About This Site

Campbell House Museum

Welcome to Distilled History! If you know me, you know I’m a big fan of two things: history and drinking. Specifically, St. Louis history and specifically, drinking well-made cocktails.

I’m from upstate New York and I have lived in St. Louis for about twenty years. I’ve always enjoyed living in this town, but I never thought I’d be here long. Recently, I’ve started to realize that my stay in St. Louis is a bit more than temporary. I have a great little house in south city and I have a ton of great friends here. I’ll always consider myself an upstate New Yorker, but I’m comfortable here for now. I’ve also started to become really interested in the history of my new city. I have started reading books, articles, and blogs about the history of St. Louis and what life was like here over the past few hundred years. It’s turned into a great new hobby.

The history in St. Louis is deep and rich. It abounds with tales, monuments, and landmarks that rival the oldest and largest cities in America. The more I read, the more I realize much of the history of St. Louis is unknown, hidden, or even lost. I want to point some of this stuff out to my pals.

So I started heading out on my bike to find some of the places I was reading about. In January of 2012, I also started volunteering at the Campbell House Museum in downtown St. Louis. I’m still there today, and I am still amazed at how much I learn about St. Louis each time I walk through the Campbell front door.

As all of this came together, I started sending emails to friends and posting facts on social media describing the bits of history I was uncovering. To spruce it up, I started included little maps, pretty photos, and drawings of stuff I found. I was simply having fun, but the feedback was very positive. People suggested it could be a blog. And that’s how this whole thing started.

But I also decided my history hunts needed a bit of a twist. As I stated earlier, I love to make and drink cocktails. My favorite cocktail is the Manhattan, and I used to really struggle finding a well-made one in St. Louis (not so much anymore). But as I looked, I started wondering about the history of the drink. This lead me to researching other drinks like the Old Fashioned, the Sidecar, and the martini. Where did these drinks originate? How did they evolve? And most importantly, where can I get well-made versions of them in St. Louis?

Manhattan Cocktail

Wrap it all up, and that is what I’m doing here. I plan to scour St. Louis for its bits of history and post it here. And as I go after a topic, I plan to stop and get a drink or two. I hope to learn more about my drink and write about the places that serve them well.  I’ll invite friends to join me and add to the fun. I will certainly post about topics that are well-known, but my focus is the stuff that goes a bit under the radar. I want to find things that native St. Louisans may not even be aware of.

Please bear with me as I do this. I am no academic. I’ll eventually start citing sources and give credit where it’s due. I’ll try to mention how I got the idea or give credit to the people who pointed me in a certain direction. My guess is I have much to learn about all aspects of this endeavor.  I hope to simply get better as I go.

Update 2013:  Eight months after starting this blog, I’m proud to report that the Riverfront Times voted Distilled History as the “Best Personal Blog in St. Louis” at the 2013 RFT Web Awards. They also wrote a great article about this blog and how it came to be.  The article was printed in the January 23, 2013 issue that announced all of the 2013 RFT Web Award winners. Thanks RFT!

Update June 2016: More good news! Distilled History has landed me a book deal among other fun projects. A brief hiatus to concentrate on that project was required, but a regular post schedule will be returning soon.

Update March 2017: The book is done! Lost Treasures of St. Louis was released on April 1, 2017.

Update September 2018: I’m a co-author of the 3rd edition of St. Louis Brews: The History of Brewing in the Gateway City. It was released on August 1, 2018

Update October 2019:  Book #3! Scenes of Historic Wonder: St. Louis was released on October 15, 2019. This is also the most Distilled History-ish book to date.

Thanks and have fun reading Distilled History.


52 comments on “About This Site”

    1. I was recently given this picture of my Great Grandfathers tavern,Welkener’s place. He is the man in the doorway with the bow tie. William “Buc” Welkener. How can I obtain more information on his tavern? Can you recommend a research source that could help? Unfortunately my mother was a “late in life baby” and all relatives are deceased. Only cousins left who know very little, other than that was Grandpa’s place.

  1. I’m also a displaced New Yorker living in St. Louis for a while. I also like history and drinking. Can I come with one day?

      1. U going on Charlie Brennan’s Bellfountain Cemetery walk Friday? My partner Dr. Jim Schmittel was telling me about it.

  2. I am really enjoying your blog! I think I’m going to add these sites to my St. Louis bucket list! Your writing style flows well, and gives the reader the sense of being at these sites with you. You should write a book!


    1. Thanks so much for the nice feedback! It’s been really fun so far. I don’t know about a book… I have to master this blogging thing first!

  3. I’m totally making Roman Punch for my next party and maybe I’ll even have it at my wedding! YUM!! Nicely done, Cam!

  4. C,

    You have picked up a few readers in KC buddy as I am passing the good word on to my more scholarly friends…all 3 of them. This seems a truly worthy endeavor, please stick with! Good on you.

