Math Class or History Lesson? Historic House Has Stories to Tell

Numerology and architecture create harmonic convergence in Sunset Hills.

Last week, we experienced one of those rare St. Louis mornings in the mid-80s, very low humidity: a good heat index, mild with a chance of numerology. I was sitting on the front porch of a historic home at 1 Fairway in Sunset Hills.

No longer using that address, the owner tried to tell me about his historic home called “The House of the Setting Sun.”  

“This house tells its story all by itself,” said owner Lou Murray, who lives in Kirkwood on property previously owned by the Lemp Family.

By the time our two-hour visit was up, my head was cloudy with numbers and symbolism.

High school math came to mind. Visions of Mr. Crandell’s geometry class, triangles, squares, circles, even the Pythagorean Theorem. Lou Murray gave me a house tour that was similar to an algebra class rather than a history lesson. (Mr. Crandell would be proud that I remembered that mathematician, Pythagorus, really liked right triangles. Besides getting kicked out of Mr. Crandell’s trig class, I was remembered Quadratic equations, diameters, radii, etc.)

Back on New Year’s Eve, Lou Murray and I had had an appointment for a historic house tour. This week’s meeting with Lou was a far cry from the tornado of that historic day that deterred our first attempt at a house tour.

Anyone living in Sunset Hills will remember that was the day when the sirens blew the tornado warning. On the drive to the house tour, I was faced with flashing lights and a road closure on Lindbegh Boulevard at Court Avenue, just near Sunset Hills City Hall.

The rest is history, as they say, and in the pouring rain, I witnessed first hand what Mother Nature had wrought to our town. That tornado put Sunset Hills on the map and on the national news: the destruction of 21 homes, and the first tornado to touch down in Sunset Hills’ history.

That said, it was on this lovely summer morning that Murray finally showed me around the home that was called 1 Fairway in the Sunset Club Court in the 1920s. It has survived more than 85 years and has a history that includes the Sappington family, the Mauro’s and according to Murray, the Busch family, Frank Lloyd Wright and even my own vonEime family.

The deeds and 1909 property records Murray found show that my great-great-grandmother “Katherine vonEime, widow of William, bought lot #1018.” The entry next to her name says, “entered in error,” but this is where Murray believes that “we” were neighbors back at the turn of the century.

Murray’s home was built in the 1923-1924 era and was not registered with the St. Louis County until 1927. He claims that a chauffeur of the Busch family remembers it being built during the winter of 1923 – 1924. Neighbors would have been few and far between in the 1920s.

He maintains that Frank Lloyd Wright was the builder of the home, and that there are many signs to point in that direction. He refers to a quote by FLW that states, “every piece is important” and he “needed work not honors.” He sites many connections to the Unitarians, the Masons, the German beer barons and begins touting numbers to connect the dots and the clues.

Murray knows that the home is an “American Four Square” home, and showed me the equi-distances of the walls, the lot lines and the squares within the home. 

The symbolism is in the numerology: there are seven rooms and seven doors in the hallway with seven red square tiles in the entry threshold. But it doesn’t stop there.

The house is 674 feet above sea level. The tiles on the front porch, representing the Big Bang Theory, contain 674 rocks. They are in a four-square pattern with each side bordered by six, seven and four tiles respectively, denoting the altitude.

Just outside the front door, the four squares in the green marble tile make up a Latin cross. The door includes a 30-inch window, that if lined up perfectly to the square on the porch, would produce the great symbol of harmony, which is a circle inside a square.

Harmony sounds really good right about now. Maybe the numbers will stop floating around in my head…like the sailing ship without a captain. 




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