Gateway to (Mid)West: St. Louis

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

It seemed too soon to reminisce about the first half of our trip, which was filled with fun activities and meeting great people.  But, as we packed for our next destination early in the morning, contemplated the great people we had met and the fun of visiting Little Rock, Memphis, Nashville, Louisville, Lexington, and Frankfort.

Ambassadors with Cameron Ludwick and Blair Hess, Authors of “My Old Kentucky Road Trip”

But with St. Louis on our destination list for today, we hastened to pack and headed out at 4am, a bit groggy, but excited for the Midwest section of the trip.

The Old Courthouse, St. Louis

Five hours later, we were able to make our first stop: the Old Courthouse.

Dred Scott Courthouse, Missouri, St. Louis
The Old Courthouse, Where the Dred Scott Case Originated, St. Louis, MO

We were out on the road again until we reached St. Louis, Missouri where our first stop was the Old Courthouse. This courthouse is especially important because this is where the famous Dred Scott case was brought to trial. Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, were slaves that filed a suit for their freedom against Irene Emerson, their slave owner. They tried to take advantage of the Missouri law that would allow them to buy their freedom, and after many years of hardship the judges finally came to a conclusion. In 1857, it was decided that they were not to be considered citizens of Missouri; therefore they could not sue for their freedom. Having grown tired of the slave family, the Emerson family sold them to the Blow family where the Scotts were finally set free. Sadly, Dred Scott enjoyed his freedom only for a short while as he died a year later in 1858.

There is an exhibit in the Old Courthouse where the courtroom in which this trial was heard is displayed.  It was filled with chairs for the jury, two desks for the attorneys, a desk for a bailiff, and a clerk, a chair for witnesses, and a chair for the presiding judge. We even recreated the trial ourselves!

LEAP Ambassadors Re-Enact Dred Scott Case
LEAP Ambassadors Re-Enact Dred Scott Case

Apart from its historic value, the courthouse is a beautiful structure, with a beautiful dome designed by William Rumbold.

Old Courthouse, St. Louis, Dred Scott
Old Courthouse Dome, Designed by William Rumbold with Murals by Karl Wimar

As part of LEAP, we are always seeking ways to expand our knowledge. So it is only fitting that we visit the monumental symbol of the westward expansion as our next stop.

The Gateway Arch, St. Louis

Gateway Arch, St. Louis,
Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Designed by Eero Saarinen in 1947

The westward expansion, aided greatly by the Louisiana Purchase, doubled the size of the United States in 1803. In honor of America moving into a more prosperous and hopeful state, The Arch was built as the “gateway to the west.” The Arch proudly stands at an intimidating 630 feet making it the tallest man-made monument in the nation.


The architect, Eero Saarinen, was an immigrant from Finland and was granted this opportunity after winning a contest by the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in 1947. After studying architecture at Yale, he believed this was the opportunity to establish himself as an architect in America and it was. Although the design for this structure was completed in 1947, the real structure was not completed until 1965! We learned that this monument was brilliantly made with 142 stainless steel triangle sections that are each 12 feet in length held together by tension bars and truss. It took 13 years to raise the 13 million dollars needed to fund this project. In 1967, a trans system was built inside the north and south legs of the arch allowing 40 people at a time to view the impressive view. It was through these same legs that we rode through in our capsules.

Gateway Arch Elevator St. Louis
Gateway Arch “Elevator” or Travel Pod

It was tremendously fun to be able to enjoy the arch’s view…

Gateway Arch
Beatriz, Kaitlyn, and Karla at Top of Gateway Arch

…and see parts of St. Louis that we looked forward to exploring.

Gateway Arch, Dred Scott Courthouse, Wainright Building
St. Louis from the top of the Gateway Arch

Once back on the ground, we were also able to watch an informative documentary about the arch and its history.  Expansion in 1803 meant a hopeful future for some and that is our motivation as we expand our education in college and on our trips.

Originally, we had planned to visit the city garden that was near the courthouse. With its luscious greenery, sparkling fountains, and marvelous art we were all prepared to relax and enjoy the perfect view of the arch it would offer. Or so we imagined. Unfortunately, time didn’t permit a trip to that destination.

Photo Ops in St. Louis

Remaining undaunted, we decided to go on a photo op adventure instead. Our first photo op stop was a Richard Haas mural.  With two of our students having been interns at the Wynne Home, his work has a special meaning to us, and fourteen of his works dot the downtown of Huntsville.

Richard Haas, St. Louis, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors in front of Richard Haas Mural

None of the ones in Huntsville, however, cover the 110,000 square feet of the one adorning the Old Edison Stores Building in St. Louis.

