St. Louis is still Budweiser's town. Despite the proliferation of microbreweries in the US since the 1990's and the increased availability of imports, you will still end up in situations where Anheuser Busch products are the only brews available. This happened to me surprisingly often during my week in St. Lous -- at a wedding, at a Cardinals' game and at family gatherings. There is a microbrewery that's gained some popularity -- it's called Schlafley's and is served rather widely -- including at it's own brewery-restaurant in the trendy Maplewood section, where they remind you that it was the first new brewery in Missouri since Prohibition ended -- but even most of it's beers remind one of Budweiser.
Since I'm not a big fan of Bud, Bud Light, Busch or any of the other beers (hey, what happened to Micheloeb?), I kept looking for this situation to change. Luckily, most bars have imports like Guinness, Bass or even Pilsner Urquell on draft, but you can't count on getting a pint of these like you can a cold frosty Bud. and if you like Miller or Coors, well, I don't even think they exist in St. Louis. certainly not at the stadium!
NOTE; How sad, but I just learned today, September 4, 2008, that this tour is no longer available because the train was sold in 2006.
While Jill and I were going back and forth to our hotel, The Hyatt Regency at Union Station, we noticed a beautiful green train on the tracks.
Now, that was rather curious since the Union Station has been closed as a railroad terminal since 1978. We looked into this mystery and discovered that the green train is a private train that is used for dinner cruises and private events.
Rail Cruise America offers romantic dinner cruises most Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. Each dinner cruise lasts two to three hours. It is advertised as an "elegant dining experience."
he executive chef, Michael Slay, says that he makes sure the meal is a memorable one.
If you decide to take a Rail Cruise through RailCruise America, you will be seated in one of the luxuriously appointed rail cars that feature "rich mahogany, black walnut, polished brass, and hunter green and gold accents." This Rail Cruise is noted for its impeccable service and exquisite cuisine.
The train departs from St. Louis Union Station, but the literature does not say what the destination will be.
Fondest memory: How exciting it would be to be able to afford to book a longer excursion for a private event such as an anniversary party, retirement party, or birthday party.
For prices, reservations, and more information, see the telephone number and website listed below:
Address: #400 Union Station, St. Louis, MO
This certainly represents a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
Favorite thing: This mid-rise office building at the corner of Broadway and Pine reminds me of the hanging gardens of Babylon. I admire the engineering and design (by the firm of Peckham, Guyton & Viets) that allows the top four floors to have such a dramatic "overhang." Saint Louis Place has a total of 20 floors, and reaches a height of 253 feet.
Favorite thing: This imposing statue of Thomas Jefferson dominates the entrance hall of the Jefferson Memorial, now part of the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. The statue and the building were put up between 1911 and 1913 to commemorate the important role of the Third President in making arrangements for the Louisiana Purchase. The sculptor was Karl Bitter (1867-1915), the Vienna-born artist who brought European standards and traditions to the America's cities in the early 20th century.
Or should that be "The Wedding of the Rivers"? That was the original name given to the fountain by its creator, the Swedish American artist Carl Milles (1875-1955) - but maybe it was a little too suggestive for the good upright and moral citizens of St. Louis. Reportedly, when the fountain was unveiled in the very upright and moral year of 1940, they were quite offended at the BRAZEN nudity of the male and female figures. Imagine that: nude figures in a fountain!! What is the world coming to?
A wall-plaque behind the fountain describes its "program": "This fountain, the work of Carl Milles, symbolizes the union of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers which occurs a few miles north of the City of St. Louis. These two mighty rivers in their power and beauty are represented by the two central figures. The accompanying water creatures are symbols of the many streams which contribute their riches to the major currents. The sculptures are embodiments of the freedom and primeval forge of the waterways of the Mississippi Valley in acordance with the man's age old impulse to represent the powers of nature in human or animal form. 'The Meeting of the Waters' is conceived as a festival in which all these water forces are taking part."
Incidentally, the male figure represents the Mississippi, while the female figure is the still mighty Missouri - which seems right to me. The fountain is in Aloe Plaza - immediately across Market Street at Union Station. I really do this it is outstanding - and I'm big fan of Milles' work in general. You can find other examples of his artistry back in his native Sweden, as well as scattered through the American Midwest: in Detroit, at the Cranbrook Academy, where he taught for many years; in Kansas City, at the Volker Fountain just south of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; and in Des Moines, his remarkable "Pegasus" at the Art Center there.
The tourist information says that this was at one time the busiest train station in the world. It certainly was a very handsome one - designed by German-American architect Theodore Link in the French Renaissance style, and opened in 1894. Lots of history took place under its roof: including the very famous incident in November 1948 when Harry Truman very proudly waved the headlines "Dewey Beats Truman!"
But the United States fell in love with the automobile, and train service nearly disappeared. Why retain large rail stations when everyone is driving their cars and flying to their destinations? By the middle of the 1970s, just three trains a day were pulling out of the station. Amtrak shuttered the facility in 1978, moving to a cheap and humble shack a few blocks away.
