And All That Jazz – Gaslight Square #147

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                                                                                                                Cake #147 at Gaslight Square

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).

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                                                                                                               Cake #147 at Gaslight Square

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.

 

 

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Cake #147 at Gaslight Square

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.

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School’s Out For Summer – University of Missouri St. Louis #140

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Cake #140 at the University of Missouri St. Louis

It really was quite poetic that for our last cake of the day at the University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL), the cake would happen to be atop a hill tall enough for us to pause and look out from into the world beyond…and then have the crushing fear that either myself or Miles was going to go over the edge of said hill even though that would probably have been next to impossible (*whew* can still feel those fear-of-heights-chills!).

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                                                                   Cake #140 at UMSL

For a little background, the University of Missouri is the oldest state university system west of the Mississippi (score another point for the MO!) with the campus in Columbia having been established in 1839. The UMSL campus location, however, was purchased by the Normandy School District from a Country Club in 1958. The school opened in 1960 with 215 students. Over the years, the school has expanded both in property obtained and enrollments with UMSL being the second largest of the University of Missouri’s campuses, the largest university in the St. Louis area with 16,000+ students, and the third largest in the state – not bad for pretty humble beginnings.

 

And not only was this cake and look out point particularly intriguing, but when the Regional Arts Commission did their RAC-O-Lantern Scavenger Hunt in October of 2014, one of the carved pumpkins was at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on UMSL’s campus. So now not only have I seen the outside of the buildings, but I have gotten to sample a little of the campus’ artistic offerings as well. I was even treated to a parade of little girls in princess dresses and their parents who were headed into the theater for an afternoon production around the same time I was there to see the pumpkin. I don’t remember what show was playing, but I do remember that even when the music started to begin the performance, the lobby of the theater was still ringing with excited little voices who were ready for a show but not at all ready to keep quiet about it.

 

And now to the cake! I mean, the details on this one are both stunning and, I admit, a little spooky, which is absolutely perfect for me. I remember seeing that the cake was decorated by UMSL Fine Arts Students which I think was an awesome idea and brought a lot of dimension to the cake. My two favorite pieces of the cake were the watercolor lady starting a blender…or just generally seeming sinister….seen in the picture on the right and the flying monkey with a knife-tail (or a tail-knife?) seen in the bottom left picture. Either way, the uniqueness of this cake and its images was a memorable way to end a cake hunting adventure with Mr. Miles James.

Miles Conducts a Tour – Ferguson Station Depot #139

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Cake #138 at the Ferguson Station Depot

From Florissant to Ferguson, Miles James and I were hot on the trail of Cake #139 at the Ferguson Station Depot. The history of this location dates back to the 1850s when William B. Ferguson (sound familiar…?) decided to allow the Wabash Railroad to utilize some of his land under the conditions that the area would become a depot as well as a regular stop on the railroad’s line. As more traffic was brought to the depot as a result of this deal, the area developed, and in 1894, Ferguson became a real incorporated city.

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                                                               Cake #138 at the Ferguson Station Depot

The Station Depot itself was thought to have been built sometime between 1879 and 1885 and is the last surviving example in Missouri of a standard station design that was popular at the time in the Midwest. The Station Depot was an important hub for city activity with a train engine whistle even serving as the community fire alarm. Passenger service at the Depot stopped in 1960, but in the 1990s there was a movement to preserve the location for history and posterity.

The Ferguson Station Depot was our second train station stop on our cake hunting tour, but Miles James, for one, certainly took advantage of his time admiring this locale.

From the little waterfall near the cake, IMG_2686

to the steps of the station leading to a rail car, IMG_2688

Miles James was a big fan of this adventure. And as our cake hunting for the day was winding down, it was nice to spend some extra time exploring a cake location with my curious companion before moving on to the final cake of the day.

 

Taille de No…Way This Place Is Haunted?! – Taille de Noyer #138

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IMG_2679It can happen at any place, at any time – the dreaded cake-venture gone awry. In this case, the ‘awry’ part was due to the fact that the next cake on my list for the day was at Taille de Noyer, which until that point was a place I had never heard of, and which I wasn’t even sure was an actual place (and not a statue or shrine, etc), and which is in fact located on the grounds of McClure High, and which made it all the more difficult to find.

IMG_2677At this point in my cake life, I was used to driving around and around to find what I was looking for, but with this cake in particular, I remember my trusty GPS telling me to be brave and go onto the school grounds, even though I was realllllyyy hesitant to do so, since I had already looked everywhere else, and thankfully I eventually listened because I was pretty greatly rewarded.

Taille de Noyer, as I discovered, is a beautiful building full of history. The oldest section of the home is thought to date back to 1790 when it was used as a trading post. The most notable time in its history, however, was when it was owned by St. Louis’ first millionaire John Mullanphy, who purchased what was then a log cabin in 1805. John was a philanthropist and built the first hospital west of the Mississippi.

