CELEBRATING 30 YEARS.
The Saint Louis Science Center has a rich history of transformations and innovations within its walls. As we look to the coming years to inspire and ignite the minds of future generations, we remember our past and where we have been. Whether you have been a member here for decades or have just recently joined the membership community, we would like to take this year to celebrate, reflect and move forward together.
When we officially became the Saint Louis Science Center on July 20, 1985, the James S. McDonnell Planetarium in Forest Park was the sole building of the hands-on learning museum. The success of the Science Center was shown in the increasing number of visitors, and the expansion was needed to sustain the number of people wanting to learn about science and technology. Since new buildings could not be constructed in Forest Park, we had to get creative.
It wasn’t until 1991 that we figuratively, and quite literally, started to build a bridge to science. We introduced a new building to our campus to accompany the iconic Planetarium: the 5050 Oakland Building, which was located across the highway on a 4.25 acre site. This massive expansion added an extra 135,000 square feet to the Science Center and opened its doors to the public on November 2, 1991. Distinguished by its unique silver-toned dome, the building connected to the Planetarium in Forest Park via a 700 foot-long bridge, becoming the Saint Louis Science Center you know today.
So what was at the 5050 Oakland Ave. site before?
You may be familiar with the Lemp Brewery, which started here in St. Louis in 1838. John Adam Lemp introduced Falstaff Beer in 1903, which was one of the brands offered by Lemp Brewery before Prohibition. When it closed in 1920, the Falstaff brand was sold to the Griesedieck Beverage Company, which promptly changed its name to Falstaff Brewing Corporation. As the company expanded to meet the increasing demands of Falstaff’s growing sales, the Griesediecks constructed a large office building on Oakland Avenue in the late 1950s.
By the 1960s, Falstaff was the third largest brewer in America. The company owned a dozen plants around the nation and by 1966 produced its 7 millionth barrel of beer. However, the inefficiency of many of Falstaff’s breweries in the early 1960s, coupled with rising labor costs, price cuts and severe financial losses crippled the company. In 1975, Falstaff put their building at 5050 Oakland up for sale.
When the Science Center purchased the 5050 Oakland site, the Falstaff building was torn down. During demolition and excavation of the site to prepare for the new building’s construction, crews unearthed some artifacts which date to before the Falstaff building was constructed. This selection of artifacts has become part of the Science Center’s Collections and includes various glass bottles, ceramic pieces and stoneware.
Artifacts (left to right; top to bottom): Medical Bottles/ Mouthwash, Sarsparilla Vine Tonic, Medical Tinctures and Tonics; Perfume Bottles, Glue Bottle, Shoe Polish Bottle, Face Cream Jar, and Ink Bottle; Selection of Beverage Bottles; Milk, Whiskey, Beer, and Soda; Various Ceramics/ Teacup, Teapot, Creamer Pitcher, Egg Cup, Ladle Handle, Plate Fragment