University City is known for its eclectic array of urban amenities and dense neighborhoods. With all of the premier restaurants, chic clothing stores and unique communities that define the area today, it’s easy to forget that this town used to be farmland. But there is a small reminder of U City’s rural past in the Olive Link at 6826 Chamberlain Court: the Sutter-Meyer Farmhouse.
The story of the Sutter-Meyer Farmhouse begins with John Sutter, a German immigrant who came to St. Louis in 1831. Sutter purchased 120 acres of land just north of where Olive Boulevard is today, and on it he operated a dairy farm. Sutter sold his product downtown at a depot that he co-owned with Lucien Cabanne, the owner of a dairy farm located where the Central West End is today. After Sutter died in 1867, the executors of his will divided his 120 acres among his children and his widow. His second eldest son, William, inherited 8.33 acres, on which he built a brick farmhouse in 1873. University City founder E.G. Lewis was just four years old at the time the house was built. William lived in the house for only two years before he sold it to Roman Meyer, a young German immigrant.
Meyer’s use of the land surrounding the house was much more modest than the enterprise of the Sutter dairy farm, as his only livestock were a plow horse and some chickens that lived in a coop behind the house. Nevertheless, he was able to earn a comfortable living farming fruits and vegetables, which he sold in the city. Meyer died in 1913, and the house was left to his son, Edward E. Meyer, who would live there until he died in 1969.
Despite the departure of the Sutters and the Meyers, the farmhouse endured and became known as the oldest building in University City. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and designated an official University City landmark in 1986. In 2006 the Sutter-Meyer Society formed and worked to preserve and promote the house as an important piece of University City’s history, and in 2011 they opened the house to the public as a community museum. Within the museum are several odds and ends from the past, including buttons, dishware and toys. Several of these items were discovered in a limestone-lined well that was uncovered just outside the house during a dig by the Mound City Archeological Society in 2004.
Just as its surroundings have evolved from rural to urban, the Sutter-Meyer Farmhouse has grown and changed through additions and renovations. A bathroom was added to the interior of the home in the 1930s, replacing the outhouse that once stood in the yard. Coinciding with the beginning of the automobile boom of the post-World War II years, a garage was added in the 1950s. In more recent years, the house has had interior changes such as repainted walls and replaced floors. In fact, the kitchen floor was recently replaced with a recycled gym floor donated by the Parkway School District.
In spite of all of these changes, the Sutter-Meyer Farmhouse has been an ever-present historic treasure throughout Olive Boulevard’s metamorphosis into the diverse, up-and-coming Olive Link. Under the ownership of the City of University City and under the care of the Sutter-Meyer Society, there’s no doubt that the house will be around to educate residents and visitors about U City history for years to come. Touring the Sutter-Meyer Farmhouse is free for all ages. Dates and times for tours are listed on the Sutter-Meyer Society’s website.
6826 Chamberlain Court
University City, MO 63130