Jefferson County Mid-Century Modern

The Modern House in Stonebrook Forest

by Michael R. Allen

Stonebrook under construction in 1959. Photograph courtesy of Eva C. Kirkpatrick.

On January 14, 2011, Harris Armstrong’s Stonebrook (1959) was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This article is based on the author’s section of the nomination; Andrew Raimist contributed sections on Armstrong and his residential work not included here.

Near the tiny village of Antonia in Jefferson County, Missouri, just north of Highway M and hidden in the forested hills, is Stonebrook. This small house is an excellent, unique work designed by St. Louis architect Harris Armstrong but whose origin is equally due to naturalists Kemps and Eva Kirkpatrick. Armstrong (1899-1973), whose reputation as a master of Modern architecture is well-established nationally, designed the house for the Kirkpatricks after they purchased the Stonebrook Forest in order to protect its wooded wildflower preserve. Due to the compact size, limited budget and design economy, Stonebrook was a singular achievement for the master architect. Yet Stonebrook’s design principles are also found in Armstrong’s larger, more costly residential designs.

A National Register of Historic Places dedication event was held at Stonebook on October 9, 2011.

Overall, Stonebrook is a very simple wooden house evocative of rural Swiss and Swedish residences. The house departs from Armstrong’s documented body of Modern residential designs in size as well as extent of owner involvement in design and construction. The Kirkpatricks had purchased the land to protect Stonebrook Forest and needed to live on the property for financial reasons. Their limited budget of $20,000 was first rebuffed by the great architect but quickly seized as a challenge. Stonebrook shows the same deliberate attention to design and sensitivity to site as his larger residential designs.