Friday, September 07, 2007

Old St. Louis Shoppe

On the mantle in my parent's California home there is a commemorative beer stein sold as a souvenier at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. The memento has been passed down through our family over the years and looks like new. I didn't even know we had it until a couple of years ago. It's pretty cool. I love old St. Louis stuff.

A few years ago a guy showed up at a community meeting. We were talking about something, maybe Forest Park or charter reform. He brought along a fascinating conversation piece. Over the years, he had amassed a huge collection of historic St. Louis post cards. Some of the buildings in the cards were still standing, but many had been long since demolished. Viewing the collection was like taking a trip through St. Louis history.

Which makes me wonder, has anyone taken the idea of Old St. Louis and tried to make it into a commercial venture? I'm not talking about historic tours or bed and breakfast inns, but rather a store specializing in historic St. Louis collectibles?

The store could carry old photographs, maps, sports items, furniture, clothing, advertisements, anything from Old St. Louis. Is there such a place? We have tons of great antique stores, but have any of them made St. Louis history the main attraction? Maybe in these days of the internet, bricks and mortar stores just can't compete?

Sure enough, you can actually buy historic St. Louis bricks on ebay. However, wouldn't you rather be able to browze through a real store, perhaps in a historic building, and see the items in natural light?

The inventory could be expanded by offering reproductions as well as originals. There have got to be some long-time St. Louis families with great collections of historic St. Louis stuff.

On the public/museum side, the Mercantile Library, now at UMSL, is a good place to view lots of St. Louis history. Personally, I haven't been to the UMSL site. For years, the museum was housed in the top floor of a Boatmen's Bank branch location across from St. Louis Centre. Visits to the museum were free, with guests having to sign a register prior to entry. This fall we'll have to plan a trip to the UMSL Mercantile Library. We're overdue.

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