THE HEART OF THE FAIR
We begin our tour with the central section of the fair. As
we enter through the main gates, we come to the 600 foot wide
Plaza of St. Louis, with its Statue
of St. Louis of France. The statue is made in staff, a mixture
of plaster and fibers over a wooden frame, as are all the sculptures
and nearly all of the buildings. The
other end of the plaza, ending at the
Grand Basin, is dominated by the Louisiana
Purchase Monument, a 100 foot high column topped with a sculpture
of peace alighting on the globe. The sculptures around the base
depict memorable events in the history of the Louisiana Territory.
Indeed, all the statuary at the fair must relate to the history
or nature of the Territory.
After the fair was over, the statue of St. Louis proved so
popular with the city's residents that it was cast in bronze and
placed in front of the St. Louis Art Museum, one of the few other
survivors from the fair, and has since become one of the city's
At the end of the Plaza of St. Louis, we reach the focal point
of the fair, the Grand Basin and across
it Festival Hall. Festival Hall, crowned
by a gold-leafed dome larger than the dome of St. Peter's Basilica
in Rome, houses an auditorium that seats 3500 people. It also
houses the world's largest organ, with 10,159 pipes. Festival
Hall will also be the site, during the fair, of the first international
peace conference (15 years before the League of Nations was
After the fair, the organ was dismantled and loaded onto 13
railroad cars for shipment to its new home. It was reassembled
at Wanamaker's Department Store in Philadelphia, where it still
retains its title as the largest pipe organ in the world.
In front of Festival Hall is the Central Cascade,
a magnificent fountain assembly that flows into the Grand Basin.
The cascade, which starts out 45 feet wide and widens to 150 feet
across at the base, is flanked by two smaller cascades that descend
from the East and West Pavilions. These pavilions are connected
to Festival Hall by two crescent-shaped arcades known as the Terrace of States.
The arcade features 14 mammoth statues (7 on each arm) that represent
the 14 states that have been carved from the Louisiana Purchase.
The pavilions house two of the fair's largest and most popular
restaurants. The German restaurant in the East Pavilion and the
Italian restaurant in the West Pavilion can each seat over 2000
diners at a time. These are not, however, your only options. There
are 43 other full restaurants and 80 "fast food" vendors.
The fair was the birthplace of several American culinary institutions:
hot dogs, ice cream cones, and iced tea. It also saw the popularization
of a "health drink" known as Dr. Pepper and a "health food" called peanut butter. Fairgoers were also introduced to a new confection called "fairy floss", now known as cotton candy.
From these pavilions radiate two more smaller plazas, the
Plaza of Orleans in the east and the Plaza of St. Anthony in
the west. Arranged around these plazas are the eight main exhibition
buildings, the "Palaces" of the fair.
The Palace of Mines & Metallurgy,
with its Egyptian obelisks furnishing the motif for the entrances,
covers nine acres, and houses full-sized, working models of an
ore mine, an oil well, and a coal mine - where coal is actually
being dug. The center of the palace is dominated by a huge iron
statue of Vulcan sent by Alabama.
After the fair, the statue was returned to Alabama, and
today looks out from Red Mountain over the city of Birmingham.
The Palace of Liberal Arts ,with
its sculpture-crowned pavilions and arched entrances rising above
colonnades of great Doric columns, also covers nine acres. It
houses an exhibit on typesetting and printing which is also the
printing plant for all of the fair's official publications. In
addition there is a complete hospital to handle any medical emergencies
that might occur during the fair. Many other exhibits are also
shown here, including the British Mint's coin collection, armor
and weaponry, musical instruments, and Chinese temple carvings.
The palace also houses a great auditorium that seats 60,000 (more
than Busch Stadium seats today for Cardinals' games).
Across the Plaza of Orleans is the Palace of Manufacturers,
distinguished by colonnades and loggias richly embellished with
statuary. Housed within its 14 acres is the "shopping mall"
of the fair. The shopping arcade provides retail merchants with
6 X 6 foot booths, where the fairgoer can buy goods shipped in
from around the world.
The United States Customs Office collected half a million
dollars in duties on the foreign goods sold in this building.
The Palace of Education & Social Economy's seven acres
surrounded with a magnificent Corinthian colonnade. Housed inside
are school classes transported to the fair from around the world.
They range from kindergarten to university level, and include
schools for the deaf and the blind. Among the schools represented
are technical classes from Germany, industrial schools from France,
Austria and Italy, and art schools from Austria, Great Britain
The building also houses exhibits in the new field of "social
economy" that cover civic improvements, hygiene and public
health, charities and welfare, penal reform, and the "progress
Across the Grand Basin is the Palace Of Electricity.
It covers seven acres devoted to the wonders of this new marvel.
Thomas Edison, himself, was brought to the fair to oversee the
proper setup of the electrical exhibits. Here you can communicate
by wireless with Chicago or Kansas City, or telephone anyone in
the country (IF they have a telephone as well). One of the most
popular exhibits is the "fast" food cooked with electricity.
A special electric broiler has been set up that broils on both
sides at the same time, and can cook a steak in only 6 minutes.
The Palace of Varied Industries,
crowned with Spanish steeples, and having a semi-circular colonnade
unlike anything ever before done in architecture, features exactly
that - varied industries. The building houses 34 different groups
of exhibits within its 14 acres, covering such topics as industrial
arts, furniture, jewelry, and interior design.
The Palace of Transportation presents
a domed roof, three massive entrances, and a bottle-shaped pylon.
It covers nearly 16 acres, and houses 4 miles of railroad tracks.
There is a 70 foot turntable where full-sized locomotives are
run for the visitor's pleasure. The building also houses the 140
automobiles that have been driven to the fair under their own
power from as far away as Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. (Remember
that the first cross-country automobile trip had occurred only
the year before.)
last of the great palaces is the Palace of Machinery.
It presents a forest of towers and a big sloping roof backing
a sculpture-decked entrance way. It exhibits the latest advancements
in power generation - from steam boilers to electric generators
- and provides most of the power requirements for the fair. Each
day, approximately 500 tons of coal are used to run these great
machines. One of the most spectacular uses for this energy is
the grand illumination of the fair buildings and
the cascades at night with over half a million electric light
bulbs and sweeping search lights of changing hues.
One other building of note, set behind Festival Hall, is the
Palace of Fine Arts. This is one of
the few buildings on the fairgrounds that is intended to be a
permanent structure, continuing after the fair to serve the people
of St. Louis as a museum of fine art.
Highlighting the Plaza of Orleans and the Plaza of St. Anthony
are the East and West Lagoons that connect
to the Grand Basin and provide a setting for the many gondolas
and motor launches that the fairgoer may enjoy.
Go back to Meet Me At The Fair.
Go forward to The World At The Fair.