The A.J. Stephens House was built about 1908 by Andrew Jackson Stephens, a Chariton building contractor, and Edward Stephens, his eldest son. This house was the family home until 1919, when Stephens sold it and moved to a farm near Chariton. In 1923, he moved to Des Moines and later to Oklahoma After the family left, the home was owned and occupied by several families and in the 1950s, turned into apartments.
The building, placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 17, 1987, is unique primarily for the material used to build it --- concrete blocks with a surface rusticated to resemble stone that were formed on site in molds that Stephens made. Concrete blocks, including rusticated ones, were commonly used for foundations at the time, but infrequently for entire buildings. Chariton’s First Presbyterian Church is constructed of the same material.
Concrete blocks were combined with blonde brick for trim in the Stephens House to create the overall impression of a stone building. Extensions --- three window bays and a bay on the front staircase landing --- are of frame construction.
|Guests would have entered the Stephens House through the front hall, viewed here through the front parlor doorway.|
The house has been described as American vernacular to which a somewhat surprising two-story classical portico has been appended. There is no truth whatsoever to the old story that Andrew Jackson Stephens designed the house to resemble the Hermitage, home of his namesake, President Andrew Jackson. The houses are not at all alike. When built, there were few houses in this neighborhood and many open fields and pastures.
|A view of the front parlor taken through the doorway separating it from the back parlor. The light fixture is not original although the fireplace apparently is.|
|A columned double doorway in the west wall of the front parlor leads into the back parlor.|
|Here's another view of the back parlor, taken looking north through pocket doors from the dining room.|
Pocket doors in the south wall of the back parlor separate it from the paneled dining room with large south-facing bay window and built-in sideboard.
To the west, a pantry and kitchen stretch across the west end of the house. Back stairs connect the kitchen with the upstairs hall. A large one-story extension includes a back entrance and unusually spacious staircase to the basement.
Upstairs, a small bedroom (now called the girls’ room) is located over the entrance hall and two large rooms, divided by pocket doors, over the front and back parlors. A small bedroom in the northwest corner of the house (now called the boys’ room) may be entered either from the center hall or the middle room, now treated as a sewing room.
What is called the master bedroom is located over the dining room, facing south, and it opens into a large dressing room with built-in storage units and a large closet adjacent. The bathroom remains in its original location at the west end of the upstairs hall, although some of the fixtures are replacements.
The house along with with 3½ acres were purchased by the Lucas County Historical Society in 1966 for $10,500. Plaques were sold to be on the exhibit for $50 each as part of the fund-raising effort. The house was repaired, restored and redecorated and on Sept. 19, 1968, a formal open house was held. There were 2,326 items in the collection by then, all house in the Stephens House. Today, more than 40,000 artifacts are displayed in six buildings.