St. Louis, Mo. — The revitalized Soldiers Memorial Military Museum is set to reopen in the heart of Downtown St. Louis on Nov. 3, 2018. Following a 2-year, $30 million renovation, Soldiers Memorial is a state-of-the-art museum facility that honors military service members, veterans, and their families under the operational leadership of the Missouri Historical Society.
Soldiers Memorial Military Museum sets itself apart from other memorials across the country because St. Louis is central to the story. Exhibits at Soldiers Memorial offer a comprehensive look at American military history through the lens of St. Louis. Nearly all aspects of exhibits at Soldiers Memorial are representative of real individuals’ stories and service. Using hundreds of artifacts, oral histories, and other interactive media elements, the personal stories of local service members are put into context within the larger national narrative.
Located on the main floor of Soldiers Memorial, St. Louis in Service is a long-term exhibit that explores military history from the American Revolution to today. The first of Soldiers Memorial’s rotating exhibitions, World War I: St. Louis and the Great War commemorates the centennial of the end World War I and St. Louis’ involvement in the conflict.
The exhibit is housed on the lower level of Soldiers Memorial. The lower level, which had not previously been publicly accessible, was renovated for use as an exhibition gallery, more than doubling the amount of exhibit space available at Soldiers Memorial.
The new exhibits were designed with ADA accessibility in mind. They feature closed captioning on video elements, a higher level of contrast on labels for visitors with low vision, and gallery space that is wheelchair accessible. Exhibits at Soldiers Memorial are not the only aspect of the building that has been renovated. The entire Soldiers Memorial building has received a facelift.
RENOVATION OF A CITY LANDMARK
With the help of Mackey Mitchell Architects, every effort has been made to maintain the architectural and historic integrity of this beautiful art deco building while also bringing the 1938 structure up to contemporary museum standards.
The unique metalwork on the Museum’s windows and doorways has been cleaned and preserved. The decorative plasterwork on the ceilings has been restored. Where possible, the original art deco light fixtures have been cleaned and rewired.
The stunning mahogany-lined elevator, with its art deco metal doors, has been brought up to code. Several hundred missing tiles from the gorgeous Gold Star Mothers mosaic on the loggia’s ceiling have been thoughtfully matched and replaced. Interior storm windows have been added to aid in the climate control needed for the safety of the artifacts while allowing the original windows to remain in place.
The lower level of the museum, which had previously not been open for public use, has been gutted and renovated for a rotating gallery space and new restrooms. Further renovations include the addition of a museum-quality HVAC system—a first for the building—as well as new electrical wiring, a fire suppression system, and a state-of-the-art security system.
The exterior of the building has also been cleaned. Walker Hancock’s beautiful sculptures have been carefully cleaned to remove years of coal dust and embedded dirt from the surface.
A NEW LIFE FOR THE COURT OF HONOR
Located across Chestnut from Soldiers Memorial, the Court of Honor was created as the City’s World War II memorial in 1948. It has been revitalized with a Five Branches Fountain and a reflecting pool. Monuments to those who lost their lives in Korea and Vietnam have been moved to their own spaces along the walkway between the Museum and the Court of Honor. New memorials to St. Louisans who lost their lives in more recent conflicts have also been added to that space.
On this block, Chestnut has been narrowed to a single vehicular lane and a protected bike lane to better integrate Soldiers Memorial with the Court of Honor. There is a grassy area that can be used for quiet reflection or a programming space for the Museum. It has been outfitted with lighting and a sound system.
ADA ACCESSIBLE AND ENERGY EFFICIENT
Throughout the Soldiers Memorial revitalization process the Missouri Historical Society has been working to bring the historic landmark up to ADA compliance while also ensuring the project and the building itself is energy and resource efficient.
The revitalized Soldiers Memorial meets ADA compliance for the first time in the building’s history. The construction of a new ramp at the intersection of Chestnut and 13th serves as an accessible entrance to all visitors at the front door. Power assist automatic openers have been designed for the two entrances off of the loggia, as well as for the entries into the main exhibit galleries. A ramped sidewalk on the east side of the Court of Honor provides an accessible pathway.
A new elevator has been installed in the east wing to ensure all three levels of the building are accessible to visitors and staff. A new lift has been installed on the second level, allowing individuals attending programs in the assembly hall to access other spaces on the upper level for the first time without being required to use stairs.
The original restrooms on the upper level and the new restrooms on the lower level are designed according to accessibility standards. Family assist restrooms have been created and are now available on the lower and upper levels.
The construction team has used environmentally friendly construction materials, such as cork flooring, and has updated the original fixtures with LED lights. They have reused materials wherever possible, including the granite steps, marble walls, and the original bathroom Vitrolite panels. Waste has been recycled. An electric vehicle charging station has been installed and is available for use on the north side of the building.
The Missouri Historical Society took the helm of Soldiers Memorial in November 2015 and began a $30 million renovation in 2016. The cost of the renovation is covered entirely by anonymous donors to the Missouri Historical Society.
About Soldiers Memorial Military Museum
Located in downtown St. Louis, Soldiers Memorial Military Museum is operated by the Missouri Historical Society. Following a $30 million revitalization, Soldiers Memorial reopens Nov. 3, 2018 as a state-of-the-art museum that honors military service members, veterans, and their families. Exhibits offer a comprehensive look at American military history through the lens of St. Louis. Soldiers Memorial offers programs and outreach services including special exhibits; tours; theatrical and musical presentations; events and services for the military community; programs for school classes; special events; workshops; and lectures. The revitalization of Soldiers Memorial was paid for by anonymous donors to the Missouri Historical Society. Learn more: mohistory.org/memorial.
About Missouri Historical Society (MHS)
The Missouri Historical Society (MHS) makes history meaningful and accessible through its three physical locations in St. Louis: the Missouri History Museum, the Library & Research Center, and the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum (opening Nov. 2018). MHS has been active in the St. Louis community since 1866. Founding members established the organization “for the purpose of saving from oblivion the early history of the city and state.” Today, MHS serves as the confluence of historical perspectives and contemporary issues. Collecting for more than 150 years, MHS houses one of the largest collections of artifacts and historical materials of any regional history institution in the United States. Missouri Historical Society Members and donors support its work of collecting, preserving, and sharing the history of this region. The Missouri History Museum and the Library & Research Center receive funding from the St. Louis City and County taxpayers through the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District. Learn more: mohistory.org