From Gaslight Theater to Gaslight Square, Miles and I pressed on with our tour of St. Louis historical sites. I’ll be honest and say that when I first saw the cake at Gaslight Square, I figured it had something to do with Laclede Gas and figured that it was nice of them to sponsor a cake and supply electricity (a kind thing to do, right?), but when I got home and really started researching what the location was all about, the real magic of cake hunting kicked in.
Gaslight Square (which is on the corner of Boyle and Olive downtown) used to be the place to be! From the 1950s to the 1960s, everybody who was anybody wanted to be seen hanging out in the area’s restaurants, shops, and cabarets. The name for the area was inspired by the gas lit lamps that were hung to light the way along the route and added to the atmosphere of old made new that attracted such a young and hip crowd – among them Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg (two personal favs of mine) and Barbra Streisand (a personal fav of Mama Monster’s).
Another interesting tidbit that I learned in my research was that when the area was at its height, a lot of local business owners decided to reuse unused church pews, chandeliers, stained glass and bathtubs to give the shops and restaurants an eclectic feel that reminded me a lot of the wonder that is the Venice Cafe.
Sadly the end of the 1960s saw the rapid decline of the area without much being done to replace its former glory until the 1990s when much of it was turned into residential communities.
A little light in the darkness, however, can be found at the location of the cake where there is a plaque with the names of some of the Square’s former residents and businesses and several columns in the style popular at the time meant to recapture some of the area’s magic and our imaginations.