Reppin’ the Performing Arts at the Rep – The Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts #104

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Cake #104 at the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts

Webster University is more than just my almost-mater, it was also the site of not one, not two, but three cakes! The second of these three was at the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts, just a short drive and pleasant walk from Cake #103’s random placement by a parking garage.

Completed in 1966, the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts was the first location in the United States that was specifically designed to be the home of both a professional acting company and an undergraduate department of theater arts.

The performing arts center gets its name from both the Sisters of Loretto who founded Webster University and Conrad Hilton, of hotel fame, who was a former student at the university, and who donated the majority of the funds needed to build the center in gratitude for the education he received there.

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Cake #104 at the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts

So in addition to being a great learning tool for the theater arts department, the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts is also home to both the Repertory Theatre (The Rep) and Opera Theatre of St. Louis, which also happens to be the location of the third cake, but that adventure comes much later.

This Cake Monster has only been to one performance at the Rep which happened to be on a date with a high school boyfriend, but that hasn’t stopped the adventures at this location.

On the day Miles James and I traversed the campus in search of the cake, there was some sort of excitement going on as the lawn in front of the cake was littered with white plastic chairs in neat little rows although there were no people around to occupy those chairs.

Even so, Miles James was quite preoccupied by all the new and interesting smells around, and so the picture-taking portion of the hunt was a little difficult to pull off.

 

Additionally the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts also holds a very special place in my heart because for a week in October of 2014 the Regional Arts Commission held their own scavenger hunt by hiding specially carved pumpkins around St. Louis and tweeting out clues about their locations. And it just so happens that a few months after my adventure with Miles James, on my actual birthday, to be exact, I was led back to the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts to find one of the last pumpkins of the hunt.

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By my birthday that year, I was mostly finished with my cake hunt, but when I returned to the office after using my lunch break to find the carved pumpkin, my co-workers had some delicious birthday snacks waiting for me, including a super creative and ultra memorable handmade Cakeway to the West edible cake – complete with a picture of Miles toothpicked to the top!

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Cake Hunting at My Almost Mater – Webster University #103

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Cake #103 at Webster University 

The next cake on our list for the day was at a location that I am very familiar with – Webster University in Webster Groves. At present, two years after this cake hunt, I pass the university once a month when I’m on my way to The Novel Neighbor for a glorious book club which Mama Monster and I partake in. But back in 2014, Webster was a place I was happy to revisit as I had seriously looked into attending the university for my Masters degree. While I eventually ended up at another cake location for that degree (oh, Lindenwood University, you little sketchball), it was still nice to reminisce on the grounds of what very well could have been a part of my educational history.

However the history of the university itself is pretty interesting in its own right. Webster University was originally called Loretto College after the Sisters of Loretto who founded the institution on November 1st, 1915. The Sisters had a dream to help those who might not otherwise have the opportunity receive higher education.

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Cake #103 at Webster University

Loretto College started out as a women’s college becoming, in fact, one of the first all-women Catholic colleges west of the Mississippi. In 1924 the school changed its name to Webster College, eventually settling on Webster University in 1983.

Through the years the university continued to grow, eventually broadening its horizons by allowing the first two male students to enroll in classes in 1962. As the school grew so did its academic offerings and eventually its campuses as the university now has grown to include campuses in Thailand, England, Switzerland, and Austria among others.

Plus in addition to Webster University being my almost mater, it is real life Mercutio Krispytreat’s future mater! As we speak Mercutio is hard at work on his MBA (*wild applause!*), and is very glad, I’m sure, that the university decided all those years ago to allow gentlemen like himself to study there too.

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Cake #103 at Webster University 

Sap-Sap-Sap-Sappington! – Thomas Sappington House #102

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So do you ever just feel a little crazy? A little off the rails, so to speak? Well for some reason, when planning this post, for no logical reason, all that kept coming to mind was the gloriously insane character from Disney’s The Sword in the Stone – Madam Mim. In particular what kept playing in my head was her chant to a young Arthur, who happened to be a bird at this point in the movie, (usual Disney stuff, you know) about being insane, giving herself the title of the Mad-Mad-Mad-Madam Mim. Here the clip, if you wanna refresh your memory or just enjoy a little taste of what goes on in my mind sometimes.

