It is practically impossible to describe, characterize or explain the City Museum in St. Louis. The short version is that it consists largely of repurposed architectural and industrial objects in an old 10 story shoe factory along with a 10 story cave/labyrinth that has one way in and one way out. The out happens to be a 10 story slide back to the first floor.
I had come across the City Museum searching the web for things to see and do in St. Louis, but I did not grasp what we were getting into. We pulled into the parking lot which also served as a holding area for parts and pieces that had not yet found a place for in the museum and piles of salvaged stone work.
I was informed when we bought the tickets that there was no map nor were we given any idea where to start or what to do, just a sly “Good Luck”
The first thing we say was this large staircase and slide that spanned 3 floors and old refrigeration tubing with children crawling through them. This place suddenly looked like the love child of Willy Wonka and Caractacus Potts. It was magnificent!
We started walking around the first floor and found a huge whale that was made of painted concrete, a barfing pig (this was an old tank, painted like a pig, that would fill with water, fall over and spill in a pond) and this incredible inside treehouse.
The tree house was made mostly of wood with some metal woven in. There were walkways I was a little hesitant to venture on as the looked like sticks you would gather in a yard. A little bouncing up and down convinced me they in fact not going to break and send me to my demise. Spiral stairs, uneven walkways and places you had to crawl through were everywhere.
We then went in another room and my wife found a slide in the wall and hopped in. Before I could remind here that we were on the main level she disappeared down into what I though at the time were the depths of hell. As I had recently had spinal surgery, I did not think flying down a dark hole was going to have a positive affect, so I held back my urge.
I looked around the room and looked for a door that might lead to the basement. Nothing. I went in the direction the slide was pointed and still found no doors. Hmmm! I found a bench and sat and waited for a while figuring she would find me. And waited.
After about 5 minutes I went and seeked out an Oompa Loompa hoping they could advise me if I would ever see her again and if so would she be in one piece or miniaturized or god knows what. The portly Oompas Loompa suggested I hangout near the tree house but made no guarantees…Joy! I was told that some people make it out near there. I held back on asking what happened to the others as I have been reading a novel recently where a similar situation had a not so good ending.
I meandered toward the treehouse and noticed a noise in the back corner that sounded a little like an irritated harpy. Then a I saw coming from this hole in the floor red hair. Up popped a red-head that looked a somewhat like my disheveled wife. I looked around and found no clubs as I thought this was a large version of Whack-A-Mole or redhead in this case. In fact it was my wife, 10 minutes after she first entered the Twilight Zone. Short story long: she avoided slides for the rest of our visit.
Next, we ventured to the Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shaft, one of the museum’s most popular attractions apparently. These Caves and Shoe Shafts run through the center of the Museum, and go all the way to the 10th floor and were hand-sculpted by an artist Bob Cassilly who was also the owner and creator of the museum. We ventured into this labyrinth and after 20 minutes had only just made it to the second floor. As we looked up we realized that it could take days to navigate this elaborate maze and realizing the best way down was a 10 story slide that I was not going to partake in, we turned around and searched our way back the way we came. Apparently somewhere in the shaft is a working 1924 Wurlitzer Pipe Organ from the Rivoli Theater in New York City. We never saw it.
We saw so many different and bizarre things in this building, not to mention the building itself and it’s construction. There was a 21,000 pound real pencil about 36″ in diameter and maybe 30′ long. An old bank vault door and several hundred safety deposit boxes. The roof was close but has a ferris wheel and a bur precariously hanging off the edge of the building. A huge collection of used door knobs. Enclosed secret stairs that will go to a different floor while skipping one.
There is also a large outdoor maze with a fire truck and airplanes and a plastic ball pit for adults.
I want to take the kids there after I have recovered from my surgery more to tackle the Labyrinth and see where the rest of the slides go. We missed a whole world by not allowing enough time…..