The Best Things About St. Louis
Last week I took my fiancé out to one of his favorite restaurants, Broadway Oyster Bar, for his 30th birthday. As we were waiting for our delicious crab legs to arrive (if you haven’t had; you haven’t lived) I overheard the table next to us ask their guests how they liked St. Louis. Their response made me laugh: “the people here are ignorant hoosiers”. WOW! As to not ruin my fiancé’s birthday dinner, I decided to keep my mouth shut & instead vent in this blog post. So to those out-of-towners, here are some things us “ignorant hoosiers” here in this part of the country are proud of that the rest of y’all can thank us for:
- The ice cream cone was invented at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 when ice cream vendor Ernest A. Hamwi ran out of dishes and asked the waffle vendor in the booth next to his for help. The waffle vendor rolled up one of his waffles and Hamwi put some ice cream in it once it cooled.
- Also at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, Richard Blechyden, in a effort to sell his hot tea in hot weather, decided to serve it instead in cups filled with ice. Iced tea was born on that day.
- The St. Louis Symphony is the second-oldest symphony orchestra in the United States. SLSO recently won its seventh Grammy and played Carnegie Hall back in March,
- 7 Up was originally created in October of 1929 by St. Louis soft drink salesman Charles Leiper Grigg. Before creating the “uncola” Grigg had worked for Vess, where he created the orange soda Whistle. After leaving Vess, Grigg created a lemon-lime soda. The drink was originally called Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda. Grigg changed the name in order to sell the soda better, but he took the secret of how he settled on the name 7 Up with him when he passed on.
- While each of these things could be their own bullet point, you are all welcome for delicious St. Louis-created foods toasted ravioli, gooey butter cake, and provel cheese. Toasted ravioli was created by accident in St. Louis neighborhood “The Hill” back in the 1940s. The origin of Gooey Butter Cake is a bit murky, but it is a St. Louis delicacy nonetheless. The origins of Provel cheese are even murkier, but it almost definitely came from the same Hill neighborhood back in the 1940s or 50s.
- Super-smarty pants Marilyn Vos Savant, who held the Guinness Book of World Records title for highest IQ, was born and raised in St. Louis before moving to New York. You can thank her for debunking the Monty Hall Problem.
- St. Louis brewer John Adam Lemp was one of the first to brew lager beer in the U.S. Lemp started the brewery that his son would later name the William J. Lemp Brewing Co. While the family controlled the largest brewery in St. Louis before Prohibition, when the Lemp name is mentioned these days visions of the haunted Lemp Mansion and the family’s seemingly cursed history come to mind.
- Susan Blow started the first public kindergarten in the United States in St. Louis in 1873. Every St. Louis public school offered kindergarten by 1883 and the rest of the nation modeled its system off the city’s.
- The Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District (ZMD) was approved by St. Louis City and County voters in 1971. Those within the ZMD pay taxes to support the Saint Louis Zoo, Art Museum, Science Center, Missouri Botanical Garden and History Museum. An estimated $70 million annually is raised by the tax to support the institutions. So, Mr. Tourist, us “ignorant hoosiers” are the reason you didn’t have to pay $13.50 per adult and $10.50 per child to see Kali the polar bear at the St. Louis Zoo like you would have had to in places like Kansas City.
- While the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis weren’t anywhere close to the spectacle they have become, St. Louis was the first American city to host the event with those games. Mr. Enlightened Tourist, you’re welcome for great stories like a marathon featuring Fred Lorz hitching a ride in a car, a participant eating rotten apples and taking a nap on the course and another being chased off the course by wild dogs. It’s been called quite possibly the craziest event ever held. Tug-of-War was one of the events of the official games. (Note: We don’t take any credit whatsoever for “Anthropology Days” and are just as ashamed as everyone else.)
- So, I mentioned the Saint Louis Zoo earlier. It’s generally regarded as one of the top zoos in the country alongside the San Diego Zoo, which is about as far from free as you can get. The Flight Cage from the World’s Fair is essentially what the St. Louis Zoo is built around. The Zoo basically crowdfunded the purchase of its first elephant, Miss Jim, with St. Louis schoolchildren holding a penny fundraiser.
- I’m proud to say we house the Missouri Botanical Garden. MOBOT, as it’s called by locals, was founded way back in 1859 and is the “nation’s oldest botanical garden in continuous operation”. The 79-acre garden hosts events like the Whitaker Music Festival, the Lantern Festival and Garden Glow.
- The first construction project utilizing funds authorized by the Federal-Ad Highway Act was begun just west of St. Louis. That first interstate highway built was originally called U.S. 40 and is now Interstate 70.
- Saint Louis University was founded here in 1818 as the St. Louis Academy. It was the first “institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi River”. It became Saint Louis University in 1832. The Biliken didn’t become attached to the school’s athletic programs until 1911.
- The Anheuser-Busch brewery in the Soulard neighborhood opened way back in 1852. The brewery’s Brew House is still central to the complex’s beer production, which currently puts out some 16 million barrels of beer a year. The complex features three buildings on the Registry of National Historic Landmarks and also serves as the home of North American operations for Anhesuer-Busch InBev. The company offers free guided tours of the complex throughout the year.
- St. Louis is home to the Gateway Arch, the largest man-made monument in the United States. Originally completed on October 28, 1965, the Arch is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The grounds are currently undergoing a huge $365 million dollar overhaul known as CityArchRiver.
- The Washington University School of Medicine is consistently ranked as one of the top medical schools in the country. Since its founding in 1891, the school has made tremendous contributions to the medical field such as developing screening tests to detect Alzheimer’s disease, popularizing the use of insulin to treats diabetes and performing the world’s first nerve transplant using nerve tissue from a cadaver donor.
- St. Louisan Irma Rombauer gave America the best selling cookbook of all-time . Since the original publishing of The Joy Of Cooking in 1931, where the book was sold personally by Irma von Starkloff Rombauer, it has sold more than 18 million copies through its various editions.
- Charity Navigator named St. Louis the most charitable city in the country earlier this year.
If that doesn’t open your mind, maybe T.S. Elliot might:
“It is self-evident that St. Louis affected me more deeply than any other environment has ever done. I feel that there is something in having passed one’s childhood beside the big river, which is incommunicable to those people who have not. I consider myself fortunate to have been born here, rather than in Boston, or New York, or London.”
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