 

Anyway like I said that has literally nothing to do with Cake #102 at the Thomas Sappington House other than the fact that Thomas’ last name fits the same rhyme scheme as Madam Mim’s, and the cake at that location happened to be the second cake on our adventure, so here we are. IMG_2437

IMG_2431The Thomas Sappington House is located in Crestwood just a little hop over from the Kirkwood Train Station. The Sappingtons moved to the area just after the Louisiana Purchase and built several homes around town. Of those homes, this is the only one that has been preserved and is open to the public. Built in the early 1800s the Thomas Sappington House is supposedly the oldest brick house in St. Louis County – pretty impressive stuff! IMG_2435

 

Also on the property, which is gorgeous to walk around, and which Miles and I took full advantage of, is the Library of Americana and Decorative Arts which showcases a unique piece of American history and the decorative arts. There is also a cute little restaurant on the property called The Barn which I recently dined at with a fellow – though currently not written about/given a cool name yet – cake hunter. And I will say, the food there was delicious!

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Cake #102 at the Thomas Sappington House

The Thomas Sappington House is also adjacent to Grant’s Trail (which also got a cake of its own, but more on that later!) which you can sort of see behind the cake in the picture above.

And while I think that having the trail so close to this historic landmark is a great idea and most certainly has brought interested bike riders and walkers to the House and restaurant, on that beautiful day when Miles and I were cake hunting, the trail provided more than a few distractions for a curious little pug who just wants to say hello to everyone who passes by.

 

From Trainwreck to Train Station – Kirkwood Train Station #101

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Cake #101 at the Kirkwood Train Station

The next few cakes on the list hold a special place in my heart because when I was doing the actual cake hunting, in 2014, I was living in a pretty sketchy apartment in Maryland Heights (by the Trainwreck Saloon…get it?). But when I went out to Kirkwood to see these cakes, I remember being so impressed with the area that I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wanted to live there one day. Well fast forward two years, to 2016, where, as luck would have it, I’m now living just down the street from several of these cake locations. Definitely an upgrade!

 

IMG_2423But let’s go back, back before I was all settled in my new place, and even back before Miles James and I scouted out the cake at the Kirkwood Train Station, way back to 1852, when the land that was to become the Kirkwood Train Station was acquired. On May 11th, 1853 the first train pulled into the Kirkwood Train Station and due to the popularity of that stop, Kirkwood (named for the chief engineer of the Pacific Railroad, James Kirkwood) became the first planned suburb west of the Mississippi and the area around the train station was built up to accommodate this new suburb.

IMG_2424The original structure of the train station hung on for about 40 years but in 1893 the wood structure of the train station was replaced with more permanent and sturdy stone. The train station was active for many years until in 2003, due to budget cuts, Amtrak decided to remove all station agents from the Kirkwood train station which would seem to derail the use of the station. However the city rallied around the train station and bought it from the Union Pacific Railroad choosing to staff the train station with volunteers from the city itself instead of paid workers which has worked so well that it is still how things are run there today.

As a resident of Kirkwood, I pass the train station quite frequently, but on a recent trip to some local Kirkwood shops, Mercutio Krispytreats and I even stopped inside the train station to poke around for a bit. The train station still retains a lot of its old time charm and even has a little library where you can pick up a book before your train departs, but Mercutio gave me a stern look when I tried to take one myself, so I did not bring back a souvenir from that trip, but there will be more!

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Cake #101 at the Kirkwood Train Station 

As for Miles James, he enjoyed this adventure in particular because not only was this his first cake hunt in quite a while, but when we stopped at the train station to take a commemorative photo with the cake, all the little old ladies who were passing by stopped to pet him on the head and tell him what a good boy he was, so he was pretty pleased with the area as well.

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Note the puppy face in the rear view mirror.

Plus on the way to the next cake, I happened to see a piece of art in the middle of a median that I wanted to get a picture of. And since we were stopped at a stoplight when I reached for my camera, Miles decided to take that opportunity to jump into my lap and see the artwork as well. Needless to say, we were both feeling the call of the Kirkwood even during that first trip to the area.

 

Milestones Are Better at a Mansion – Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion #100

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Cake #100 at the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion 

If there is one thing in life that rivals my love for adventures / scavenger hunts, it’s used book sales. Being able to walk down long aisles of too-well-priced-to-resist books of all different genres is one thing that will always bring me joy. So it was with much serendipity that the day I set out to see my first triple digit cake was also the day that that very location was holding a used book sale. I mean, could I get any luckier?:)

I had never been to the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion before this trip and so I was secretly hoping that the used book sale would be actually inside the mansion, instead of on the sidewalk in front, so I would get the opportunity to poke around inside a little. And much to my delight, as I pulled up to the mansion and saw cut out paper arrows pointing up the steps, I knew my dreams had come true!

