A Brief History of the Newman House


The beautiful edifice that now houses the Washington University Catholic Student Center at 6352 Forsyth in Clayton, Missouri, was originally built in 1910 as a private residence for George W. Taylor who was in the insurance business. The house was designed by Maritz & Young Architects and has many distinctive features - the legacy of European craftsmen who remained in St. Louis after the World’s Fair of 1904.

George Taylor married a lovely young woman named Ida Howe. Ida and her brother James Howe had been orphaned at an early age. They went to live with an uncle, A. H. Lewis, in Bolivar, Missouri. Eventually they moved to St. Louis where "Dr." Lewis, a pharmacist who used the title Doctor, developed a product called TUMS. After Ida and George were married, they invited "Papa" Lewis, as he was affectionately called, to live with them on Forsyth. Dr. Lewis and Ida’s brother, James Howe formed a company called Lewis-Howe to market the TUMS product. One of James Howe’s grandsons, William T. Dooley, has fond memories of visiting the house where a special treasure to him was a suit of armor in the front hall.

It was Ida Howe Taylor who filled the big home on Forsyth with warmth and treasures. With the help of a domestic staff, Mrs. Taylor made sure the house and grounds were kept in impeccable condition. George and Ida’s only daughter, Jane, who attended Mary Institute and John Burroughs, loved to have her friends come to visit. One of Jane’s best friends was Helen Thomas, whose daughter, Tamara Thomas, nostalgically remembers the many happy times spent at the house with "Aunt Jane." She writes "…at Christmas the house was filled with music from the grand piano in the stairway hall. The acoustics were incredible." Tamara was Jane’s Godchild and named her own daughter Jane Taylor Sowell.

Tamara also reminisces about the summers she used to spend with Aunt Jane. After playing in the well-tended gardens, they would go in, select a Classic story from the voluminous library and read on the window seat at the top of the stairs which overlooked the Washington University Campus. Dinner was the "big event" of the day at which Ida Taylor presided with great relish. One of the neighbors on the block was the family of actor Vincent Price.

After Ida Taylor died, Jane and her husband, Eugene Blumeyer, who had no children, continued to live in the house. Jane died in 1958 and is buried in Calvary Cemetery with her parents. The Taylor ownership of the property ended when it was purchased by Elmer J. & Susan Steger from whom it was later acquired to be used as the Newman Center for the students at Washington University by Monsignor Gerard Glynn.

Monsignor Glynn had become Chaplain for the Washington University Newman Community in 1950. It was he, along with a group of patrons, who were extremely instrumental in acquiring and developing the facilities at 6352 Forsyth as the Center for Catholic Students of the University. A house at 221 S. Skinker was owned prior to the Forsyth acquisition.

In 1964 construction was completed on a wing adjoining the southwest corner of the residence. This wing extended over the spacious gardens, some of which remain on the south side of the present chapel. Within the new addition are offices, a conference room, a library, two large meeting spaces and a chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart. On the wall of the Chapel is a mural by Edward Boccia. Many of the rooms are dedicated to generous benefactors.

Monsignor Glynn continued his Newman ministry there until 1989 and was briefly replaced by Father Larch Fiedler. Since 1991 Father Gary Braun has been the director of the vibrant, active community.

As Tamara Thomas writes of 6352 Forsyth, "it was and always has been a very special house. Being a Catholic, I was so thrilled … that it was now the Catholic Student Center. Aunt Jane was a very caring loving woman and having the house available to so many young people would make her very happy!"

* Note: James Howe had three children - James Howe, Jr., Nelson Howe, and Cornelia Howe Dooley (Mrs. William).

The Lewis-Howe Company which manufactured TUMS was eventually sold by the family and became a subsidiary of a larger drug firm.

Various bits of information above were furnished by some of those named therein and we thank them for their contributions.

Mary Ann Stohr
October 21, 1996