Next, we headed over to the St. Louis Union Station  Building, which is a beautiful structure, now a Doubletree by Hilton.  But its interiors were what we found most intriguing…

Union Station in St. Louis, Double Tree
Union Station in St. Louis, MO

…even the entrance to the bathrooms were interesting!


But the grand hall was the most beautiful part.

Doubletree, Union Station, Grand Hotel, St. Louis
Grand Hall at Union Station (Doubletree Hotel) in St. Louis, MO

Across the street is the Milles Fountain, which is also impressive and offers a nice view of the exterior of the Union Station.

Milles Fountain at Aloe Plaza, Union State, St. Louis, MO
Milles Fountain at Aloe Plaza

Amighetti’s in The Hill, St. Louis

After a morning of westward exploration and photo ops in St. Louis, we took a quick stroll down The Hill to Amighetti’s.

Amighetti's, in The Hill Section of St. Louis, MO
Amighetti’s, in The Hill Section of St. Louis, MO

Located in what could be considered St. Louis’ Little Italy, the restaurant provided a prime venue for a satisfying lunch. Under what seemed an authentic tin-lined ceiling, we looked over the menu which included, but was not limited to, the Amighetti’s Special, a ravioli plate, and Little Bit of Italy sandwich.

Little Taste of Italy, Amighetti's, The Hill, St. Louis, MO
A Little Taste of Italy, at Amighetti’s in St. Louis, MO

As for the Amighetti’s Special, the sandwich accomplished its main goal; completely stuff its eater. Made up of ham, roast beef, and Genoa salami, blanketed with a rich layer of brick cheese on a 9 inch loaf of French style bread, it was a near challenge to take a bite. However, the extra effort to open one’s jaw was worth it, for every bite was an opportunity to taste the delicious sandwich. To improve on the experience, the menu presented St. Louis’ own Ritz root-beer. The effervescent, sweet, and smooth root-beer was an enjoyable company to Amighetti’s Special. To close off our lunch we also ordered a round of gelato. Within the group we were able to enjoy a cup of a sour, but satisfying lemon ice, cherry peach, strawberry, and vanilla, all of which we considered of excellent taste. As we stood up from our seat, with a content belly and a cooled off palate, we regained the energy needed to continue our St. Louis exploration at the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kraus Home.

On previous adventures, Alex and Ryan had already encountered this one-of-a-kind home a numerous times. Therefore, Professor Yawn decided to give them the opportunity to explore new land by the name of the St. Louis Art Museum. After dropping them off we rerouted to the Kraus home.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home at Ebsworth Park

Hidden behind lush greenery, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kraus Home is located in the upscale Kirkwood neighborhood of Saint Louis. Taking a short drive from the art museum, we arrived for a special tour. Normally, tours are not available on Wednesday afternoons, but the staff of the home were generous enough to arrange a tour for us today! Upon arrival, we immediately gaped in awe of the unique architecture and the natural beauty surrounding the home.

Kraus Homee, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ebsworth Park
Frank Lloyd Wright Home at Ebsworth Park

To begin our tour, we watched an introductory video about the Kraus home and its architect. Frank Lloyd Wright was born in 1867 and designed more than 500 structures throughout the United States. Represented in the Kraus home were parallelograms, hexagons, and horizontal lines, all of which accentuated the Usonian vision of Wright. The Kraus home sits on 10.5 acres of land now owned by Saint Louis County as part of its parks system.

In the mid 1940’s, Russell Kraus, a Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiast, wrote to Frank Lloyd Wright requesting him to design a small and less expensive home. Nearly ten years later in 1955, the home would finally reach completion. Mr. Kraus lived there until 2001, when a non-profit raised money to purchase the home and the land was deeded to Saint Louis County.

Throughout the tour, Professor Yawn was quick to point out the horizontal attributes of the home, noting even the grooves between the brick walls were designed to draw the eye horizontally instead of vertically. The Kraus home was designed as two hexagons partially overlapping one another.  The entire home is made up of these two hexagons or its subcomponents  (parallelograms and triangles).

Frank Lloyd Wright, Kraus Home, Ebsworth Park, St. Louis, Architecture

Even the bed, for example, is a parallelogram.

We were fascinated throughout the entire tour. In order to preserve the beauty of the home, we were not allowed to take any photographs inside the home. However, we finished our tour with a few photos on the balcony…

Kraus Home, Balcony, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ebsworth Park
Balcony of Kraus Home at Ebsworth Park, Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

…and the exterior.


St. Louis Art Museum

Meanwhile, in the St. Louis Art Museum, Ryan and Alex were being exposed to various forms of art.

