Making a Historic House a Home

Featured Sliders / Home Essentials / Stories / May 8, 2017

Historic and modernalthough they sound like opposites, those are a few ways to describe what Jim and Stephanie Biggs have created in their 1207 Moreau Drive home.

The couple purchased the property in the late ‘80s. They’ve savored the narrative the home brought with it, as well as added their own story along the way.

The white-washed, two-story brick home adorns dark green shutters and a wrought iron balcony. Built in 1938, the 3,800 square-foot dwelling was previously home to Missouri Governor John M. Dalton. After Dalton’s death, his wife, Geraldine, lived in the home until her passing.

This grand staircase is seen immediately upon entry through the front door.

The Biggs, who had their eyes on the home years before it was ever empty, became the next owners. They were able to snatch it up the day they — and upwards of 20 others — were scheduled to view it for the first time. The couple has enjoyed the unique quirks of owning a home with such a history. They lived in a motorhome in the driveway as they made a few changes before they first moved in so many years ago. They waited until after their twin boys were fully raised to make more; those updates were recently completed, but the Biggs stayed true to the history of the home.

As you enter the Biggs’ home, your eyes are immediately drawn to a grand spiral staircase. The spindles were covered with black paint when the couple first moved in but were immediately restored to show off their bronze details. A niche above the stairs includes glass blocking, a unique touch not often seen; the original light hangs above. Black and white-checkered tiles were replaced with marble flooring during the Biggs’ first renovation.

Jim and Stephanie Biggs’ living room features several pieces of re-upholstered chairs and couches.

A formal living room sits adjacent to the entryway, housing antiques paired with aubergine carpet and matching floor-to-ceiling curtains.

Winding around toward the back of the house is a bonus room, added on when the former governor took ownership of the home. They added the back room to better entertain their guests, as cocktails were not allowed in the governor’s mansion, Stephanie said. This room, perhaps more than any other, takes on the personality of its current owners. It’s vibrant, modern and comfortable. Large windows give it plenty of light, a view into the backyard and access to a newly added hot tub. The teak wood floors were refinished, bringing out its natural dark colors. An updated built-in bar area and modern bathroom can be found just to the right of the large living space.

Jim and Stephanie Biggs have remodeled several areas of their Moreau Drive home, including this sitting room. New windows let in plenty of natural light, and re-upholstered couches are comfortable to sit and read, or watch outside.

As visitors move from room to room, a sitting area is carved out with one large arched paneled window, nestled perfectly between two smaller windows.

“We added the half windows on the sides when we first moved in,” Stephanie said.

The couple also added the wood flooring in the sitting room to match the rest of the house. Loveseats truly make the small niche a sitting room. The historic pieces came from the governor’s mansion and were originally made with horse hair; they have since been reupholstered.

Continuing around the home, the kitchen includes an island and a breakfast nook, and is home to a unique brick fireplace, which the couple painted white. The kitchen connects to the formal dining room and then back to the foyer, coming full circle through the first floor of the home. Three bedrooms all with bathrooms can be found upstairs, along with a unique marble fireplace and built-in shuttered windows in the master.

The kitchen update features new countertops, flooring, sink and cabinet door hardware.

Anyone can see that the smallest of details highlight the age of this home – from the six-panel doors to the big brass door locks, large fireplaces commanding attention from passers-by and the wired maid’s button in the dining room floor. 

“We ring it, but no one comes, “ Jim joked.

There was an old clay tennis court grown over with grass behind the house – the stories are endless.

“As we tore down wallpaper we found signatures of the union workers on the walls,” Jim noted.

Although those details would be enough to make the home special, the Biggs’ have added their own details, such as crown molding, chair railings and door trim to make certain rooms more complete.

The formal dining room features a 12-top table with re-upholstered chairs a ceiling medallion and new windows.

The pieces placed throughout the home are in some cases just as unique as the walls that surround them. A collection of family heirlooms and antiques are proudly mixed in with modern fabrics, décor and furniture. A settee from the 1908 World’s Fair sits in the couple’s bedroom, a gift given to Stephanie from Jim when their twins were born. A piece painted by Stephanie’s great grandmother depicting Rebecca at the well covers most of a wall in the foyer. Other pieces were brought in last year after the passing of Stephanie’s father, Jack Steppelman. His 12-piece dining room set fits perfectly in the formal dining area. The chairs received upholstery updates to better match the colors and style of the Biggs home.

“It’s updated, modern, with family antiques and period pieces,” Stephanie said of her decorating choices.

A few practical updates were made this past year, including a new furnace, air conditioner, new windows and placing electrical underground.

“There’s always something to do, but it’s all worth it,” Jim said.

The brick home has more stories than could ever be put to paper. The east side neighborhood is where Stephanie grew up, and where her sister now lives just a few doors down. Although the structure had its own story years before the Biggs came along, it became their home the second they put their own stamp on it and watched their children grow up there.

“We could never move,” Stephanie said.

By Jessica Duren | Photos by Julie Smith

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