Stan The Span

More formally known as the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, the Stan Span is the new I-70 bridge across the Mississippi River. Connecting Illinois and Missouri, just north of downtown Saint Louis, this bridge is opening to the public this weekend. Today, the bridge was opened to pedestrian and bicycling traffic, tomorrow it opens to cars. Anne and I drove downtown, parked and then took one of the shuttle buses up to the bridge. We walked to Illinois and back.

We could have bicycled the bridge, instead of walking it. Trailnet sponsored a ride this morning, to conquer gephyrophobia, the fear of bridges. We’ve cycled all of the other recent Saint Louis road openings, the Page extension and both halves of the New I-64, but between sleeping in and an overnight dusting of snow, we decided that discretion was the better part of valor this time.

The Stan Span is a cable-stayed bridge and has a main span of 1,500 feet. This makes the Stan Span the third longest main spanned bridge in America, after bridges in Louisiana and South Carolina. It was cold today. It was even colder out over the water. After we walked to Illinois and back we took the shuttle bus back downtown. We grabbed some lunch at the Dubliner. During my haste in taking off my coat, my camera slipped out and dropped on the floor. I took this photo of Anne to check to see if the camera was still working. I think that the unusual, but still interesting effect captured was because the mode wheel on the camera had moved and not because the camera was broken.

The Old Courthouse

My Saturday excursions took me to the old Saint Louis courthouse. Built in 1828, this courthouse was the tallest building in Missouri until 1894. The old courthouse was used primarily by municipal and state courts, but also occasionally rented space for the Federal court system. This court’s most infamous case was the Dred Scott decision of 1846. In this case Scott and his wife were denied their freedom from slavery, even though they lived in a free state. When the city built the new municipal courts building this building was left vacant for a decade. Eventually, FDR founded the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, now known as the Arch. The old courthouse was named a national monument and incorporated into this larger memorial.

I’ve lived in Saint Louis for over 34 years, but this was only the second time that I ventured inside. The first time was years ago, when the boys were little and that was probably little more than a bathroom stop at that. On this visit I took the time to appreciate this almost 200 year-old building. Our house is over 75 years-old and is still almost a fulltime maintenance job. The old courthouse being far older undergoes almost continual renovations. This courthouse was not all built at once. The two wings were both added and in many respects are still almost separate buildings. They each have their own separate basements. In 1861 a cupola was replaced with the current cast iron dome. The dome is modeled after the one in Saint Peter’s Basilica. It was subsequently copied on to the Missouri State Hospital on Arsenal. In order to photograph the interior of the dome, I used my new GoPro camera and even so had to place it on the floor in the center of the rotunda to capture the entire field of view. I especially like the picture of the Arch framed by two of the old courthouse’s column.

Chicago Cultural Center

This magnificent translucent dome, 38 feet in diameter and made of Tiffany Favrile glass, whose pieces are cut in the shape of fish scales, is a wonder to behold. At the top of the dome are the signs of the zodiac. Now lit electrically, it was originally illuminated by sunlight. At the base of the dome is a quotation from British author Joseph Addison, “Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind which are delivered down from generation to generation as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn.” The dome glass, lighting fixtures, wall sconces and chandeliers were made by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company of New York. The glass dome measures 1,000 square feet in area and holds 30,000 pieces of glass. The supporting frame was constructed by the Chicago Ornamental Iron Company. Mother of Pearl mosaics, a Carrara marble lobby are a proper supporting cast to this beautiful Beaux Arts work. This building was originally the main Chicago public library. Now it is called the Chicago Cultural Center and is as much a museum to itself as anything else.

We went to the third and final Ingite! play reading today. It was an adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, Love in the Time of Cholera. I’ll have more to say about this show later. Earlier, Anne and Joanie went to see a traveling museum show called Da Vinci Machines. I had seen this show a couple of years ago, when it first came through town. Instead, I went bicycling in the park and wore myself out too much before a theater sitting.

All this frenetic activity is prelude to tomorrow’s weather. We are forecast to have a blizzard. The initial forecast was for 4″ to 8″, then as what usually happens that initial estimate began to melt away, like to 3″ to 7″. Typically this scenario leads to an eventual light dusting on the grass. Today though this all too familiar trend took a turn. Today’s forecast is for 6″ to 11″. So stay tuned, Sunday may be a wild and woolly day. 


Shikaakwa is a Native American word that means the land of smelly onions and stinky garlic. The French explorer LaSalle first rendered the word as Checagou and when it was later anglicized it became Chicago. After our breakfast at the Plymouth, we headed off in search of the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

We first thought that it was on State, but it turned out to be two blocks over just off of Michigan. We found this out when we ducked into the lobby of one of the many institutions of higher learning that abound in downtown Chicago. There are some 80,000 students attending classes in downtown Chicago now. This particular lobby was for a law school. The security guard didn’t know the answer, but he flagged down an arriving professor who did. At the turnstile the professor gave us the answer that we needed within seconds, but then he began to lecture. I think in Anne he recognized a good student. He rightly never paid me much mind. By the end of his mini-lecture the security guard who announced himself as an art and architecture student, was telling us that he too was going to tour this Chicago foundation.

We just made Joan’s ten o’clock tour. She is a former Saint Louis resident. When I asked her where she had lived, she gave me her entire history, including her high school. Her tour was the historical architectural tour. She was an excellent tour guide and really knew her stuff, but any time someone drilled too deeply another specialty tour was soon found. It was cold, below freezing and even the occasional lobby warm-ups were not enough to prevent my camera from occasionally freezing up.

The tour was two-hours. We saw the Marquette, Field, Rookery, Monadnock, Fisher and Manhattan buildings and many more. We saw architectural examples of art deco, beaux-arts, neo-classic and of course the Chicago school. We learned the difference between masonry and skeletal steel construction. After spending all morning looking up at skyscrapers, we ascended the Willis tower (formerly the Sears tower) and got to look down on them all. Then it was off to Daley Plaza to see the Chicago Picasso, lunch at the Berghoff, then back to the hotel to pick up our bags and then off to Union Station and the Megabus.