History of the Mansion
The firm of Eckel and Mann designed and supervised the construction of this magnificent Queen Anne home in 1887, built for the brewer, August Nunning. Born in this country of German parentage, August Nunning immigrated with his family to St. Joseph in 1855, where they established one of the first breweries, which would become the second largest in the town. The house is sited at a curious location, unusual for such an imposing structure. It sits up a hill, facing a twenty-foot stone wall across the street, which diminishes its stature considerably. August Nunning, however, did not care about such things: The newly built home fitted his needs perfectly—he placed his house so that he could be in close
contact with his large brewery sprawling over the five-acre hillside site. Cut back deep into the hillside are the brick-vaulted storage cellars; one of which extends under the house where several of the ventilation shafts were incorporated into the construction of the house foundation. The house was the only building facing onto relatively quiet Jules Street,
surrounded by a still extant iron fence which no doubt afforded some privacy from the bustle of the busy brewery.
The two and one-half story brick home is an artful composition of a variety of materials in the eclectic manner of the Queen Anne style; brick, stone trim and caps, terra cotta and stamped metal. The façade is deceptively symmetrical and almost box-like in appearance with windows and doors regularly placed, a centered half-story dormer, and extending even to the porch with its centered gabled entry. The harmony, however, is fractured by the imposing addition of the marvelously detailed polygonal tower. It rises to full three stories with a steeply pitched roof and is topped by a striking metal finial, pulling the eye ever upward. But the tower is more than simply a large structure; it is also the focal point for the
playful art of the architect. Virtually no surface is left untouched. Rock-faced stone belt courses articulate the various horizontal planes, alternating with a decorative stamped metalbracketed cornice between the second and third story, and a series of tall red terra-cotta panels between the first and second story. The panels are deeply incised in a writhing floral motif and are some of the best to survive to the present in St. Joseph. Centered at the second-story level is a single terra-cotta panel into whose floral intricacies are worked the letter “N”. At the first story of the tower, the whole is sheathed in smooth dressed stone
with carved pilasters separating the window bays.
Beautiful, stained-glass transoms are found on all of the façade windows and on every window of the tower. Rising from the center of the façade is a tall, gabled wall dormer whose triangular tympanum is red terra cotta with swirling garlands deeply cut into the surface. In the center of the gable the date “1887” is artfully worked into the stylized floral
pattern. Over the years the gable had been repeatedly painted, obscuring the details with multiple layers of paint. The present owners have stripped the paint from all of the terra cotta, revealing the deep incising and astonishingly rich detail.
The interior is one of the finest to survive to the present in St. Joseph. A rich variety of woods were used to trim the front and back parlor, dining room, and the large entry foyer and stair hall: Oak, cherry, and in the front parlor, birds eye maple, a rare and unusual choice of wood. At the stair landing a large stained glass window titillates with images of Romeo
and Juliet in amorous embrace. The entry foyer and the dining room have polychrome English Staffordshire encaustic-tiled floors. Also in the dining room is a massive cherry sideboard and fireplace mantel in which the letters “AN” are worked into the intricate pattern. August Nunning wanted everyone to know who built the house and when!
August Nunning died in his house in 1909. The brewery did not survive the Prohibition movement and in 1932 most of the buildings were razed. The house suffered during these years, eventually becoming a Residential Care Facility for the disabled. The original porch was removed and the house painted green.
The Nunning House - Photos
The Nunning House
Built by August Nunning in 1887
Queen Anne Victorian
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