By Jim Winnerman Special for post-shipment
Known as the “House at Noser Mill”, the beautiful four-story house is an imposing structure with an intriguing history. Nestled in a hilly landscape about an hour west of St. Louis in Franklin County, it dates back to 1850 when it was built with local yellow limestone by German immigrant Dietrich Voss. He also owned Noser Mill on the opposite bank of the Bourbeuse River.
The Flour and Lumber Mill, a five-story stone structure, was destroyed by fire in 2000. (A 190-foot covered bridge built in 1880 to reach the mill was demolished shortly thereafter.)
The residence remains a remembrance of what was once a bustling commercial enterprise until 1920. “We just want people to know that this house and a piece of Missouri history is here, and that we continue to maintain the integrity of the house,” says Jennifer. Aldridge who bought the house in 2015, just before meeting his partner, Andy Hagedorn. “There have been no additions other than what is necessary for comfort.”
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“When I was looking for a stone house and saw this place, it was an ‘OMG’ moment,” Aldridge recalled. “I knew I had to have it.”
There have been over 20 owners of the house, but until the late 1960s it lacked heating and air conditioning or indoor plumbing. “Fortunately, all owners have retained its integrity,” says Aldridge.
For a large four-story house, the layout is remarkably simple. The kitchen has always been on the lower level. Until about the mid-1950s when a staircase was added, the only access to the main level was to step out and up steps onto a back porch.
“We think the original owners in 1850 didn’t have to cook themselves and all meals were delivered upstairs,” says Aldridge. “There is also a limestone summer kitchen and adjacent smoking room.”
The two middle stories of the house are each 1,100 square feet, separated in the center by a staircase and a wide 10-foot hallway that opens to two south-facing double-gallery porches running the full length of the house along the back. The ground floor includes the dining room and the living room while two bedrooms are on the third floor.
“Neighbors tell us the only other similar house in the area is Daniel Boone’s stone house in Defiance, and the two are nearly identical,” says Aldridge.
A number of original features remain. Most impressive are the 10-foot-wide stone fireplaces in each room, surrounded by their original wooden mantels, each featuring a curved brick arch above the firebox. The windows and window frames date from 1850, as do the exterior doors and the wooden plank floor.
Some newer cabinets were made by Kojack Cabinets and Furniture of Beauford, Missouri to match the original kitchen cabinets.
Aldridge loved antiques long before he owned the house and decorated each room with vintage decor in keeping with the 1800s era, including antique dressers and lighting reminiscent of the era. The artwork is a profusion of old prints and paintings, each in an antique frame. Interspersed with paintings of Aldridge’s cousins and a tapestry of his mother.
Whenever they can, the couple work on the house themselves, painting the walls and porches and refinishing the original wood floors. They even made the dining room table out of wood found in the property’s large barn.
“This house is high maintenance,” says Aldridge. “After 172 years, nothing is straight.”
“We have what we call a ‘ghost janitor,'” Aldridge reports. “Sometimes house guests sleeping in one of the bedrooms hear a soft knock in the middle of the night that repeats three times. Often when they wake up in the morning they find the door has been opened.
Clues from another era are also discovered on the 17-acre farm. Recently, after plowing the garden, a large arrowhead appeared, even though the area had been plowed for years. Coils of pipes and rusting stoves in the woods are thought to be evidence of moonlight still dating back to the Prohibition era.
“People who know the house and property or who are descendants of the previous owners frequently send us old photos and share stories about the history of the house as they knew it,” says Aldridge.
“One more thing about this house,” Hagedorn said, “If you’re in the kitchen before you go to bed, you better not forget anything. It’s a long way down and up.
Jennifer Aldridge and Andy Hagedorn
Age • He is 64 and she is 59.
House • Leslie, Missouri, in Franklin County
Occupation • Jennifer works for Rawlings Sporting Goods in Washington and Andy works for Haines Finishing in New Haven. The couple rented three cabins and four campsites on the property, near the Bourbeuse River.
Family • Andy has a daughter, Jessica, and four grandchildren, and Jennifer has a daughter, Madison. Otis and Alice are 100+ pound companion dogs who are 4 year old sibling rescues. Cash is an 8-year-old rescue of unknown origin found at a gas station. Other animals include two rescued cats, three horses, two donkeys, four pot-bellied pigs, chickens and a rooster.