations for the front porch."
"Mudd's Grove is the cornerstone of our organization. It is a repository of artifacts and documents," said Gina. "But the Kirkwood Historical Society is so much more than that. Mudd's Grove is a place where families, kids, and people of all ages can feel connected to each other and the community. We want to help foster what history means outside the walls of Mudd's Grove."
"The Kirkwood Historical Society is not just about looking back," Tom added. "We are driven by our mission statement; to preserve the history of the Kirkwood area and retain the organization's relevance to the present and the future. We want to use what we have learned from the past to help inform where we are today and what that means for the future."
Deb commented, "We really do make history every day."
Want to make history and be a part of Kirkwood's future? Start by taking a private tour of the house. "Tours are by appointment only. That way, your tour is completely personalized regardless of the size of your group," said Deb.
Round up some neighbors, kids included, and attend an event like the upcoming Historic Saint Louis holiday home tour on Saturday, December 4, 2021, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
And, of course, we hope you and your family will consider donating to the Porch Project and becoming a member of Kirkwood Historical Society.
"The lifestyle we enjoy in Kirkwood today could never have existed without all of the things that happened 150 years ago," stated Deb Hill-Jablonski. "There are other cities founded around the same time as Kirkwood, but very few of them have retained their charming historic feel."
Kirkwood has a front porch feeling you can't deny.
More can be found on the Kirkwood Historical Society's website at www.kirkwoodhistoricalsociety.com. Follow them on Facebook @kirkwoodhistory, on Instagram @Kirkwoodmohistory, and on Twitter @kwdhissoc