A line snakes out of the exhibit "A Walk in 1875 St. Louis" at the Missouri History Museum last Father's Day.
Courtesy of The Missouri History Museum

The Missouri History Museum continues to see drastically increased attendance compared with just a couple of years ago, a trend it attributes to a new exhibit strategy.

(photo illustration via Flickr user Tim Hamilton)

The birthday cakes are disappearing from St. Louis streets, and the Missouri History Museum’s 250 in 250 closes up shop this weekend. But here's a one-stop place to find — at any time — the stories inspired by St. Louis' big anniversary about what makes our area special.

We had fun with history

The Missouri History Museum is collecting postcards for a time capsule that will be opened in 50 years, for St. Louis' 300th anniversary.
Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ 250th anniversary celebration is wrapping up, and the city starts its 251st year this weekend.

While the 250th anniversary may have lacked the over-the-top pomp and circumstance of previous anniversaries, Cakeway to the West was a hit. Two hundred fifty-six cake sculptures, each 4 feet tall, were decorated by artists and scattered throughout the St. Louis region.

Dust will have to be carefully removed from the Spirit of St. Louis.
Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time in more than 20 years, the Spirit of St. Louis, Charles Lindbergh’s beloved single-engine plane that carried him to fame and the $25,000 Orteig Prize in 1927, is back on the ground — sort of. 

The iconic piece of aviation history is now sitting on the floor in the main lobby of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.  Smithsonian experts will examine every inch of the plane, assess its condition, review and document previous repairs and address the continuing toll time takes on historic artifacts.

Wednesday's First Night celebration in Grand Center is the official end of St. Louis' yearlong 250th anniversary celebration, and will showcase St. Louis arts and artists. 

Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ yearlong 250th anniversary celebration will close Wednesday night with First Night in Grand Center.

As part of the festivities, a few STL250 cakes began arriving at the Public Media Commons on Monday morning. The Public Media Commons is located between St. Louis Public Radio and the Nine Network on Olive Street.

Two looks of Raja
Provided by the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts

As our city rocked from the upheavals of 2014, a series of quieter changes was taking place in the St. Louis art world.

Several arts organizations debuted, others expanded and a few folded. Some relocated and others featured uncharacteristic fare to appeal to wider audiences. Here’s a look at eight of this year’s evolutions in the local arts scene.

at the post office s. grand 11.26
Rebecca Smith | St. Louis Public Radio

Since 1966, The Arch has represented St. Louis as the Gateway to the West. But it also has other connotations, especially now.

As St. Louis celebrates 250 years, several books have explored the city’s history. Add one more to the list, but this one tells the tales through timelines.

“St. Louis: An Illustrated Timeline” offers a tour through St. Louis’ past (and future, as the book ends in 2016) with vignettes for noteworthy years. It also has what author Carol Ferring Shepley calls a “wide-angle view” of the city.

(Courtesy: Linda Gurney)

Approximately 250 fiberglass cakes are scattered throughout the St. Louis region. They’re placed at notable locations to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis.

Sixty-seven of the cakes are part of an online auction that opened Monday and lasts through the end of the year. More may be added to the auction because each host location gets to choose what happens to their cake.

Rebecca Smith | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis is a city built on immigration – from the early French settlers, to the Germans and Irish in the 1800s, to the more modern immigration of Bosnians and Southeast Asians.

While there have been numerous waves of immigration into St. Louis, the welcome extended by existing religious groups to new immigrants has remained fairly consistent throughout St. Louis' 250 year history.

Providing Resources

The show at the Mercantile Library has so many elements, some are on the floor.
Facebook post

To celebrate a major birthday — say, 50 or older — many hosts serve cake and display photos of the celebrant: baby photos, first steps, awkward adolescence, coming of age and major landmarks of adulthood.

For St. Louis’ 250th birthday celebration, John Neal Hoover has done just that. At the Mercantile Library’s new exhibition, Hoover hung several century-old photos, older paintings and drawings, but mostly he tells the city history in maps.

Willis Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

Like most old cities, St. Louis has its share of ghost stories.

There’s the Lemp Mansion, haunted by the the tragic history of the beer baron’s family.

There’s the Rock House on the campus of the Edgewood Children’s Home in Webster Groves, and the spirits that roam the land near Ralston Purina, which was once the site of a medical college and later a Civil War-era prison.

An aerial view of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency at 3200 South 2nd Street.

It’s a top national security facility in St. Louis that’s flown under the radar for years.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is hidden in plain sight on more than 20 acres that lie between the Anheuser-Busch Brewery and the Mississippi River. There are roughly 2,500 NGA employees there, working on highly secretive projects. The maps, charts and strategic intelligence they provide are used by the president, national policy makers and military leaders.

Jazz pianist and composer Peter Martin
Sarah Crowder

Music has been an important part of St. Louis’ past, from folk music of the city’s early settlers, to classical, ragtime, blues, jazz, R&B, rock ’n’ roll and hip-hop.

“250 Years of St. Louis Music: American Music at its Best” will celebrate many of those styles, in addition to St. Louis’ 250th anniversary, on Oct. 17 at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

(Courtesy: Linda Gurney)

Although the St. Louis Cardinals have returned to Busch Stadium for a playoff run, one thing is still missing: The fiberglass cake that was originally placed at the stadium celebrating St. Louis’ 250th anniversary.

