the avanti group, Acclaimed architect’s midcentury modern ranch stands the test of time
Beth Kamm and her husband, Dr. William Kamm, appreciated the distinctive midcentury modern home at first sight and became its second owners in 1964. Architect Charles E. King had designed the sleek home in 1957; he had married Audrey Marsh and practiced in her hometown of Belleville. While the Kamms raised three children in the house, King gained fame over the decades. In 1991, Architectural Digest named him one of the “Top 100 Architects in America.” He finished his career in St. Louis and died here in 1993.
Nearly a half-century later, the Kamms still enjoy the brick ranch but are surprised that their home is drawing new attention. Recently, the Belleville Historical Society mounted a retrospective tribute to King’s work and held a tour of seven of his estimated 100 area homes. The Kamm house, built for Raymond Lippert, was featured, along with King’s original blueprints, passed from the Lipperts to the new owners.
Beth was pleased when 150 people toured. Visitors included King’s son, James, who came from Colorado for the event. “He had never seen it, and he really liked it. Everyone was very appreciative of the house. We’re really honored; nobody has ever paid much attention.”
According to the historical group, King practiced in Belleville from 1947 until 1961, when he and Marsh divorced. Then in 1967, he married St. Louisan Constance Goldman-Baer and they lived in Pennsylvania and Florida, moving to St. Louis in 1990. King died at the age of 73 in 1993 at his Central West End home. The Landmarks Association of St. Louis features King in its spring newsletter. Andrew Weil, executive director, said the group would like to host the King retrospective at its downtown gallery, possibly in late winter or early spring 2014.
Although the Kamms kept most of the original features, they made some important changes to accommodate their family of five. They enlarged the house from 2,300 to 3,800 square feet, with five bedrooms and three and a half baths. They added skylights to counter the dark brick and wood and took out several trees very close to the house.
Beth says, “It’s a lovely house; very well done, very livable. The laundry is on the main level. It has wonderful closets, including an original ‘walk-in’ in the master bedroom.” Bill appreciates the materials. “With a lot of brick and tile you don’t have to worry about kids’ fingerprints — and nothing eats it.” He said the original owner was a brick and building contractor so it made sense that King used brick inside and out. Bill admires the still-functioning radiant heating in the floor and the original boiler, though he added insulation and storm windows to improve energy efficiency. The home is well-integrated into a 3/4-acre site.
The couple favor an eclectic mix of traditional and vintage furnishings and soften the floors with large area rugs. They showcase their decades-long collection of art, including many landscapes and floral and family photos throughout. Beth, a retired teacher, is especially proud of her book collection, in custom cases in the family room, near the piano. “I love history, biography and nonfiction.” She also studies and reads French, philosophy, mysteries, the classics and cookbooks. Bill, a Navy veteran, prefers military books.
While strangers are admiring their architectural gem, Beth says simply, “It’s our family home.”