Thursday, August 31, 2023

Touristing In Our Home Town

This morning Hubby Tony and I were looking for something to do for a date. The temperature has been mild (but it will turn into summer again over the weekend), so something outside was definitely in order. 

A chance article in the newspaper which talked about how the baseball Cardinal's horrible season was negatively impacting the downtown restaurants and bars got me thinking that Tony and I should play tourist and eat lunch in the area. Our downtown area has its problems, but I want to make sure it stays around. And so just like that we had a plan.

Tony had a commitment at 1:00, so we left a little after breakfast. Unfortunately that meant we ended up in the end of rush hour traffic, but that only added five minutes to the trip. After finding a place to park we started walking without much of a plan. A block later we saw the Central Library building and decided to go in.

St. Louis Public Library Central Branch

The Carnegie library building takes up an entire city block. It was designed by architect Cass Gilbert (who also designed the U.S. Supreme Court Building), built in 1912, and renovated in 2012.
In 2022 it was named one of the 11 Most Beautiful Libraries in the United States by Fodor’s Travel.

We walked up the imposing flight of stairs to the entrance and opened the huge brass-framed doors. Inside, I stopped for a minute to survey the incredible architecture. After taking in the beautiful wood reception desk, ornate molding, and sweeping marble staircases on either side I saw a large sign for the current exhibit in the Great Hall, called PROM Magazine: Where did you go to high school? 

PROM was a local monthly magazine that documented high school life from 1947-1973. I wasn't in high school at the time so I didn't know much about it, but I learned that every school (public, private and parochial) had a student correspondent who reported on what was going on at their school. The stereotypical question people ask each other in the St. Louis area is "where did you go to high school?", and the magazine may have been the start of it.

Afterwards we walked up the beautiful staircase to the second floor where we found an exhibit of photographs called Cementland: Bob Cassilly's Unfinished Masterpiece. Bob Cassilly was a local and founded the City Museum. A later project was Cementland, which would repurpose a former cement factory in north St. Louis into an amusement park. Unfortunately Cassilly died working on the site.

The property stood vacant for a decade, and eventually sold. Before it was dismantled photographer Richard Sprengeler documented it. The stark black and white photographs showed a site that had gone to ruin. There was graffiti on just about every surface, and the outside shots showed Nature taking over.


 After we left the museum we walked around for a bit and ended up at the Soldiers Memorial. Here, we walked through the special exhibit entitled Vietnam At War and At Home. One half of the hall had displays about the war from an international perspective. The other half focused on the local impact.

After so much culture we were getting hungry. We walked several blocks east to Chili Mac's Diner, where Tony got tamales covered in chili. I got a Junior Slinger (a hamburger patty, American fries, and an egg, all covered with chili). The restaurant uses the chili recipe from a long-departed restaurant named O.T. Hodge. It was as good as I remembered.



  1. How fun. I love the old architecture. They were such craftsmen back in those days. Now it seems the newer ones, really all look similar. That PROM exhibit would be interesting and a great genealogy source. I know my husband and I would be interested in the Solders Museum.

    That is one of the things I miss, living so far from my hometown area.

    1. St. Louis is full of old, interesting buildings. Even the older residential areas are fascinating.

  2. When I worked downtown, OTs was a regular lunch spot.

  3. My stomach would protest that much chili.

    1. Although the restaurant is famous for their chili they have a nice variety of other dishes too.

  4. We all need to be reminded, as we plan our excursions, that you don't always need to go far from home.

    1. I've lived in St. Louis my entire life, and there's still too many things I haven't seen yet.