Two Hours West of St Louis and you find.....
Whilst researching a route back to St Louis, I noticed Fulton, and its claim to have The National Churchill Museum.
Sounded like some rinky dink, cheesy place to me on first glance! Further research indicated that I might be wrong. How come I’d never heard of this place I mused.
In short, Missourian President Truman invited Churchill in 1946 to speak at Fulton University. Remarkably he made the effort to go to Jefferson City by train and by car for the last leg. He then made, what became a famous speech, introducing the concept of The Iron Curtain, descending on Europe and how a Cold War was starting.
The relationship was started and further enhanced when in the 1960’s, a London Church, which was near to St Paul’s Cathedral, and damaged during The Blitz, was moved, brick by brick and re-erected in Fulton, above what is now The National Churchill Museum!
Stunning, well worth the not inconsiderable effort to get there (which I am sure Winston Churchill likely commented on in 1946!).
St Louis – GateWay to the West, then Decline and now Regeneration of the City Center
Over a century ago St Louis was one of the main powerhouses, with junctions, wonderful parks and transportation gateways, in the whole of the USA. It was the 10th largest city. Now it is around 64th. It was the ‘end’ of the USA as known and in the 1800’s truly was The Gateway to the West. The Santa Fe Trail started here and later Route 66 passed through/
In 1904 it hosted the Worlds Trade Fair! This Fair was also called the Louisiana Exposition (there is an excellent exhibit at the Missouri History Museum all about this event). Clearly that illustrates the significance of this city 1000 miles from the sea, at a time when transport was not easy, nor quick.
Today’s St Louis city center has inherited, wide ‘boulevards’ and huge, mostly grand, buildings and a selection of wonderful Squares and Parks. The king of them is the huge Forest Park which is home to Museums, the Art Gallery and much more. Well worth the visit!
Progress in St Louis
Last time I was in St Louis years ago, the Union Station was largely disused. As an example of revitalization today it houses numerous family entertainment options, including a large Aquarium, Special Trains and even a hotel.
New hotels are opening, (our hotel, the Red Lion was a refurbished shoe factory) and places like the Ball Park, near the Cardinals Stadium are expanding significantly. The Arch has a nice new Visitor Center, there are several sports and arts venues and swanky hotels too now.
Exploring St Louis
Market St is so vast and wide it reminds me of Eastern European era design! Today, what to do with the space and buildings? Some, indeed most, now have a purpose and present an interesting parade of styles. A few require still some work.
On the water front The Gateway Arch anchors the downtown in what is now a vibrant area.
St Louis has many neighborhoods and thanks to Metrolink many are easy to get to. Maplewood on Route 66 attracted me (as I live in Maplewood NJ) and an active place that is. LaFayette has gorgeous homes from a well to do era to wander past for example. Soulard, (where the Budweiser Museum is!) is a lively are also with a range of now, well maintained, houses.
Elsewhere Beyond St Louis
It’s a vast state but we drove through farmland, interspersed with scattered new builds (I guess cheap land means you try to build the largest McMansion often miles from anywhere), but many, many rural, poor and isolated communities. The type seen across the continent in communities left behind, it seems, from global progress which leads to dissatisfaction – and protest voting!
Well known in the Mid West, but little known further afield, Branson is a center of country style, low key entertainment, providing recreation for primarily Mid Westerners and a few others. Fascinating to observe the ‘demographics’, the interests, culture and styles.
Why is Missouri the ‘Show Me’ State?
Apparently back in 1899 Missouri’s U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver at a Naval Dinner indicated that to convince him you had to ‘show me’.