SLAM, St. Louis Art Museum
St. Louis Art Museum

One of the major aspects Missouri has to offer is the free admission into museums (excluding special exhibits).  On the three levels of the museum, there were paintings, sculptures, and artifacts from as early as 500-600 BCE to as recent as present day and everything in between. There were pieces of art from all around the world including Asia, the Americas, Africa and Europe. Several famous artists’ works could be found at the museum including Monet…

St. Louis, SLAM, Art Museum, Water Lillies, Monet
Monet’s “Water Lilies” at the St. Louis Art Museum

…van Gogh, Picasso, Seurat…

George Seurat, Pointillism, SLAM, Outer Harbor
George Seurat’s “Outer Harbor” at the St. Louis Art Museum

…Degas, Rodin, Kandinsky, Warhol, Segal, O’Keeffe, and many more. Outside, there was a short path through a small sculpture garden, mostly made up of pieces from Henry Moore.

Henry Moore's "Two-Piece Reclining Figures" at St. Louis Art Museum
Henry Moore’s “Two-Piece Reclining Figures” at St. Louis Art Museum

As we were leaving, a huge storm rolled in, cutting out our trip to a sculpture garden in the downtown area. So instead, we headed towards Bentonville, stopping for a photo-op at the world’s largest fork, and afterwards, stopping for dinner.

Dinner at Cafe Cusco, Springfield, MO

Being the home of the world’s largest fork…

World's Tallest Fork, Springfield, MO
World’s Tallest Fork, Springfield, MO

…Springfield appropriately offers numerous eateries from which to choose.

We choose Cafe Cusco, a Peruvian restaurant that has all the attributes of good Peruvian food, without the risk of Zika.

With the buildings soaking in the last rays of the day on Commercial St., we crossed the threshold into the Peruvian cuisine restaurant. As Peruvian folk music sounded its harmonious guitar in the background, we looked through the menu. With a variety of “platos” or dishes, from vegan salads to meaty steaks, the appetite of some of us were attracted to the fried rabbit, fajita saltada, BBQ pork panca, and lomo saltado. First, however, we began our taste of Peru with a seafood dip and fried avocado appetizer.

Seafood Dip, Fried Avocado, Cafe Cusco, Springfield, MO
Seafood Dip and Fried Avocado at Cafe Cusco

As the initial dishes were cleared, we readied ourselves for our main course. Soon the table was enveloped in the spicy aromas of the various dishes. As for the lomo saltado, a dish of steak cooked with bell pepper  and onions served with fries and rice, each scoop of the fork brought to one’s mouth the zesty spice of Peruvian flavor. Perhaps the best of the dishes, however, was the rabbit, which Ryan enjoyed immensely.

Rabbit Entree, Cafe Cusco, Springfield, MO
The Rabbit Dish at Cafe Cusco

In all, the restaurant was more than enough to make us go back to the corner block venue as we were forever in love with these flavorful dishes. For the meantime however, it was time get back to our traveling van for we still had half a state left to ride through.



Midwest, Day 2: Show Us St. Louis, MO!

Not much happens in Little Rock, Arkansas at 5:00 am, LEAP students were thrilled to find out, as we left the City of Bridges early enough to spend the day in St. Louis, Missouri. After passing the six-hour drive sleeping the scenery away, we made it to the “Gateway to the West” around lunchtime, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and headed straight to the landmark for which the city is best known

Signifying expansion into unknown territory, the Gateway Arch stands 630 feet tall in the St. Louis skyline, beckoning travelers to explore what the city has to offer. Designed by Eero Saarinen, completed in 1965, and designated as a historic site in 1987, the Gateway Arch is visited by thousands annually from all over the world. Located between the Mississippi River and the Old Courthouse, the Gateway Arch stands 630 feet high–tall, indeed, especially for two people who do not like heights.

Undaunted, we embraced the moment, commemorating with a photograph.


We then proceeded to hop into a pod that transferred us from underground into the skies of the city.  I (Constance) don’t care for the pod much.


After a five-minute ride, we disembarked, climbed a few stairs, and were confronted with windows to the east overlooking the Mississippi and beyond.


On the opposite side, we enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the Old Courthouse, Budweiser Park, the Wainwright Building, and the Edward Jones Dome, home to the St. Louis Rams.

St_Louis_From_Arch_WebThese views come courtesy of small windows in the middle of the arch.


Taking in our fill of the city, we snapped a couple selfies and got back in line to descend to the bottom once again.

We left the Gateway Arch to return to the Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott trials occurred in 1847 and 1850. Construction began in 1816 but was not completed until 1828 by the firm of Lavielle and Morton. Since the first completion, Henry Singleton added an addition of three wings and a center cupola dome in 1839, which lasted until 1851, when the east wing was replaced.

Known for not only the Dred Scott case, the Old Courthouse was also home to slave auctions until 1861. While inside, we explored the different wings of the courthouse, admired the beautiful staircases…


and different structural intricacies, and posed for quite a few pictures as well.


