Heading west: Taking in St. Louis’ history, charm

St. Louis from the Gateway Arch
A view of St. Louis from the Gateway Arch as seen on Sept. 5, 2015. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

ST. LOUIS (defeo.biz) — St. Louis is an interesting town. Traditionally, it’s been a town through which people pass.

Hence, it’s nickname: “Gateway to the West.”

The area that is modern-day St. Louis was the center of the Native American Mississippian culture. The culture built earthwork mounds — such as Cahokia — on both sides of the Mississippi River, giving way to another of the city’s nicknames: “Mound City.

The first Europeans explored the area during the latter half of the 17th century. French explorers Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette were the first to travel through the Mississippi River Valley, and La Salle later claimed the region for France as part of La Louisiane.

Today, the city is instantly recognizable because of the Gateway Arch. Despite whatever preconceived notions a traveler might have about St. Louis, it’s a great town to visit.

For starters, here are some places to see.

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Old St. Louis County Courthouse
The Old St. Louis County Courthouse as seen on Sept. 6, 2015. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

The centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is the Gateway Arch. Know as the “Gateway to the West,” the Arch, built between 1963 and October 1965, has the distinction of being the tallest structure in Missouri. But that is just one piece of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which was designated as a National Memorial on Dec. 21, 1935. The Old Courthouse is famous as the site of the Dred Scott case. Today, the courthouse features many historical exhibits.

Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tours

King of Beers
The King of Beers! (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

“When you say Budweiser, you’ve said it all,” the jingle proclaims. Anheuser-Busch is one of the world’s best-known brands. Whether one prefers craft brews or a macro brew like Budweiser, the scale of the operations at Anheuser-Busch’s brewery in St. Louis is something to behold.

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

White Haven
White Haven at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in Grantwood Village, Mo., as seen on Sept. 5, 2015. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

White Haven is the plantation owned by Grant’s father-in-law. It was here Ulysses S. Grant worked alongside slaves. According to the National Parks Service that experience “may have influenced him in his later roles as the Union general who won the war which abolished that ‘peculiar institution,’ and as President of the United States.”

St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum

St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum
An exhibit in the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum as seen on Sept. 6, 2015. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the oldest teams in the National League. In the 124 years they’ve been playing ball, they’ve built up quite a history. Since 2014, this museum has been collecting artifacts to interpret the team’s history. Located in the mixed-use Ballpark Village adjacent to new Busch Stadium, the museum features trophies, artifacts from the Cardinals’ ballparks and players’ gear. The organization has enshrined 34 people in the Cardinals Hall of Fame.

Missouri History Museum

Spirt of St. Louis Replica
A replica of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirt of St. Louis is on display in the Missouri History Museum on Sept. 7, 2015. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

The museum was founded in 1866, the Jefferson Memorial Building, the current home of the museum, was built in 1913 using profits from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Appropriately, an exhibit about the Louisiana Purchase Exposition serves as a centerpiece for the museum. A replica of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis is also on display at the museum.

Todd DeFeo
About Todd DeFeo 59 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is the owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.

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