Preservation Magazine, Spring 2019

A Museum Honoring St. Louis Soldiers Is Recently Restored

The museum's newly cleaned exterior.

photo by: Missouri Historical Society

The museum’s newly cleaned exterior.

In 1936, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stopped in St. Louis to dedicate land for a museum that would honor the military service of the city’s men and women. On Memorial Day two years later, the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum opened. It was run by the city until 2015, when the Missouri Historical Society took over operations. A $30 million revitalization, funded by local philanthropists, was completed in November of 2018.

The museum’s stone exterior and plaster and marble interior walls were in remarkably good condition, but it lacked a fire suppression system, HVAC system, and updated electrical wiring. Mackey Mitchell Architects led work by BSI Contractors that included adding these elements, as well as cleaning the stone exterior, restoring the original Art Deco light fixtures, removing asbestos, and cleaning the marble walls, which had been discolored by decades of cigarette smoke. The museum’s original mahogany-lined elevator, complete with stainless steel bas-relief images of servicemen on the doors, was upgraded while preserving its historic components. New landscape work improved the open space between the museum and the Court of Honor, a memorial that honors St. Louis’ participation in World War II as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars.

One of the most significant tasks was the restoration of the red-and-gold Gold Star Mothers mosaic, found on the ceiling of the loggia. Glass pieces had fallen out over time, so the stained-glass company Emil Frei & Associates conserved the mosaic and replaced several hundred missing pieces.
World War I doughboys on the Art Deco metal doors of the original elevator.

photo by: Missouri Historical Society

World War I doughboys on the Art Deco metal doors of the original elevator.

Meghan White is a historic preservationist and a former assistant editor for Preservation magazine. She has a penchant for historic stables, absorbing stories of the past, and one day rehabilitating a Charleston single house.

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