St. Louis Celebrates 250 Years!!


Many of us celebrate milestone birthdays one of two ways – we either moan and groan about turning another year older OR we embrace the number and enjoy a new phase of life.  But no matter how you celebrate that day that only comes once a year, you will never celebrate a sestercentennial!  That’s right!  A sestercentennial!  Spell check doesn’t recognize it and I looked in two dictionaries and didn’t see the word…but I did find it online and according to it is a “Latin way of expressing a
250th anniversary.”  How about just saying that St. Louis, Missouri is celebrating 250 years!  Pretty impressive!

Most of us think of February 14 as Valentine’s Day…but St. Louis has another reason to celebrate that date.  It was around February 14, 1764 when St. Louis was founded.  I’ve lived in St. Louis or the St. Louis area since 1988 and did not know this about the city that I once called home.  So when I heard about a free exhibit at the Missouri History Museum titled 250 in 250, it caught my attention.  This exhibit features 50 people, 50 places, 50 images, 50 moments, and 50 objects that help celebrate the vast and diverse history of St. Louis.

This exhibit opened on February 14 and runs through February 15, 2015.  I had planned to visit it at some point this year but when my sister-in-law suggested going to see it on its opening weekend, I hesitated…I was waiting for the ‘new’ to wear off and to avoid the crowds that usually follow the opening of an event or exhibit.  But we went…and I am so glad we did!  Keep in mind that I’ve lived in the St. Louis area since 1988…and the exhibit opened my eyes to some of the highlights of the last 250 years.

leavingbirthdaygreetingsBefore entering the exhibit, the museum had a table set up where you could write a letter or birthday greeting to St. Louisians.  These greetings, once dropped in the mail slot, will be held by the Missouri History Museum until the year 2064…when St. Louis celebrates its 300th anniversary!  I haven’t written my greeting yet but I plan on going back on another day when I can stroll through the exhibit again.  Who knows, I may even learn something else!

charleslindberghThe first portion of the exhibit – 50 People – was one of my favorites.  It featured a brief biography of influential people who have contributed to St. Louis, and in some cases, world-wide history.  People like Charles Lindbergh, Adolphus Busch, and Chuck Berry were just a few of the people highlighted.  The exhibit also featured Stan Musial, one of our beloved St. Louis Cardinals.  Everyone has heard of the Pulitzer Prize…but I was surprised to learn of the attachment of Joseph Pulitzer to St. Louis.  And remember Marlin Perkins of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom fame?  Even Mr. Perkins had ties to the St. Louis area!

There is one part of the 50 People portion of the exhibit that talks about the other people that the committee considered for the 50 People.  And there were many good names on this list…John Goodman, Pierre Laclede, and even Tina Turner.  Guests of the exhibit were asked who they would have considered for the top 50 honor…and many suggestions were made.  My favorite suggestion, obviously by a huge hockey fan, was T.J. Oshie!  Of course, this was just after T.J. Oshie, a center for the St. Louis Blue hockey team, won the shootout with Russia in the Winter Olympics!  Who knows?  Maybe someday, HIS name will be added to the list!

50momentsThe next portion of the exhibit, “50 Moments”, allowed visitors to listen to excerpts of journals and bits of history through headphones.  There were obvious parts of history that were noted, such as the cholera outbreak, but there were also many that I was intrigued with.  This is one part of the exhibit that definitely warrants a return visit as I want to hear about the “50 Moments” in St. Louis history chosen as part of this exhibit.  The “50 Images” exhibit allowed guests to sit and view a slideshow of photographs depicting much of the St. Louis history that many people who were born and raised in St. Louis might have known about.  For others who moved here later in life, it was an interesting view of the city.  Alongside this exhibit was the “50 Places” highlighted in the exhibit.  Drawings of the most notable 50 places in St. Louis highlighted the walls…the walls looked like a chalkboard with the drawings in chalk.  Many of these places are in existence today…and it was fun to see how many I recognized and had visited.

stlouisbrownsThe final room of the exhibit featured “50 Objects” and this was one of my favorites.  Items included a TWA Hostess Uniform, a stuffed bear from Build-a-Bear Workshop, and even a bench from the 1904 World’s Fair.  The public was allowed to vote on which item they wanted added to the exhibit…and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by their choice.  Can anyone guess?  The Reader’s Pick was a St. Louis Browns baseball uniform!  It’s quite obvious that sports have played a huge part in St. Louis history!

I have decided that I am definitely going back to take it all in again!  Why not join me?  It really doesn’t matter what type of history you enjoy, this exhibit has something for everyone and is a great family outing.  I saw a family writing their wishes for St. Louis…to be read in 2064…what a great way to get young people excited about history!  And this exhibit is just one of the many activities and events that St. Louis will be holding throughout the year to celebrate their very own milestone.  There is a project called “250 Cakeway to the West” that you’ll want to follow.  There will be 250 Birthday Cakes placed throughout the metropolitan St. Louis area…and so it becomes a scavenger hunt of sorts.  I’m not sure I’ll find all 250 this year but it will be fun to try!  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

50placesForest Park, home of the Missouri History Museum, is a great place to visit.  Sometimes those of us who live in the area need to play tourist for a day (or two or three) and revisit areas rich in St. Louis history.  When planning your next stay or vacation at Harpole’s Heartland Lodge (maybe in celebration of your own birthday), make sure you take a day trip and visit the Missouri History Museum.  The museum changes its exhibits throughout the year so once you’ve visited the 250 in 250 exhibit, check out what else the museum has to offer.  And then upon your return to the lodge, you can relax, unwind and discuss the exhibit over dinner or sitting in front of the fireplace.  I am confident that you will be glad you included this day trip in your plans.

Lori Biehl

Last Updated: February 26th, 2014

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