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River Craig Mansion offers a glimpse into Wildwood’s history

By: Kate Uptergrove

river craig nowHigh on a bluff in Wildwood, near its border with Eureka, sits the country house of John James Broderick. Known as the River Craig Mansion, it was built in 1880 by Augustus Alexander and overlooks the Meramec River Valley – a towering three-story Victorian complete with a turret and a widow’s walk.

“It’s odd today to think of Eureka as the country,” said the home’s current owner, Dana Dames.

But back in the days of travel by train and carriage, that is exactly what Eureka was – untamed country. High upon the bluff, the River Craig Mansion had spectacular views of all that land and of gorgeous sunsets.

“It still does,” Dames said. “The house overlooks Pevely Farms and Aberdeen golf clubs as well as the Meramec River Valley.”

Dames said the view is one of her favorite features of the home along with the original brick pavers in the kitchen, the pecan wood floors throughout the first floor and the widow’s walk. The view from the widow’s walk is spectacular, Dames said.

In its day, the grand old home also featured a stairway, hand-built by Broderick, that led straight down the face of the river bluff. According to a 1946 newspaper article, the stairway “boasted 385 steps with 52 breathtaking platforms interspersed at regular intervals.” At the bottom of the stairs, Terrace Station awaited. This private log-built railroad station was used by Broderick and guests to commute to and from St. Louis on the Missouri Pacific Railroad.

Sadly, neither the railway station nor the precipitous stairs still stand, nor does the turret that so clearly marked the house as a Victorian beauty.

“A fire destroyed the turret,” explained Dames, though she wasn’t exactly sure when the fire took place.

She did know that sometime after the fire a wrap-around porch was added to the home, giving it more of a plantation feel.

River craig thenWhen Dames and her husband, Brian, moved into the home eight years ago they discovered documents containing much of the home’s history. Since that time, Dames has collected that information into a book. The Broderick family also has a website (broderickandbascom.com) that offers a glimpse of the home’s past and the lives of its first owners. And, on April 22, from 3-7 p.m., Janet Zerler of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services/Alliance Real Estate, will host an open house at the property, located at 22 Thornhill Drive in Wildwood.

Those who attend can ask questions about the history of the home and view the book that Dames has compiled, which she says will stay with the home.

The history has been passed along from owner to owner, Dames said.

One thing the home does not have is ghosts, though Dames said an early newspaper article was headlined, “Nothing but ghosts at River Craig Mansion.”

“I told my husband I would not live in a home with ghosts, but the article was actually just referring to the fact that the home had sat vacant for a number of years.”

Dames describes the residence today as “homey” and “a great place to entertain.” Broderick must have thought so too as illustrated by the photos Dames has in her book.

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