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Cake #138 at Taille de Noyer

The cabin John purchased was eventually passed to his daughter and her husband and down through the family, expanding with each generation. It stayed in the family until the 1960s when it was purchased for the purpose of expanding McClure High. However when demolition began on different areas of the home, the Florissant Historical Society stepped in and began renovations and restorations of the home. The Historical Society now calls Taille de Noyer home and opens it to the public for tours and other celebrations.

The history of cake locations is always fascinating to learn after I have completed my cake-venture, but what made this location even more special for me was learning afterwards that it is considered by some to be one of the most haunted places in the St. Louis area joining the ranks of the Lemp Mansion, the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion and the Payne Gentry House as far as haunted cake locations go. Disembodied voices have been heard in the house as well as figures being seen in the windows of the mansion. And with that discovery, Taille de Noyer cemented its place in not only haunted St. Louis lore but in my heart as well.

Miles Has a Good Time at a Shrine- Old Saint Ferdinand Shrine #137

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Old Saint Ferdinand Shrine #137

After two cakes, Miles and I were primed and ready for our third cake at the Old Saint Ferdinand Shrine in Florissant. This particular cake adventure took place in the early summer and to both of our surprise, the parking lot at the shrine was packed. It was definitely the perfect day for an adventure.

The Old Saint Ferdinand Shrine is actually a combination of four buildings, one of which, a church, is the oldest Catholic Church west of the Mississippi. The other buildings that make up the shrine are a schoolhouse, rectory and a convent where Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne lived for many years. Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne (which you may remember from an earlier cake adventure) gifted the Saint Ferdinand Shrine with its cornerstone in 1821.

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Old Saint Ferdinand Shrine #137

The Old Saint Ferdinand Shrine is open for tours and other special events, and on the beautiful June day when Miles and I visited the cake, it was full of tourists, most of whom were very excited to meet a small, friendly pug along the way.

The church was open during the time we were there and since it seemed impolite to bring Miles along, he was given a little break in the car with the window cracked while I poked my head in and gave the church a quick viewing. The viewing was so quick, I barely remember the insides of the church, but when I got back to the car, I found that Miles had made a new friend in a little boy who was standing by the car window waving at the happily barking pup. On that note, and after Miles accepted a couple of head pats from his new friend, we headed out for our next adventure.

Daniel Does It All – General Daniel Bissell House #136

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Um, yeah, so this was the view that greeted Miles James and I when we were granted our first gander at the General Daniel Bissell House. I mean, woah. And you know I love a good pergola! *swoon*

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Cake #136 at the General Daniel Bissell House

So who exactly was General Daniel Bissell and why is his house so exciting (aside from the obvious majesty of the pergola walk-up!), you may ask. General Bissell worked on the house from 1812 and 1820, and he and his descendants would get to enjoy it for 150 years until it was donated to St. Louis County in the 1960s.

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General Daniel Bissell House

 

As for General Bissell himself – get this – at 9 years old he enlisted in the Connecticut militia as a fifer. I’m sorry, what? That fact right there should automatically grant you a cake, but Bissell went on to eventually became the military commander of the Upper Louisiana Territory and posted up at what would eventually come to be called Fort Belle Fontaine. Bissell retired from the military in 1821 and spent the rest of his life tending to his estate and building it up for future generations to enjoy.

What I personally enjoyed about this location was the spectacular cake. It was very simply done in light blue/grey and whites but was memorable nonetheless. What Miles enjoyed the most was the sunshine, the walk around the grounds, and of course the multitude of flowers which he couldn’t help but stop and sniff as we passed.

Getting Our Kicks – Old Chain of Rocks Bridge #135

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IMG_2639After a brief hiatus, Miles James was back in action as my cake hunting companion. For the run of cakes we saw together on this day, we started with the cake at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. The Bridge has a pretty incredible history, so allow me to take you on a brief journey into its history…or bridge-story if you will.

Bridge construction began in 1927 with building taking place in both Missouri and Illinois simultaneously and meeting in the middle for a Bridge unveiling in 1929.

IMG_2638The Bridge gained real notoriety in 1936, however, when historic Route 66 was rerouted to include passage over the Bridge. Remnants of this era are still visible today at various points along the Bridge.

One fact that I found particularly interesting was that during World War II, certain sections of the Bridge that were painted red were repainted green to make the Bridge less visible from the air. Fascinating!

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                                                                     Cake #135 at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

When the new Chain of Rocks Bridge opened in 1967, traffic moved from the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, but in the 1980s and 90s, there was a massive effort to clean up and restore the Bridge which culminated in the hiking and biking trail it’s most noted for today.

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                                                                                          Cake #135 at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

And, as with any good historical location, the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006, cementing its place in St. Louis history.

IMG_2642One other quick fun fact about the location was that the name ‘Chain of Rocks’ comes from a 17 mile stretch of rocky rapids on the Mississippi just north of St. Louis where the river is very difficult to navigate. While there is a dam covering this part of the river now, when the Bridge was built, this part of the river would have been easily identifiable.

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                                                                         Cake #135 at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

For his part, Miles was a champ – easing back into cake hunting with some new smells and areas to investigate. We even walked about halfway down the Bridge to get a good sense of its glory before moving on to the next cake location.

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