  5. I love your blog! I am a recent transplant to St. Louis, and have been enamoured by the history everywhere around me. Thanks for sharing your fascinating finds and I look forward to your updates!

  6. I am looking for pictures of the old times in America. I’m especially interested in black and white photographs of motor bikes and bikers. I came across your blog entry on the Thomas Kampland Collection. Since I’m looking for exactly those pictures in high resolution for poster printing I hope that you can help me. It seems like you contacted Mr Kempland directly. I don’t seem to find an Email address or any other way to contact him myself regarding the pictures. That is why I would like to ask you whether you can give me any contact details or connect me with Mr Kempland? I would be very grateful for that!

    greetings from berlin, germany

  7. Hi! Not sure if this is the best place to show this but seeing if you have any research or are planning to do anything about the Hyde Park Brewery. Looks like it was operated in north st. louis until the 40’s. I ask because there’s a new building in Tower Grove South on Morganford that says Hyde Park Beer on it. Sorry if you’ve already covered this, I did a search and didn’t find it on the site. Love the site!

  8. Hey there cousin! Lisa here in NY. Your Trek 470 reminds me a bit of my husband Brian’s old Trek:
    harmonias.com/bikes/ Hope you are enjoying riding around in this gorgeous Spring weather! 🙂

  9. I came across this website on FB and am extremely impressed! I am close to one of the former owners of the Beecher house, near Quarry Farm, and we’ve had numerous conversations on the history of those homes, as well as the Gleason sanitarium. Very interesting!

  10. Hi Cameron, Whoooooops. First comment was too long & I have tried to edit the article but cannot. I am retired from Lutheran pastoral ministry. Attended Concordia Seminary, St. Louis & graduated in 1973. I live in Durango, CO. Now, my mother’s family name is Roussin. Nicholas Roussin, a great how many times father (maternal side) of myself, lived in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri in 1778. May I share on my Facebook page the article that you wrote about Fort San Carlos on May 26, 1780 from your Blog – Distilled History. Your historical work is superb and Facebook’s programming will direct any reader on my page to your Blog – Distilled History. Suddenly, I am becoming excited about the 250th Anniversary of St. Louis. Please let me know if I can share your article about Fort San Carlos on my Facebook page. Best regards, Monte p.s. I am abstaining from mixed drinks, beer and wine for Lent. It is REALLY difficult to accomplish this spiritual task. Haaa

    1. Hello Mr. Guswelle, thanks for the nice note! Please feel free to share anything on fb. I do it all for fun, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Share away!

      1. Hi Cameron, Keep up the excellent historical work. Herzlichen Dank, Merci beaucoup & Gracias.

  11. This blog is awesome! As a native St. Louisan and fellow lover of history, may I say, please stay as long as you like and consider us your neighbors.

  12. Just found your blog after a search for “Pictorial St. Louis”. Love it. Lived in Kansas City for 25 years before my recent move to Raleigh NC.

    Keep the blog (and the cocktails!) flowing! Cheers!

  13. Sure enjoyed your St. Louis Cholera outbreak blog. Great tie-in of your 2 passions, well written and amazing that you came across Mersman’s diary. Thank you! If you need insight into public health and communicable disease in the future, let us know. My husband used to run the “CDC” of St. Louis County and is fascinated with how Public Health affects history and community development. He’d love to talk over any questions you might have.
    Hope you enjoy the Campbell House sketch Amy is bringing you.

    1. And thank you so much for the sketch! I look forward to getting it. Come down for a tour sometime. It would be nice to meet you in person.

  14. A visit to the Campbell House is on our list! We are newly retired and have quite a bit of site-seeing catching up to do in St. Louis! Hope to meet you some day. But for now it’s just nice to have had this exchange.
    All the best – Sue

  15. Love the blog. The history of St. Louis is pretty incredible. Keep up the great work!
    I would love to have you collaborate on a history of St. Louis project I’m working on!


  16. LIKE YOUR BLOG am hooked on St Louis history for 50 years . My copy of Compton and Dry falling apart .There should be monument to Compton & Dry . I suggest vacant lot that was brewery location

    1. Thanks for reading and the nice comment. I’m with you about Compton & Dry! And you should like the next post… it’s about Compton & Dry (again… but with a special twist)

  17. Hi! I’m researching the Myrtle St. Civil War prison, former Lynch Slave Pen. It seems there’s some confusion about the photo you posted of the Lynch Slave Pen with men in front. Another website indicates this photo was taken at an earlier location for the Lynch Slave Pen on Locust St. Can you look into this using your local resources and find out for sure, is it Myrtle St. or Locust St.?

