I have a poster hanging on my dining room wall of a misty New York City street scene in the 1890s by Paul Cornoyer.
I bought it in the St. Louis Art Museum gift shop and had it framed at the erstwhile Old Cove Trading Company in St. Clair — an eclectic used book store/frame shop/coffeeshop, which is where Bob and I were married the first time. We later had a proper Catholic church wedding.
My friend Jim Bruns, who ran the Old Cove Trading Company, named for his neighborhood out on Mill Hill Road, glued the Cornoyer poster onto a hard surface, it wrinkled all to dickens and I had to go back and buy another poster. I’m pretty sure it cost less than $20. The frame cost considerably more. I have never tired of looking at it.
I’m writing about this now because in my habit of reading old newspapers, I came across a piece on a summer art camp at Pacific called Camp Tip Top which was located on a hill above the Roth farm in nearby Jefferson County, overlooking the Meramec River and what I’ve always known as Buscher Bottoms.
Billy Murphy, an amateur historian and lover of local lore who lives in Catawissa, told me that the name of the hilltop in his lifetime was Sand Cut Hill.
In the summer of 1895, Paul Cornoyer and other (later) famous St. Louis artists camped there from June well into the fall painting landscapes and other country scenes. This was 25 years or so before my artist went to New York City and before some of the others went to Paris.
Cornoyer was considered an impressionist. But Charles Ward Rhodes and Ed Wuerpel also were at Camp Tip Top that summer. They were known for tonal style painting, and it crossed my mind that they painted some of their tonal pictures in the picturesque hills south of Pacific.
Here’s the newspaper piece. I hope you like it.
Pacific Transcript, June 21, 1895, “Camp Tip Top”:
“The St. Louis artists are again encamped on the Breen hill, across the Meramec, south of Pacific. Sunday’s Post-Dispatch has this to say of their camps, which they locate in “The Ozark Mountains.”
“The top is an ideal sketching locality. Some years ago Prof. Halsey C. Ives and Mr. Edwards Campbell of the school of fine art discovered it. A knoll of considerable height overlooks an ideal country landscape, more idyllic than romantic in character. In the distance flows the Meramec River: Pacific with its railroad crossways can be seen and lonely farmsteads planted high above the valley give proper focusing points and brings to the mind memories of foreign travel through Switzerland and along the Rhine.
“Here the two artists laid the foundation of Camp Tip Top, which has since become a gathering place for many St. Louis artists. They pitched a tent and camped on the brow of that hill all summer. Down at the foot of the hill in a pretty little farmhouse they eat their meals with the farmer’s family. There, two Miss Roths and their mother cooked the most savory farmhouse meals and old farmer Roth and his boys were the severest critics the artists had ever met.
“Camp Tip Top has not been enlarged since. There is a rough wooden house on the brow of the knoll now, which Mr. Von Saltza and Mr. Campbell built with their own hands. It has a door and windows and primitive shelves and is as comfortable as wooden houses can be. It is Mr. Von Saltza’s property. And when he goes sketching he takes his family with him.
“On either side of the house are two tents, one for the gentlemen artists and the other for the ladies. It’s a merry crowd that summers there from June ’til late in the fall. Mrs. Von Saltza, the artist’s charming wife, chaperoned a party last summer, which often numbered more than a dozen artists.
“The ladies’ tent was occupied at various times by a number of St. Louis lady artists, Miss Lillian Brown, Miss Martha Hoke, Miss Shands and Miss Marie Garesche, all of whom had a proprietary interest in the canvas house and its installment.
“The gentlemen’s tent was occupied by Charles Ward Rhodes, Paul Cornoyer, Ed Wuerpel and Mr. Campbell, who manages the men’s side of the knoll.
“The three principal meals of the day were taken at the farmhouse at the foot of the hill and the sonorous shell announced the hour of feeding to the artist who was used to the gentle tinkling of a dinner bell.
“There was always an evening tea, which Mrs. Von Saltza prepared up on the “Boulevard de L’Enfer,” as the little round spot was named where the campfire was built every night. It was the ideal hour of the day. An autoharp, the only musical instrument, except half a dozen glad and cheery voices, in the camp, was brought out fingered first by one and then another of the little coterie.
“The experiences of the day were rehearsed, plans for the morrow made, while the fragrant cups of tea passed from hand to hand. Then one after the other lapsed into silence under the spell of the deepening shadows of the night and the overpowering influence of the nearness of nature.”
Pauline Masson can be reached at email@example.com or 314-805-9800.