But Union Station was renovated, amidst great fanfare and hoopla, in the early 1980s. It was one of the early examples of the "Urban Playground" style of redevelopment, a mode of maintaining "urbanity" through Big Projects. So now at Union Station you'll find a luxury hotel, a shopping center, and more fudge shops than your dentist would approve of. Is it the best, ideal and final solution to America's urban problems? No. But it's still open, still popular, and it has preserved some wonderful architecture and design from the late 19th century.
18th and Market Street
Empty theatres are sad; big empty theatres in the Art Deco style from the 1930s are very sad.
Kiel Opera House - originally part of the mammoth "Municipal Auditorium" complex along Gateway Mall - has been vacant now for 17 years. The last public performance was held in the 3500-seat theatre in 1991. Yes, there has been talk . . . and you could fill a small library with all the redevelopment plans that have been bandied about.
The Opera House was named after St. Louis Mayor Henry Kiel, who served the city from 1912 until 1925. It's located at 1400 Market.
My memory of the Opera House: I saw Rudolf Nureyev and his Ballet Company perform "Don Quixote" here in the early 1980s!
Favorite thing: The "Schupp" Building, at the corner of 4th and Pine Street downtown, exemplifies the popular Beaux Art style that was especially prevalent in St. Louis in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has been well-preserved and renovated by its current owner, a company that specialized in promotion and advertizing. Originally, this was the "Mississippi Valley Trust" building, but it has gone through numerous owners and uses since its 1896 opening.
Favorite thing: "Sacrifice" and three other decorative figures stand prominently at the Soldiers' Memorial (World War I), a significant monument at the corner of 14th and Chestnut. They are the work of the expressionist sculptor Walker Hancock, (1901-1998), known for his commissions here in the Midwest (including the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City) and in Washington DC (work at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.)
The Soldiers' Memorial is a World War I museum/memorial, with office space for veteran's groups as well. It was built in the 1930s as part of the very significant program of capital improvements and new facilities undertaken by St. Louis in a burst of civic energy that lasted from the mid 1920s to the eve of World War II.
The Soldiers' Memorial is at 108 N. 14th, at Chestnut Street.
It's interesting to observe the continued evolution of the neo-classical style as you walk through this area of the city. In contrast with some of the earlier grand civic buildings, here at the Soldiers' Memorials the columns have completely broken from any Greek precendent: they have become purely "symbolic" in their connection with the values and meanings of the ancient world.
The Soldiers' Memorial was created by the same firm responsible for the nearby "United States Court House and Custom house" that was opened in 1934: Mauran, Russell and Crowell. The sculptural figues which adorn the Memorial are the work of the great expressionist artist Walker Hancock (1901-1998).
Favorite thing: St. Louis has one of the very few US city halls to be constructed in the flamboyant "French Renaissance Revival" style of the late 19th century. Perhaps fitting, though, considering the city owes its name to the most glorious and honored of French medieval kings. A large amount of Missouri pink granite was used in its construction, a project that took up most of the 1890s.
Civil War General and 18th United State President Ullysses Grant married a woman from a prominent St. Louis family - Julia Dent - and for several years operated a farm just outside the city limits. He is commemorated with the fine statue, the 1888 work of Robert Porter Bringhurst (1855-1924). It is said that this was the first Grant statue to be unveiled in the USA, and the ceremony attracted a crowd of thousands.
It's located on the grounds of the St. Louis City Hall, at the corner of 12th and Market.
It's interesting to compare this kind of neo-classical "Art Deco-ish" civic structure with the rather grander Civil courts building (the "St. Louis Pyramid") across the streets. Both projects were conceived during the 1920s, as part of an enormous burst of civic planning and renovation. Just a few years separate the buildings in time; but the US Courts were planned and constructed AFTER the Great Depression, and here the style is much more restrained, more pared down, minimalistic almost.
The local architects Mauran, Russell and Crowell were responsible for the US Court House/Custom House. (Street address of 1114 Market.)
By the way, this structure should not be confused with either the Old Courthouse - the 19th century domed building just in front of the Gateway Arch; or with the Thomas Eagleton Federal Courthouse, recently constructed (2000) and just a few blocks away on 10th street.
The Civil Courts Building (sometimes called the St. Louis Pyramid!) is one of the most distinctive structures in this or any other American city, IMHO. The top of the building has certainly a dramatic presence that few can rival. It was modeled closely after the famous Mausoleum of Maussollos, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World. Featured are 32 Ionic Columns, 8 per side; each column is 42 feet high and more than 5 feet in circumfrence. Constructed mainly of Indiana limestone, the Civil Courts structure reaches a height of 386 feet; yet because it houses impressive courtrooms and not simple offices, there are only 13 floors in the building.
Credit should be given to local architects Klipstein and Rathmann for creating a memorable courthouse that clearly conveys the central role of law and justice in American life.
Favorite thing: This was originally the HQ of the Bell Telephone Company in St. Louis; now it is loft apartments, with a nifty small grocer on the ground floor. The building is in a fascinating version of the American Romanesque style of the 1890s, with prominent rounded arches on the fourth and sixth floors. Interestingly, it was designed by the Architectural firm of Shepley Rutan & Coolidge, the successor company to H. H. Richardson.