All the World’s A Fair
“Meet Me in St. Louis” is more than just a movie and a Judy Garland tune in St. Louis. Visitors can still can get a taste of the fabled 1904 World’s Fair at sites all around town.
The world traveled to St. Louis for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, more commonly known as the 1904 World’s Fair. The event was held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a continental United States through the purchase of the Louisiana Territory and to honor Lewis and Clark’s journey to the west. The Fair attracted millions of people from dozens of nations, many of whom re-created their native arts and culture, entertained, and sold their wares to fairgoers.
1. Forest Park
For more information: http://stlouis.missouri.org/citygov/parks/forestpark
A 1,300-acre oasis at the edge of the St. Louis city limits. The park, which officially opened to the public on June 24, 1876, is one of the largest urban parks in the country and is 500 acres larger than New York’s Central Park. In addition to all of the greenery, the park is home to some of St. Louis’ renowned cultural attractions.
2. Saint Louis Art Museum
Plan to stay: 1-2 hours
For more information: www.slam.org
This building served as the Fine Arts Palace during the Fair, and it was the only permanent exhibit building built for the 1904 event. Today, the museum houses masterpieces and ancient artifacts from around the world, and its collection of modern art includes outstanding examples of German Expressionist art. Other major works on display are by Cezanne, Degas, Matisse, Picasso, van Gogh and Monet and African and Oceanic arts collections.
3. Saint Louis Zoo
Plan to stay: 1-3 hours
For more information:www.stlzoo.org
Another spectacular Fair “leftover” is massive walk-through birdcage that served as the Smithsonian Flight Cage exhibit. It can now be found as part of the Zoo’s Bird Garden. Visitors can walk through the domed structure, which also includes a cypress swamp environment.
4. Forest Park Boathouse
Plan to stay: 1-2 hours
For more information: www.boathouseforestpark.com
1904, a popular mode of transportation through the fairgrounds was a boat ride through the miles of canals that wound through Forest Park. Modern day visitors can relive the romance of the Fair on a paddleboat ride from the Forest Park Boathouse. Boaters can paddle to a picnic island in the lake, cruise around a wildlife island and enjoy eight new fountains that now dot the waterway.
5. Washington University
Plan to stay: 10-15 mins
For more information: www.wustl.edu
Drive by the Washington University Campus for another glimpse at the Fairgrounds. The Administration Building – now Brookings Hall – was the official reception hall used to www.mohistory.org dignitaries and other Fair-going VIPs and served as an exhibit of a model university. The athletic field and gymnasium, www.mohistory.org in use today by the university, were the site of the 1904 Olympic Games, the first Olympiad held in the United States.
Lunch Suggestion: The Saint Louis Art Museum’s restaurant Panorama or the bright and cheerful restaurant at the Missouri History Museum, Bixby’s.
6. Missouri History Museum
Plan to stay: 1-2 hours
For more information: www.mohistory.org
Visit an exhibit of artifacts from the Fair called “The 1904 World’s Fair: Looking Back at Looking Forward,” and the original Louisiana Purchase Transfer Document that formalized the transfer of the Upper Louisiana Territory from Spain to France to the United States in 1804. A map of the territory that traces Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery route is etched into the stone walkway at the museum’s north entry. Galleries within the museum also include artifacts from the explorers’ journey and Clark’s life in St. Louis after their triumphant return.
7. Scott Joplin House State Historic Site
Plan to stay: 30 mins.- 1 hour
For more information: http://mostateparks.com/park/scott-joplin-house-state-historic-site
The popular entertainment of the era, including Ragtime music, could be found along the section of the Fairgrounds known as “The Pike.” Composer Scott Joplin, a featured performer at the Fair, wrote the famous Rag “Cascades” that was inspired by the beautiful fountains that welcomed visitors to the Fair. Visitors can tour the two-story antebellum structure that was home to the “King of Ragtime” during some of his most productive years. Furnishings reflect the time when Joplin lived in the house and view a display on the 1904 World’s Fair.
8. Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion
Plan to stay: 1 hour
For more information: www.demenil.org
The Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion houses a diverse collection of 1904 World’s Fair memorabilia. More than 1,200 pieces are on display, including photographs and souvenirs in excellent condition. Groups can tour the entire antebellum Greek Revival home, a National Historic Landmark, which is furnished with authentic period furnishings, and dine in the carriage house restaurant.
9. St. Louis Union Station
Plan to stay: 30 min. – 2 hours
For more information: www.stlouisunionstation.com
To get to the fair, thousands traveled to the city by train, and they were greeted by a stunning architectural gem in St. Louis Union Station. Today, the National Historic Landmark has been beautifully restored and redeveloped as a festival marketplace of specialty shops, restaurants and a luxury hotel. Union Station provides self-guided exhibits, including one on the World’s Fair that celebrates the station’s history since opening in 1894. Historic memorabilia is housed in display cases located throughout the station and within the free “Memories Museum.”
Dinner Suggestion: Just south of Forest Park, dine at one of many tasty establishments on The Hill, St. Louis’ Italian neighborhood.