Educational Attraction

Don’t let the title fool you. There’s plenty of fun mixed in with the serious facts in this St. Louis building.

This is where you can star-gaze on a sunny day. Build your own copy of the signature St. Louis Arch (I suggest a friend or two). Check out the traffic speed under the highway bridge. Try your hand at operating an excavator. Follow the balls in a maze. Learn about dinosaurs. Or electricity.

Visiting exhibits always make the experience new. And the Omnimax theater presents a thrill plus facts.

So add St. Louis Science Center to your list of attractions. It does not matter if this is your first, second or hundredth visit — you’ll find something new.

Careful! You might learn something!



In this Corner

American pioneers may have had less than the merchant and well-to-do residents in a city — but they had dishes. Some of them brought over from Europe. Others were manufactured more local.

It was common for the kitchens in the first half of the 19th Century to have a corner cupboard. This is where the dishes were kept. It used a minimum of floor space — important in a small cabin. The pioneers were also aware of the taxes.

Taxes? A corner cupboard?

Yes — taxes were not always assessed as they are today. At various time and various places the tax collector counted windows, doors, or rooms. A closet counted as a room — they used shelves with half (not full) doors as a “clothes press” or a free standing wardrobe. A built in kitchen cupboard would count as a room if it had three sides and a door — hence the corner cupboard.

             Plates, platter, bowls, cups, and a teapot.                                          Everything necessary to set a table for guests on the frontier.


Quiet Attraction

A person wants to hush as they enter. Perhaps not in the first few steps as they pass some of the more modern features — but certainly as they enter and tip their head back to gaze up into the rotunda ceiling.

St. Louisians call it the Old Courthouse. The original building on the site was completed in 1828. The city was growing rapidly and soon demanded a larger Courthouse. The first of several additions/expansions/reconstructions was begun in 1839. The iron dome (one of the first in the United States) was completed in 1861. At 190 feet, it instantly became a landmark within the city and a reference point for steamboat pilots on the river.

Like all courthouses, history happened within it’s walls. During the years of operation a variety of cases in a variety of jurisdictions were heard, settled, appealed, and argued again. The most famous of these started routine in November 1846 when the salves Dred and Harriet Scott filed suit against their owner for freedom based on the grounds of previous residence in free territory. The Scotts lost and appealed. The won the second trial but the case was then sent to the Missouri State Supreme Court. Eventually the case was decided in March 1857 by the United States Supreme Court. (The Scotts lost and straw was laid on the smoldering fire which would erupt into the Civil War.)

In the mist of a winter morning, the Old Courthouse copper sheathed dome is framed by the taller Gateway Arch.

The building is a museum operated by the National Park Service. A good, quiet place to get a summary of St. Louis history amid some pleasing, practical architecture.


No Advertisement Necessary

A sign over the shop door to alert passerbys to your product or service have been around for a long time. Centuries. But not every business in every community needed one.

At times a product display outside the door served the same purpose. Plus it gave the owner room to move around while making more product during business hours.

A distinctive scent may have announced your product to the public. After all, follow your nose and you’ll end up in front of fresh bread. Or soap. Or pigs for sale. It depends on the odor your nose picks up.

The example below demonstrates the product display method.

The barrels clarify this is the cooper’s shop. And while the scent of fresh planed wood is lovely — it could also have led you to the carpenter or wheelwright’s place of business.

Several generations ago, wooden barrels were a common sight. They were used for dry goods, wet goods, raw good, finished goods. Pickles. Vinegar. Flour. Beer. Nails. We use other containers for these products now. They are gone from the corner store. Banished to the wineries and distilleries.


Green Attraction

It’s the size of a small farm. And a welcome green spot within the city.

Beginning a few years ago, I became a regular visitor. A few hours among the flowers, trees, and vegetables of the Missouri Botanical Garden turned out to be the calorie-free reward I needed for a writing goal accomplished.

My blog has often featured photos taken on the grounds. A piece of permanent sculpture. A glass creation from a temporary exhibit. A seasonal peek from the Christmas train display or annual orchid show. And plants —

Local plants in the home demonstration garden. Roses. Water lilies. Tropical species from within the Climatron. Trees and shrubs and grasses that caught my eye. And on a lucky day — the bee, butterfly, or dragon fly visiting a blossom.

So if you’re even in St. Louis with a couple hours to sightsee — go for a walk in the garden. Parking is fee. Admission is modest. The sights are constantly changing.

Reflecting pool with the tropical Climatron in the background.



Using Resources at Hand

They called it practical. The concept had been around for centuries. Then in the late 19th and early 20th century they made some mechanical progress and refined the idea.

Every farm in our Midwest community had one. One by one, for a variety of reasons, many went to another source of power. The one on our farm was an exception — working as designed until the early 1990’s.

We called it Wind Power.

This example (still working at a county park) is able to swivel and take advantage of a breeze from any direction. Ours pumped water into a concrete cistern. We could also move the pipe and fill the stock tank.


Unexpected Attraction

There’s history attached to the land. It may be the only former farm of a US president to remain a private green space open to the public.

The president? Grant. And the farm actually belonged to his father-in-law first. He did not become the owner until many years later.

After several ownership transfers and some downsizing — the land was purchased by a prominent St. Louis family. There was an attempt for sale recently, but getting six siblings to agree proved impossible.

The winner? In this case — the public. It’s part game preserve, part animal show, photo opportunity, and of course (this is St. Louis) liquid adult refreshment. It’s seasonal opening for weekends in the spring, every day during the summer, and tapering off to weekends and then closing for the winter.

This lovely fellow stands guard (with a companion) at the formal gate to Grant’s Farm. Owned and operated by the Busch family, it’s a popular place to see a Clydesdale or two, ride a camel, watch an elephant show, or feed a llama.


Settlers Making Progress

A week ago, this space was devoted to water and pioneer era wells.

Today we will continue the theme, but present another, improved, method of obtaining water for a household.

Think 1850’s. It’s called a cistern. You dig a large hole, line it will tile or brick or stone. You want a material which will hold the water (or most of it) inside the underground container.

Next you pipe the water collecting from the eaves of your home (or the nearest building) into the cistern. [Think of it as replacing the rain barrel which had stood in place and collected water for washing and other uses.] Now you need one more thing — a way to get the water out of the cistern when you want it.

This crank pump was a great improvement over the windlass at the top of the well. Most of the spouts featured a knob to prevent the handle of your bucket from slipping off.

A more modern pump with a vertical action handle. Descendants of this model were found on several of the farm cisterns during my childhood. And they were also located at the occasional highway rest area or small park at the top of a well.



Classic Attraction

Many American cities have one. Some of the larger cities have several. And they abound in other portions of the world also.

In St. Louis it’s simply known as The Art Museum. Perched on top of “Art Hill” in the city’s largest park, an iconic figure welcomes you.

King and Saint Louis

The building behind the statue is from the early portion of the 20th Century — plus a portion from the very early portion of the 21st. Within the various galleries you will find a wide selection of art.

The exhibits come from multiple centuries and all regions of the world. They include paintings, clothing, sculpture, and dishes. And don’t forget the weapons. That particular room was a favorite with my sons when they were teens. And the mummy!

Think you’ve seen it all? They have special exhibits which last several months. And true to St. Louis tradition…general admission is free, special exhibits free one day a week. This is a great way to introduce children and/or skeptical adults to the world of fine art.

Bonus: Great place to take out-of-town guests on a rainy day.