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 emblems.



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 founded).

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 are 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 and Ireland.

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 of mankind."



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.)



The 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.