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By Emily Adams
Pat McNaughton fell in love with her house the moment she saw it. Intricate gothic architecture coupled with an authentic Victorian structure took her breath away and immediately took shape in her mind as a means to save her life. After Pat’s husband passed away, she started seeking a new way to occupy her time and passion for life. The sports bar they had run together seemed too much of a “man’s business” for her to continue alone. Her talent as a muralist and sign artist wasn’t enough to live on. She began to look for a new project that would bridge the transition her life was taking.
When her wandering eye stumbled upon a house on Tenth Street in St. Joseph, it felt as though fate was finally stepping in. At first glimpse, the house just looked like another project house—historic, but broken from age, and near condemnation. But Pat saw beyond the surface to the beauty that could be: a charming teahouse.
“The character of the house just kind of spoke to me,” Pat says. “I knew what I wanted to do with it as soon as I saw it. It had everything I needed to make something special.”
Pat spent eight years gutting the entire house back to its remaining brick gothic revival structure. She doesn’t know where the concept of the teahouse transpired, except that the rustic beauty of the house evoked a sense of time gone by. A true love for the house compelled Pat to restore as much of the original structure as possible, including separate parlors for men and women. Each of the parlors is laced with vintage items and materials, creating a sense of a more indulgent time. She added a garden that she describes as an oasis in the middle of the city.
“Tearooms are about the finer things you don’t get any more out of life,” Pat says.
At 4 am, Pat can be found in the kitchen, hand-making every morsel of cuisine from scratch. She has cooked her entire life, so the family recipes that she whips up are more than perfected. And once the pastries are baked and the salads have been tossed, she sits down to relax with her usual three to four cups of tea for the morning.
“I have always been an avid tea-drinker,” Pat says. “Coffee drinkers are always wired; they always have somewhere to rush off to. With tea, it’s all about sitting back and enjoying the flavor.”
Even in the extravagant atmosphere of a renovated teahouse, Pat says her prices are still the lowest in the town.
“I know what it’s like to go out with friends and be forced to order the cheapest thing on the menu,” Pat says. “My house isn’t like that. I want people to be able to indulge themselves here regardless of what’s in their wallet.”
Pat lives in the house and operates the entire business, from maintaining the garden to waitressing, which is what she says distinguishes her tearoom from chain restaurants.
Pat’s pride in her house is evident in the time and care she has put into it, and it is undeniable when she tells you her story.
“I could tell you that this whole journey was about salvaging this house,” Pat says. “But if I’m being honest, it was all about salvaging my own life—and it worked.”
This story originally ran in the February 2013 issue of Missouri Life. For more stories like this, subscribe to Missouri Life.