The Slezak family lived in this house for twenty-two years, from 1869 to 1891. According to public records, the first owner of the house was Joseph Slezak but a preceeding city record book that would likely indicate the earlier owner has been lost.
It is believed the prior owner may have been the brother of Joseph Slezak. According to burial records, John Slezak died in 1869 at the age of 49 years and was not buried in a lot with any other Slezak family member. It is possible, as the sole surviving heir in America of John Slezak, Joseph inherited the house in 1869. Records do not indicate that the house was purchased by Joseph.
Joseph Slezak was born in 1819 and came to America from Bohemia, a region of Czechoslovakia, with his wife Catharine and sons Frank and Joseph. The exact year the Slezak family arrived in America is not known. Joseph was a tailor and his son, Joseph, Jr., was a saddler.
Joseph Krivanec(k) immigrated from Bohemia in 1882 with his wife, Catherina and son, Joseph and bought the Slezak house in 1892. The purchase price was $1,150.* The Krivanek family owned the house for eighty-three years. Their daughter, Marie, was born in 1895 and her descendents (of Marie Michalek) owned the house until 1975.
Work by family members and tenants of the house, some from attached or adjacent buildings no longer standing, included homemaker, tailor, saddler, blacksmith, stonemason, carpenter and fireman. For many of the early years, the house was occupied by two families - one living downstairs and the tenants, upstairs. During these years, access to the second floor residence was from exterior stairs.
Joseph Slezak died in 1890 and his wife Catharine, died in 1901.
Both are buried at Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery in St. Louis.
For the first time in many years, descendents of Marie Michalek (Krivanek) visited the house in June 2007 and again in June 2011.
Slezak is a Czech and Slovak ethnic or regional name for someone from Silesia, the Czech name of which is Slezsko. Silesia is a historic region in central Europe most of which is now within the borders of Poland.
Krivanek is also a well known Czech name.
Many Missouri public records, like marriage and death certificates, are now available on-line.
Is Slezak House haunted?
This question comes up frequently, usually asked by people who are unfamiliar with very old houses and neighborhoods like Slezak House and Soulard. The quick answer is no...or maybe.
There are unexplained occurances and sounds but they are infrequent and passive.
One night in 2009, the cracking sound of a whip or strap was so loud it sounded as if it were coming from in the house. Could it have come from the saddlery that was once on the property?
The most noticeable is the movement of the attic window curtain from closed to drawn 1/2 across the window. This occurs about 2-3 times a year. The lace curtains has to be worked bit by bit across the rod for it to move without snagging. The attic is empty and the only space in the house that has not been renovated. If Slezak House has a ghost, it's more a pleasant reflection of a prior occupant or sound from the neighborhood and not an unwelcome haunting.
Update....is truth stranger than fiction?
Descendants of Marie Krivenak visited the house in June 2011 and related many stories and shared photographs (which we hope to share here soon). During the visit, a granddaughter asked,
"Have you seen grandma peeking out of the curtain?" Yes, it seems Slezak House is, in fact, haunted.
The granddaughter related that the children's bedroom was in the attic and Grandma Marie, born in the house in 1895 and living with the family, instructed her grandchildren how to discretely peek out of the attic curtain. Grandma Marie would come up to the attic and show her grandchildren how to pull the curtain back only partially to peek. It seems Grandma Marie was a prankster and she liked to peek out the window at neighbors and street activity. Also, she had a wine press in the basement and like to make beer and wine. Once she used too much yeast and the beer was all over the floor and her husband, Grandpa Michalek, was down on the floor lapping up the beer!
Almost without exception, every structure in Soulard once had window shutters. Louvered window shutters provided maximum ventilation, privacy, and a little security during the warm months in St. Louis. Historically accurate window shutters have been restored to the Slezak House using Timberlane, the finest wooden shutters made.
The window box cages on the Slezak House are from Smith & Hawken.
The liners are handmade by a local craftsman.
Summer 2011 repairs and renovation list includes:
Property fence line repair, waterseal and stain fence
Exterior wood rot repair and watersealing
Retaining wall repair
Master bedroom plaster repair and room renovation
Interior closet doors (4) staining and sealing
Summer 2012 repairs and renovation includes:
New closet shelving systems (4)
AC repair (or replacement)
Installation of additional lighting in full bath
Summer 2013 renovations include:
Restoration of the front facade
It's not easy to find materials for historic house restoration and maintenance. New, high quality materials that are affordable and in authentic designs are not usually available from local stores.
Here's some of what we have discovered and used at Slezak House.
Meyda Tiffany chandeliers are used in three rooms of Slezak House.
Hunter Douglas from Shades Shades and More, 2017 Chouteau, 63103
Edele & Mertz Hardware, 1822 S. Broadway, 63104
On the Street Where You Live....Geyer Avenue
Geyer Avenue is named for Henry Sheffie Geyer (1790-1859), a notable attorney and politician. Geyer moved to St. Louis from Maryland following the War of 1812 and immediately became active in territorial government. He authored the Geyer Act which established the public school system of Missouri and the University of Missouri. Both were patterned after Thomas Jefferson's plan for public education in Virginia. Henry Geyer served in the U.S. Senate (1851-1857) and served as the attorney for the defendant, slave-owner John F.A. Sanford, in the famous Dred Scott case.
Henry Sheffie Geyer
The Geyer Act established the University of Missouri in 1839, the first public university
west of the Mississippi.
Today, Mizzou is the oldest publicly supported university west of the Mississippi and one of
34 top rated universities in the U.S..
Established in 1818, Saint Louis University in St. Louis is the oldest private university
west of the Mississippi.
*Following several decades of decline and weak urban housing markets, Slezak House was sold for $2,500 in 1975, and $24,000 in 1990 for major rehabilitation. Today, market values in historic urban neighborhoods, undervalued for decades, continue to be solid investments. Since 2001, Slezak House has undergone annual renovations and updates. Values in the Frenchtown area of St. Louis (63104) are strong and range from $199,000 to more than $1,000,000 for fully restored and updated historic homes and new construction.