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Cake #100 at the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion 

Located in Benton Park near Cherokee Street and the Lemp Mansion, the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion is on the US Register of Historic Places and with its roots dating all the way back to 1849, it definitely has an interesting story to tell. The mansion was actually built in two parts. The first was built in 1849 by Henri Chatillon, a hunter for the American Fur Company of St. Louis and a guide. His contribution to the mansion was a four room brick house. On this property was a farmhouse which Chatillon sold to Nicolas DeMenil and his business partner Eugene Miltenberger. Fun fact: DeMenil married Emilie Sophie Chouteau – a descendant of the founders of St. Louis. Anyway, DeMenil hired an architect to turn the farmhouse into a Greek Revival Mansion and that architect definitely succeeded in bringing a unique look to the budding mansion.

After surviving years of being passed from generation to generation and undergoing several renovations, the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion still stands as an outstanding architectural feat and historical location. Second fun fact: At one point in its history, one of the owners of the mansion was interested in preserving the property due to its proximity to the Cherokee Cave!! Now I have been to Cherokee Street/the Lemp Mansion/the surrounding area a ton of times and never knew that each time I was walking along the street an intricate cave system was (possibly) right under my feet! Mind = Blown.

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Cake #100 at the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion and the used book sale sign! 

But back to the caking: on one hand I count this hunt as unsuccessful because I did not get to explore much of the mansion itself other than the room holding all the used books for sale and the outside of the mansion, which I took a leisurely stroll around before leaving the property. But on the other hand, I count this as a great success not only for the used book sale which provided a much-needed boost to a glorious idea for a new blog that had been floating around in my mind for some time (which you can learn more about here), but this cake marked my 100th Cakeway to the West cake and although it is probably the simplest cake design of the bunch, to me, it looked the most like an actual cake which was perfect for a triple digit celebration!

 

I’ve Seen 99 Cakes, But the Adventure Ain’t Done! – National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows #99

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Cake #99 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows

As we left the Skyview Drive-In Movie Theater in Belleville, I knew there was a great possibility that we would actually have to pass right by the final cake I wanted to see that day at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, even though I hadn’t mentioned this cake adventure to Mama Monster. And so as I started to turn the car towards home, I gave Mama Monster the biggest grin I had and hoped she’d be game for a final cake of the day, luckily she was.

The Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows is pretty impressive in that it is the largest outdoor shrine in North America (who knew?). In 1958 the Belleville site was chosen and work began on creating a spectacular shrine that would honor Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and allow amble space for all those who wish to come and worship.

The shrine itself derives its name from a legend that dates back to 352 AD when Mary appeared in a dream to a Roman couple and told them to build a church in her honor on the hill that was covered with snow. The next day, August 5th, a super hot day in summer, Esquiline Hill was covered in snow. This was declared a miracle and a few years later a church was built on that location.

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Cake #99 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows

Today the National Shrine in Belleville is over 200 acres of lush greenery and fascinating statues that can be viewed either by a driving or a walking tour of the grounds. The location also hosts retreats, services and, when Mama Monster and I visited, a prom – or at least a young person dance of some kind that involved tuxedos and fancy dresses.

And after all that we had seen on our day long adventure, it was calming to drive through the shrine location and take in the natural beauty of the area.

So a little while later, as we crossed the state line back into Missouri with visions of mannequins, movie theaters and massive ketchup bottles reflecting in our rear view mirror, it was good to be back on familiar territory…at least until the  next Illinois cake hunt.

Cake Hunting at the Drive-In – Skyview Drive-In #98

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Cake #98 at Skyview Drive-In

So we’ve all been to a movie theater once or twice to catch a quick flick, right? But what about if you moved that experience from inside the theater to outside under the night sky where you can share popcorn with your friends inside the comfort of your car? Well such a place exists just a little ways away in Belleville, IL at the Skyview Drive-In movie theater – the only remaining drive-in movie theater in the St. Louis area.

Skyview had its grand opening on July 8th, 1949 and not even a tornado in 1955 and a windstorm in 1981 could stop the show. Over the years, the drive-in has expanded as technology has created bigger and better ways to view movies. Interestingly enough the supporting structure of the drive-in used to be painted pink, but after it was rebuilt in the 80s the color was lost in favor of the current light blue.

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Cake #98 at Skyview Drive-In

The Skyview does still show movies, but when Mama Monster and I visited the theater it was pretty deserted. It was a strange thing to drive through the parking lot of a drive-in when no other cars are around, only the speaker stands and the painted lines telling you where to park. But as we came around to the back of the massive screen, the cake was just sitting there waiting for us to arrive, and I have to say that it was pretty incredible to be standing behind such a huge screen thinking about all of the years of movie magic it has provided.

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Cake #98 at Skyview Drive-In

And even though I’m not quite sure what a bunch of cars and checkered patterns have to do with a drive-in theater, Skyview definitely made the list of places to check out a second time.