    1. Hi and sorry for my delay in response. It’s been a while since I looked at this post and I had to go back and dig through some things. It looks like you are correct… on the Missouri History Museum’s site, the photo is described as being taken at the earlier Locust Street location. Thanks for catching my error! I’ll update the page as soon as possible.

  18. Loved the article in the PD about your book. I’m a St Louis native (60 y/o) now living in Texas, and some of those items were unknown to me. Some I had heard about from my parents/grandparents. I have a brother who is in his late 60s who may remember this stuff. It is on my Christmas list as a gift for him.
    I laughed out loud when you said people asked you about The Flaming Pit. It is where my husband and I had our rehearsal dinner! And it was after dinner at Noah’s Ark that he proposed.
    There are many things in STL that have disappeared over the years. Since the question “where’d you go to high school” is a STL staple, you might research all the high schools that have closed over the years. Or breweries…. My great grandfather came from Germany and worked at a brewery (name escapes me) and there were several small ones.
    I too enjoyed the blog about the water towers. Only one I had not seen. I was interested in their functions.

    1. Thank you so much! There actually is a school section in the book. I feature a few of them (Cleveland, McBride, etc), but I also have a full list of all of the schools that are now gone.

  19. I’m looking for specific information on a historical house my grandmother owned back in the 1940-1950 at 5106 South Broadway. As i recall, the original owner, a liquor distributor’s family was murdered in the house and no one wanted it because of the violent history. It was a three story red brick Victorian on about an acre with a carriage house in the back and a deck that overlooked the Mississippi and train tracks below.. I visited there on summer vacations. Do you know where I can access the information on this house and the murder story and if any pictures of it might be available? Just found this site. So interesting for researchers. Thank you for all your hard work.

  20. My grandmother told me my Grandfather had family named Schaffer, who owned a large restaurant in St Louis in the late Nineteenth Century. I now wonder if the name of the family was Schaiders. My grandfather was raised in Hermann, MO when it was a German community.

  21. It happened something like, ….. / Wikipedia.org / Wiki Flag of St. Louis / Source Reference #4 / “Our Flag is Better Than Yours” Cameron Collins @ Distilled History / JACKPOT! Haha.

    Cant wait to read through your archives. STL roots run deep. Thank you so much for showing folks (and myself) what that looks like.

  22. Hi, Just discovered your web site, looking for more information/ I am Richard W. hashagen, decendent of Richard W, Hashagen ( my Grandfather) who had four brothers and originally created Hashagen Park on South Grand, later it transitioned to _Priesters park.. Hashagen Park I understand had the motor dome, balloon races, trained the Army Air Force Balloon for ww1, Any information you could provide me Would be appreciated for my grand children. I am 78 years old. disabled US Air Force veteran (100%)

  23. This is the best blog on St. Louis history!! Had you ever considered investigating the cigar industry in St. Louis. My 2nd grand uncles had a cigar business on Stansbury Street in the 1880’s. I accessed the city directory of 1889 to discover there were many small cigar companies in the city. I always wandered why St. Louis had so many cigar businesses. Beer and cigars go so well together.

  24. Was searching for more history on downtown Chinatown/ “Hop Alley” and may have been a bit skeptical at first as I saw the image of the white man in the corner of the site. But your approach to highlight the humanity of the people from within the community rather than outside looking in and appreciating origin and cultures is probably what will keep me coming back to this site. Thanks for what you do and educating me!

  25. Love your blog! Recently found out that my 5th Great Grandpa, Joseph Taillon/Tayon, was one of the 30 founding fathers of St. Louis. He’s mentioned in books as being 49 when he pulled the boat up the Mississippi River banks. Also, he created the first flour mill and the Chouteau’s Pond map drawing you added was actually built by grandfather and at first was named Tayon’s Pond. 18th Street and bridge used to be named Tayon Ave and Tayon bridge. After finding out it was renamed, I was quite disappointed. I feel pretty honored to be a descendant from such rich history. You might want to check out Ft. Chartres someday. That’s where the 30 French men were located before traveling to St. Louis. Joseph Taillon/Tayon’s son, Don Carlos Tayon, my 4th Great Uncle, was the 2nd Commandant of St. Charles and was given 10k parcels of land for outstanding service in St. Louis, but he has something in common with you, he liked a few drinks. lol. While researching, I found some didn’t like his ego ways and drinking abilities, but I’m not sure if that’s why he was succeeded or if it’s because he denied Daniel Boone a land grant. Nonetheless, it’s good to know the info. Thanks again for the good read.

  26. I just recently stumbled onto your blog. What a delight.
    I have an Elmira – St. Louis story (c.1912), that will absolutely knock your socks off!
    We need to talk.

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