Walking around downtown St. Louis, you can’t help but see a vacant building or six. All of these buildings represent downtown’s potential. Projects are in the works such as Ballpark Village and the MX will change the landscape in their areas of downtown. There is still plenty of landscape left to change. What is something unique that would have a big impact downtown? Of course you could say Target or Whole Foods, but those wouldn’t make for a very entertaining blog post. So…
I propose a St. Louis History Museum. Sure, the Missouri History Museum has their “Seeking St. Louis” exhibit as well as an exhibit on the 1904 World’s Fair. Seeing those exhibits the last time I was at the History Museum left me wanting more. I would love to see a downtown building turned into the St. Louis History Museum. Would people come? People wait in lines as long as the Mississippi to ride a small elevator up to the top of the Arch; the museum would have no problem drawing crowds.
How would I fill the space? On one hand, I’m not a museum curator. On the other, I don’t go around spending $1 million on a worthless piece of land. I feel like that entitles me to at least write this blog post.
The museum should have these five core categories: sports, people, business, events and places. From those basic categories, you could expand things however the budget allows. Take sports as an example. You could have general sections like hockey, baseball, football, soccer, etc. Or you could expand that and fill multiple rooms with the memories of those teams. Just off the top of my head (with a little help from Wikipedia) the following teams would be represented: Blues, Cardinals, Browns, Cardinals, Rams, Steamers, Storm, Ambush, Vipers, Braves, Eagles, Flyers, Hawks, Bombers, Spirits. Just general exhibits on those teams would keep people like me entertained for hours. (Heck, I just got sidetracked grabbing the links to their Wikipedia pages.) How cool would a multi-story glass case with a jersey from every one of those teams prominently displayed be?
Just the people throughout St. Louis’ sports history would deserve their own room. How amazing would a room be that featured stories about and from the likes of the Buck’s, Harry Caray, Ken Wilson, Brett Hull, Kurt Warner, Darryl Doran, Bob Pettit, Brian McBride, Taylor Twellman, Stan Musial, Steve Stipanovich, Mike and Pete Sorber, Harry Keough, Tony Van Zant, Lori Chalupny, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith and the Gas House Gang. Is there a name in there that doesn’t ring a bell? You would head to the St. Louis History Museum to find out, wouldn’t you? Actually you would probably google it, but humor me.
The places where these people made those memories would deserve mention too. The “Old Barn on Oakland Avenue”, the Kiel Center, the Kiel Auditorium, Busch Stadium (1-3) and Sportsman’s Park all hold prominent places for many St. Louisans. This would be a place to feature those places and a place to relive the memories. There is a suite in the Edward Jones Dome that features a really cool display on how the Trans World Airlines (TWA) Dome came to be. That’s a private suite. Things like that need to be displayed publicly.
The museum wouldn’t be all about sports, think about the places that would have to be represented. The neighborhoods could all have their own areas. Neighborhoods are what make cities great. Tourists would be fascinated to learn about Soulard, Lafayette Square, Dogtown, Cherokee, etc. The Pruitt-Igoe House Complex would deserve it’s own area. There could be a whole exhibit on the restaurants and shops, past and present, that have helped shape this city. Plenty of prominent people have either hailed from St. Louis or made their mark here. You have the athletes I mentioned above plus St. Louisans who formed the core of the 1950 World Cup team. They made a movie about those guys with Gerard Butler playing St. Louisan Frank Borghi. Maya Angelou, Scott Bakula, Andy Cohen, T.S. Eliot, Redd Foxx and Jack Dorsey are among the many that deserve a mention in the museum. An exhibit featuring the Mayors of St. Louis would be interesting.
The stories of these prominent folks wouldn’t be complete if there wasn’t someone around to capture those stories. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch dates back to 1878 when Joseph Pulitzer merged two local dailies. That’s the same Pulitzer that the Pulitzer Prize is named for. A room filled with Post-Dispatch front pages throughout history would display the importance of saving the paper newspaper.
Just like any city, businesses and the men who lead them have helped shape St. Louis. Andrew Carnegie helped jumpstart the St. Louis Public Library in 1901. The union of Lily Anheuser and Adolphus Busch is just a small sliver of the beer brewing history that is an integral part of what St. Louis is. Jack Dorsey has helped to redefine communication with Twitter. Who knows what amazing breakthroughs could come from one of the many Arch Grants recipients? There are plenty of other stories that should be told like Stifel Nicolaus’, McDonnell-Douglas, Build-A-Bear and Flieshman-Hillard. These are stories that would inspire the next generation.
This post probably reads like a tangled mess. For that I apologize. Having a place like the St. Louis History Museum downtown really excites me. Many ideas I wanted to put in this post were cut because I wanted to hopefully keep a few people reading to the end. Events like the smog episode of 1939 and the Great Flood of ’93 get pushed further back in history with each generation. The story of the Pruitt-Igoe housing complex and its downfall is a story that needs to be told and learned from for generations to come. We need a place where future generations can understand these things and learn from them. The grassroots support for St. Louis is at an all-time high with the recent Rally St. Louis launch. Now is the time to make this museum a reality.
Speaking of RallySTL, this would make for a great project. If you happen to see this idea up for a vote, think of the endless possibilities for the St.Louis History Museum. I’m sure they don’t stop at mine. Add your own.Brought to you by Mills Apartments