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St. Louis Guide: Midtown

New business brings revitalization

Midtown: the great Arts District of St. Louis. And what’s even better? We’re already here! Midtown, one of the 27 neighborhoods of St. Louis, lies between Olive and Delmar.

It’s taken more than a century for the Midtown that Saint Louis University students know to develop into the bustling center it is today, home to The Fabulous Fox Theatre, Saint Louis University Museum of Art and the Chaifetz Arena.

Midtown centers around The Fox and stretches east to Midtown Alley.

In 1876, when the city’s boundaries were set past the Forest Park area, Midtown essentially consisted of country fields. SLU’s move from downtown to Midtown came in 1888 with the completion of DuBourg Hall.

At this time, all University operations were held in DuBourg. Enrollment totaled about 400.

According to the website for the History of St. Louis Neighborhoods, the early 1900s saw a boom in the commercial sector with some business and theatre openings.

Various theatres such as The Odeon Theatre, The Empress and Victoria opened in this decade. In 1913, Grand Central opened on Grand and Lucas; it was the first theatre in St. Louis built exclusively for motion pictures.

The Fox Theatre opened on Jan. 31, 1929 with 6,000 seats. At the time, it was the second-largest theatre in the world.

The Fox brought success to the area; the estimated cost of the theatre was $5,000,000, and it was the peak of luxury during its time.

Despite The Great Depression and World War II, the area was in its prime during the 1930s.

In 1946, SLU purchased the Samuel Cupples House. This historical manor was purchased by the University for $50,000 and was used as office space until 1970.

In 1959, the campus expanded with the construction of Pius XII Memorial Library. SLU’s former president Rev. Paul Reinert resisted moving the campus westward, and in doing so, he may have saved the Midtown area.

A declining and outwardly-expanding population and tax base in the 1960s halted the city’s theatre and entertainment district, causing a near disappearance of the Midtown neighborhood.

An area that once boasted eight theatres, dozens of businesses and a regional transportation hub was declining rapidly.

Instead of moving, the campus expanded east of Grand Boulevard in 1962, where the Busch Student Center and several classroom buildings now stand. Despite the University’s expansion, the 1970s brought a decline in prosperity when The Fox closed its doors in 1978, due to a decline in attendance.

The reopening of The Fox and the Sheldon Concert Hall in the 1980s rejuvenated the area with the return of crowds and entertainment venues.

Now, 50 years later, this same area now known as Grand Center, has propelled into a thriving arts and entertainment district, marked with renovation, reconstruction and new life.

Restaurants

Pappy’s Smokehouse is arguably the best place to get some BBQ in St. Louis. With entrees under $10, it makes for a good,  hearty meal for college students.

If you’re just looking to grab a burger, The U is another cheap eating option. But if you’re interested in a bit more upscale of an  evening-perhaps you’re taking out a nice girl?- try either Triumph Grill on Olive Street or Vito’s on Lindell Boulevard. If you’re just looking for a cool place to study and grab a coffee, Café Ventana is a cute French Quarter Bistro that’s right on campus.

Entertainment

With The Fox Theatre, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Sheldon Concert Hall, there is never a dull moment in Midtown.

You can check out smaller concerts in the intimate setting of the Sheldon Concert Hall, snap it out to music at Jazz at the Bistro or be astounded by the huge shows performed at The Fox.

Additionally, the Moolah (originally designed to be a temple), holds apartments, a bowling alley and a movie theatre. And you can’t forget the Chaifetz Arena, right on our campus.

In addition to holding our basketball games, Chaifetz also hosts a ton of big-name bands and performers.

Attractions

The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art are two unique attractions in Midtown.

The Museum of Contemporary Religious Art is known for its promotion of tolerance between religions.

The Contemporary Art Museum, located on Washington Blvd., has been displaying avant-garde artwork since 1980. Dating back to 1842, St. Francis Xavier College Church is another place to visit in Midtown. Aesthetically speaking, the building alone is enough reason to visit.

For something a bit different, you can explore EarthWays Center,  located in Grand Center.  This center’s mission is to educate the general public about sustainability and recycling efforts.

EarthWays Center is a three-story Victorian residence built in 1885 that is now used to demonstrate practical demonstrations of energy-efficient systems.

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