And, there’s no longer a question of whether the cake will return before the end of year. It will not be available to the public in any capacity.

Fred Fausz
University of Missouri–St. Louis

St. Louis founder Auguste Chouteau set out with a simple goal: he wanted to build one of the nation’s finest cities.

Historian Fred Fausz believes St. Louis is living up to that goal.

“I think the vibrancy of the city, the spirit of the city is still here, even if you have to include 90 other communities because we’ve created a metro area,” said Fausz, a University of Missouri–St. Louis associate history professor whose new book explores the area’s history, “Historic St. Louis: 250 Years Exploring New Frontiers.” “It is a truly vibrant city as the founders envisioned.”

Pilot Roy Caton checks his balloon for security before taking off on a flight.
Shula Neuman/St. Louis Public Radio

On the third weekend of September, St. Louisans turn their gaze skyward in the hopes of glimpsing a charming sight: dozens of multi-colored hot air balloons floating across a clear blue sky. It’s the Great Forest Park Balloon Race, a 42-year-old tradition in St. Louis that has been kept alive thanks to the friendship and generosity of four men.

National Park Service / Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Had things gone differently in 1947, instead of the majestic stainless steel Gateway Arch that is recognized around the world, St. Louis could have a rectangular stone gate standing tall on the riverfront today.

Or, a large, abstract monument signifying … something. 

Other suggestions proposed for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial included towering pylons and bridges. 

(Courtesy: Linda Gurney)

You’ve likely seen at least one by now — fiberglass cakes scattered throughout the St. Louis region. They’re placed at notable places to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis.

There are 251 of the 4-foot sculptures. We’ve created a map that allows you to see the cake closest to you; and we profiled one woman who’s visited every cake.

Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

Find your closest cake.

Missouri History Museum

World War I collared the spread of German culture and language across the globe. Though far from the front lines, St. Louis’s vibrant German community was no exception. 

A hundred years ago, the growth of the city had largely been driven by thousands of Germanic immigrants who built and controlled large swaths of government, industry, education, and religion. The Great War tested and ultimately transformed that influence in many ways that linger today.

Provided by STL250

Amy Page loves cake.

Forget the fluffy white or rich chocolate bakery versions — the cakes Page is interested in are 4 feet tall and scattered across the St. Louis region, part of STL250’s Cakeway to the West to commemorate St. Louis’ 250th anniversary.

“I first found out about the cakes when I saw some of my friends posting pictures on Facebook,” said Page, a music teacher in the Wesclin School District in Trenton, Ill.

Courtesy of the Charlie Menees Collection, UMKC.

It spanned less than three blocks at the intersection of Olive and Boyle. And it only lasted about ten years.

But the arts and entertainment district known as Gaslight Square flourished in the 1950s and '60s, making St. Louis a national destination for music and culture.

In honor of St. Louis' 250th birthday, I took a little detour off my usual science beat to explore this extraordinary time and place in our city's history.

Juwaun Crawford plays Chuck Berry.
Emanuele Berry | St. Louis Public Radio

The history of the Ville neighborhood has been told through books and film. Now the community's story will be told through opera.

In honor of St. Louis’ 250th birthday, St. Louis ArtWorks commissioned “On Whose Shoulders We Stand: An Opera,” which focuses on the Ville.

It will be performed this weekend by students in the ArtWorks program.

Juwaun Crawford is one of the teens in the program. With his sailor hat and shiny gold guitar crafted from cardboard and foil, he plays a magnetic Chuck Berry.

Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Coming away with a new favorite song is part of the Muny tradition for thousands of St. Louis families. But some families are taking home more than a catchy tune — they’re also leaving with paychecks.

Five members of the Heet family have worked at the Muny as ushers. Two are still on the job. Alex Heet, 21, is a college student in her fifth summer at the Muny. Her sister, Sarah, 18, is ushering for a third year.

Missouri History Museum, St. Louis

Forest Park is expecting to have just under 50,000 visitors this July 4th weekend for Fair St. Louis. Officials and St. Louisans have been worried about crowds, parking and congestion. But 100 years ago, the park saw much bigger crowds for the city's 150th birthday celebration. Perhaps the planners of Fair St. Louis can learn a lot from the Pageant and Masque St.

Nic Tullis

The Sheldon has its own way of celebrating St. Louis’ birthday. Its new exhibit "The City at 250: A Celebration of St. Louis in Photographs" stemmed from a city-wide photo contest the Sheldon launched with the Beacon (now part of St. Louis Public Radio) that received over 500 entries. Focusing on photos of the city as it is today, the exhibit is a companion to the Sheldon's “Imagining the Founding of St. Louis.” Together, they offer a then and now view for the city’s 250th celebration.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

The residents of the big birdcage aren’t as flashy or exotic as many of the 19,000 animals at the Saint Louis Zoo, but they do put on a show.

At ground level, a row of small ruddy ducks with bright blue bills follow the leader, making rippling curlicues in a swamp-like pond. Double-crested cormorants hang out on a wooden bridge, striking a pose with their outstretched wings, as visitors reach for their camera phones.   

Courtesy Missouri History Museum

Holiday encore broadcast.

On Friday, February 14, 2014, The Missouri History Museum hosted “A Great City from the Start,” a one-day symposium commemorating the founding of St. Louis. The foremost experts on early St. Louis history spoke before an audience that included representatives from Quebec, France, Spain and the Osage Nation.