USA Missouri 

A Guide to St Louis

Situated on the Missouri-Illinois border just below the confluence of the Missouri and mighty Mississippi Rivers, St Louis was founded in 1764 by the French fur trader, Pierre Laclede. In the early 1800s explorers Lewis and Clark followed the Missouri River upstream on a 5 000-mile epic return journey to the Pacific Ocean, opening up vast new territories. St Louis thus became the gateway between eastern US and the great plains of the west. Under the Louisiana Purchase agreement in 1803, the US bought much of the great plains area from France, incorporating St Louis into the US.

Steamboats plied the Missouri River into the new western territories, turning the frontier town into the large commercial, cultural and cosmopolitan centre it is today.

The 630-ft Gateway Arch on the site where Leclede landed symbolises St Louis as the crossroads between east and west. At the base of the Arch, the Museum of Westward Expansion documents the various discoveries made by the intrepid early explorers. Take the hour-long trip on an elevator-like tram to the top of the Arch for stunning views over the city and the farmlands of Illinois. Not for the vertigo-prone!

Leclede’s Landing is the vibrant heart of St Louis where restaurants and blues clubs occupy restored old warehouses along the riverfront.

Founded in 1860, the German Anheuser-Busch Brewery, the largest in the world, is now a museum. Its famous Budweiser lager continues to be a popular drink.

One of St Louis’ oldest buildings, the elegant Greek Revival-style Old Courthouse in the middle of downtown, was the scene of two infamous trials of Dred Scott. The African-American slave had returned to St Louis to claim his freedom after nearly a decade in free states, but in 1857 the US Supreme Court ruled that African-Americans had no rights as they were not US citizens. This landmark case fanned racial hatred which finally resulted in the bitter Civil War of 1861 - 1865. The domed Courthouse contains a museum depicting this case.

Forest Park, covering 1 300 acres, making it one of the nation’s largest urban parks, was the site of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in Beaux Arts buildings. Two museums are housed in the remaining Beaux Arts buildings. The St Louis Art Museum’s collection of works by American artists, including Andy Warhol, is in the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts. In another building the Missouri History Museum displays interesting historical memorabilia, including the original Louisiana Purchase transfer document in one gallery, whilst the blues musical history of St Louis is ‘noted’ in another.

The Missouri Botanical Garden south of downtown has a geodesic domed Climatron for exotic birds and tropical plants. A scented garden, together with Japanese and English gardens, are balm for the soul.
 
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