The historic core of St. Joseph is a community characterized by its neighborhoods. Each of the historic neighborhoods has its own personality. Some are tight knit, others not as much. Some are on the National Register of Historic Places. What they all have in common is a fierce pride in the historic nature of their properties and streetscapes. Several of the historic neighborhoods have active neighborhood associations.
Museum Hill is listed on the National Register as a historic district and it is also a Local Historic district. This primarily residential area is comprised of 248 contributing structures and was developed between c. 1860 and 1942. There is a wide range of architectural styles to be found on the Hill and some of the most stunning residential and ecclesiastical buildings in the city.
Among the notable structures in the district are:
- The Wyeth Tootle Mansion at 1100 Charles is a part of the St. Joseph Museums Inc. and is open on Friday and Saturday. Visitors can get a sense of what the home was like when William Wyeth had E.J. Eckel build him a “castle on the hill” in 1879. On the upper floors of the mansion are exhibits featuring elements of St. Joseph history.
- The Dome, 1201 Felix Street, is the former First Church of Christ Scientist. It was the most expensive church built in St. Joseph and is now open as an events venue.
- At 1423 Francis St. is the Edward Hamilton House. This house is truly unique built around 1851 as an octagonal house it was modified into one of the few Second Empire style residences in 1876. Further addition of the craftsman style sun rooms happened in 1912.
- The Nunning House at 1401 Jules Street was built by the beer baron August Nunning in 1887. Its interior is stunning and remarkably intact given its hard use for most of the 20th century as an apartment and nursing home.
- The Otto Quentin House at 1102 Edmond Street was built in 1906. This charming two-story brick house exhibits elements of the Queen Anne and Craftsman styles.
A walk around Museum Hill quickly brings to light the lifestyle diversity of the different socio-economic groups in St. Joseph at the turn of the 20th century. This neighborhood has stunning grand mansions and small working class homes. There are brick sidewalks throughout the district that add to the ambiance.
Old Town North
This relatively new neighborhood association encompasses the Hall Street Local Historic District and the Cathedral Hill National Historic District. This neighborhood has a wide array of properties ranging from the immaculately kept Gilded Age Mansions along historic Hall Street to the distressed historic working-class homes on Cathedral Hill. Walking the sidewalks in this neighborhood you get a real feel for life in the city in the last decades of the 19th century on all social levels. The district has several intact brick streets.
Among the most notable buildings in the neighborhood are:
- Ogden Mansion, better known as the Shakespeare Chateau at 809 Hall Street. This wonderful Chateauesque mansion was built by Nathan Ogden in 1885. As stunning as the exterior is, it is overshadowed by the interior which features more than 40 stained glass windows, elaborate woodwork (including spectacular dragons flanking the main staircase), and luxurious Zubert wall paper. The Shakespeare Chateau is currently a bed and breakfast and is the perfect homebase for exploring the historic heart of St. Joseph.
- Robison House at 631 Hall Street. This fanciful house with its decorative finials and other flourishes is a standout on a street that is lined with mansions to take your breath away. Built in 1888 for hardware magnate James Robison, this is one of the most extraordinary of the properties designed by noted local architect E.J. Eckel.
- Cathedral of St. Joseph, 519 North 10th Street, stands at the heart of the district named for it. Not surprisingly, given the name of the city, St. Joseph has a deep connection to the Catholic Church. The current Cathedral building was built in 1877 and has been substantially altered over the years making it a good example of how a building can change over time and still retain its importance to the community.
- T.W. Harl House at 514 North 10th Street is a preservation success story. This lovely home was on the Most Endangered list in 2005, but it is testament to the power of the Save Our Heritage Grant.
- Mt. Mora Cemetery is the oldest operating cemetery in St. Joseph. Established in 185, it was long the final resting place for many of the city’s most important and colorful citizens. Perhaps most famous for Mausoleum Row, Mt. Mora’s evocative atmosphere rewards a leisurely walk around the grounds.
Portions of this district are currently undergoing revitalization due to the Imagine Cathedral Hill 2040 Initiative.