The History of Harster Heating & Air Conditioning

Emil Harster

Emil Harster, 1975 (My Dad)

We’ve got a long history in south St. Louis. Our company was started by my dad, Emil F. Harster, in 1950. It was a one-man, one-truck company and it’s grown to 28 employees and 24 trucks today – serving some 20,000 St. Louis Metro residents and businesses.

We’re located in Affton (yup, John Goodman’s hometown), in an historical building that was once my grandfather’s hardware store.

I’ve been the owner, manager, chief cook and bottle washer of Harster since 1986. My philosophy’s always been “the customer’s always right”, and to do good work and to charge a fair price. Funny how some companies just don’t get that. Our customers are loyal because we follow that code. I insist on industry certification and honest, ethical practices. It’s a pretty simple recipe, actually, and one that’s a tradition I hope continues for many more years. Thanks for visiting.

— Dave Harster

Some Cool (Pardon the Pun) Harster History

If you know where our building is at 9900 Gravois, you might be interested in some history that surrounds it. First, I want to thank Mr. R. Wagner. He’s a Crestwood resident, and he did the research on this story.

In 1803, Napoleon controlled the Northwestern territories west of the Mississippi River. He sold those territories to the U.S. – which history called “The Louisiana Purchase.” Once the land cleared U.S. Land Claims Court, Uriah and Eliza Wise received a clear title to the land that’s right along the viaduct near our building.

Harster Rock House

The Rock House

Harster Rock House circa 1930

Circa 1930

Mr. Wise started construction on a one-story house between 1858 and 1859 – what is today 9850 Gravois. The Civil War disrupted work on it. A second story was added once the war ended in 1865. The original roof and chimney lines are still visible on the outside east and west walls. In 1894, the home was sold to the Bier family.

The home, along with seven additional acres, was sold in 1947 to G.H. Gern, who had a tree nursery in Affton. Mr. Gern’s son moved into the home with his wife in 1958, adding family rooms and remodeling the kitchen.

In 2012, my wife and I purchased the house and property at 9850 Gravois.

Here’s the cool part: President Ulysses S. Grant used to walk by this house back in the 1800’s. He was a Second Lieutenant assigned to Jefferson Barracks after he graduated West Point in 1843. He met his roommate’s sister, Julia Dent, at the Dent family plantation on Gravois Creek.

Love bloomed and they married in 1848. Ulysses and Julia moved away, but returned often to the White Haven property – which also included the home and an additional 650 acres. Grant was readying the property for his retirement, but abandoned those plans prior to his death in 1885.

Another side note? If you take a drive near where Grant lived, you’ll see a street named “Julia Dent Drive.”

Some of you are history buffs, so I hope you enjoyed it. If you’d like more info, shoot me an email.

Thanks,

— Dave Harster