Anyone who is anyone that grew up in the south St. Louis area, and maybe even beyond, knows the legend that Sunset Country Club was founded by Adolphus Busch and Eberhard Anheuser. They first purchased land for the Sunset Inn in 1910 and the Sunset Inn opened in 1911.
Word is that it was because the St. Louis clubs wouldn’t allow them membership that the pair started a resort. Ask anyone. Whether it was because they were beer brewers, German or new money—there were unspoken reasons.
Sunset Country Club turned 100 years old with a centennial celebration last year and the publication of a beautiful hard-bound book to commemorate the anniversary.
My family, descendents of Wilhelm von Einem of Germany, (anglicized name of William vonEime) have the claim to fame that the country club is built on property that was once their farm—possibly vineyards—of great-great- grandfather vonEime. Indeed, it was 1911 when William and Katherine vonEime retired from farming and moved to what was considered the more fashionable area of Meachem Park, now Kirkwood.
According to the Sunset Country Club website: “In 1918 Sunset was so far out in the country that it had to be self-contained.”
When Sunset Inn opened, the old vonEime house was used as a dormitory for the female wait staff. The men were of course housed across the street. Rumor has it that the German hausfrau would use gunfire to scare away men trying to meet the women who lived there.
According to author Jim Healey, golf historian and author of the centennial book Sunset Country Club — St. Louis 1910 – 2010 the club was formed by August Busch Sr., and Eberhard Anheuser in 1911. It was Jesse Carlton, formerly with Glen Echo, who urged them on, and the golf course began in 1916 and opened in the summer of1917.
During the temperance and anti-saloon movements of the late 1800’s and turn of the century, the author admits, Adolphus Busch wanted to market the Sunset Inn to foster an upscale positioning of beer, creating an elegant environment to drink beer and wine, his personal favorite.
According to the Sunset Country Club website’s history:
“In 1910 Adolphus Busch decided Saint Louis needed a social club in south St. Louis County. He wanted a hilly, undeveloped, wooded site that would permit privacy and an opportunity to share in nature's beauty, and one that would serve Anheuser-Busch products exclusively.
There are those who say Busch and other beer barons, such as Lemp, Griesedieck and others, chose what is now the Sunset Hills area because they were looking to recreate their native Rhine River Valley in Germany—hilly and wooded.
“At its peak, Sunset Inn had over 1,800 members,” author Healey said.
About the legend of St. Louis club membership, Healey clarified that it was Adolphus who purchased the property for the Sunset Inn in 1910. His son August Busch, Sr., was nominated to the St. Louis Country Club in 1912. However, there was never a vote on the nomination. Thus the mystery lives on.
What is today the Sunset Country Club had been farms owned by vonEime, property bought from Conrad Wheat Jr., Gabriel Cerre (son-in-law of Auguste Chouteau, founder of St.Louis, and of salt mine and Meramec River ferry fame), Maning Mayfield, Charles Weber, the John Sappington family, and Mary N. Long.
“When Marie Busch and Drummond Jones married, their first home was the old Von Eime log home, which later served as the women's dormitory, when 'Drummie' built the big house,” according to the history books.
As far as the Sunset Country Club golf course goes, the eighth and ninth holes sit on former vonEime farmland, which were likely vineyards. In the 1950s, the course was reconfigured and holes reversed. The games continue today on the prettily manicured course.
Happy 101st anniversary to the Club.