The courthouse differs today from the 1839 version because William Rumbold replaced the cupola with a dome in 1861, modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.Standing in the center of the main hall looking up, we had the chance to view the dome from the inside-purples, blues, pinks, and greens all around.

Court_Room_Dome_WebAfter spending as much time as we could inside, we headed out to venture back to the car and drove outside of the city to the most anticipated tour of the day, a Frank Lloyd Wright home.


Frank Lloyd Wright Home at Ebsworth Park

We arrived at Ebsworth Park and drove through a winding driveway to arrive at our destination and learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright. Born in 1867, Frank Lloyd Wright was an internationally known architect in the early to mid 1900s. He built homes and buildings after learning from and working for Louis Sullivan, who is known for his work with skyscrapers and who built the Wainwright Building in downtown St. Louis. Wright built the home in Ebsworth Park for Russell and Ruth Kraus, a modest couple who doubted they had the funds to afford a home from such a well-known figure in architecture. Instead, the architect surprised them with his acquiescence and proceeded to plan them a Usonian home. Known for its affordability and political implications, Wright’s Usonian theme, seen throughout the United States, encompasses smaller homes, with only one story, usually no basements, attics, or garages, and just enough space to be efficient.

The home is laid out in grids, with parallelograms serving as the major building motif.  Within the parallelograms, however, are embedded triangles and hexagons, and these three shapes make up the shapes in the home.  In fact, there is only one ninety-degree angle in the home (the bathroom); the rest of the home’s angles are either 60 degrees or 120 degrees.

FLW_Constance_Alex_WebWe learned of Wright’s use of compression and expansion as we walked through the tight entryway and entered the spacious main hall of the home. Docent Dave Baumgartner, a former architect in St. Louis, made the tour very enjoyable and provided much insight into the particulars of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural plans.

FLW_Tour_Guide_WebLow tables and chairs, great windows, and open space pulled our view towards the outside of the home and into the great forest beyond.

In addition to the beauty of the home…

FLW_5_Web…we learned various innovations produced by Frank Lloyd Wright (e.g., larger bathrooms), the creativity he used to fit his homes to his ideas (in this case, he created a parallelogram bed for the Krases), to the meticulousness with which he planned out every detail (the screws in the home lined up with the angles produced by the home’s grid).



We were awed by his presence still pervading the space to this day and left with minds blown by the genius that was Frank Lloyd Wright.


Richard Haas

Intriguingly, St. Louis is also home to a building graced with a three-sided Richard Haas mural, fronted by a strange sculpture of a high-stepping jackrabbit (not done by Haas!).

Haas_STL_Jackrabbit_WebHaas’s mural, which depicts a woman as “Peace”…

Haas_Mural_STL_Web…has eight obelisks and  numerous other adornments.




We were also able to spend time in St. Louis’ beautiful downtown “urban park and sculpture garden,” Citygarden.  Incorporated into the “Gateway Mall” area, the park is bordered by Eighth, Tenth, Market, and Chestnut Streets – just a short walk from many locations within a downtown area that is actively trying to tie together green spaces and government structures, common spaces and the corporate sphere.

Part of our group was fortunate enough to spend some daylight time in the park, with the sun setting alight the fall colors in many of the park’s varieties of trees.  The procession of gingko biloba trees (also known commonly as maidenhair trees) positively glowed along the Market Street promenade, their yellow leaves glinting off the last of the sun’s rays.


The entire group paid a visit just as the sun set early on the first night of Daylight Savings Time for 2015, with the park’s lighting creating interesting shadows on several of the pieces, such as Fernand Leger’s Femmes Au Perrequet…


Mark di Suvero’s Aesop’s Fables.


Constance impersonated (can you impersonate a fictional wooden figure?) Pinochio…


And Professor Yawn was proud that his pupils, Alex and Constance, finally and truly lived up to their name, serving as pupils in Igor Mitoraj’s Eros Bendato.

Pupils_Constance_Alex_2_WebNot to mention the other fun sculptures…such as Bernar Venet’s “Three Rings”…

Constance_Alex_Citygarden_Web…Ju Ming’s “Tai-Chi Single Whip”…

Tai_Cho_Web…the intriguing Video Screen…

…and the reflecting pond with stepping stones…


We even saw a rabbit!


The park is a must-see if in St. Louis.  Even a short stroll through the beautifully landscaped space evokes feelings of tranquility within.  Park maps that provide info on all the art pieces are available; or one can download the app, with even more information on the park’s amenities and scheduled events.


Wrapping Up

Before leaving, we took another brief stroll to “The Runner,” the statue celebrating the country’s westward expansion.  We had stopped there earlier in the day…

Arch_Alex_Constance_2_Web…and had some with photographs…


Well, we had some fun again, at the end of a long day, but in the midst of a fun trip.