What I love most about living in a new place is learning fun and strange new history about the city. St. Louis has a lot of very fascinating history.
Many people consider the Wainwright building to be the first skyscraper! The Wainwright building is located in downtown St. Louis, only a few blocks from the arch. It is a beautiful, brick building designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan in 1890. It was built to resemble a classical column to emphasize its height. When it was built it was the tallest building in St. Louis at a whopping 10 stories!
Another very interesting aspect of St. Louis history is the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the St. Louis World’s Fair. The fair was located at Forest Park. Many buildings were built for the fair, and a few of them still stand; the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, and a large aviary in the St. Louis Zoo. Also, several foods were popularized at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Among them are hamburgers, hot dogs, waffle-cones, and cotton candy!
One interesting bit of St. Louis history surrounds what is known as Bloody Island. It is a sandbar in the Mississippi that is now attached to the Illinois shore. At one time it was a small island that belonged neither to Missouri, nor Illinois. For this reason it was a popular place for dueling! Two of these duels were between Thomas Hart Benton and Charles Lucas (who owned a large amount of land in North County). They were both lawyers, and they had a dispute in a trial. At a voting poll, Lucas accused Benton of not paying his property tax, and Benton responded, calling him a “little puppy.” Lucas challenged him to a duel on Bloody Island! They were both injured in their first duel, and in their second duel, Benton shot Lucas and he died in 1817. Most of Lucas’ land ended up in the hands of Wilson Price Hunt. This land is now Normandy and the surrounding areas, by Lucas and Hunt Road. Benton went on to be one of the first Missouri Senators, a driving force behind Manifest Destiny, and the great uncle of the famous Missouri painter, also named Thomas Hart Benton!
Yesterday, at approximately 9:16 am, I handed in the grand finale of a rather intriguing semester-long experiment involving Fontbonne’s Honors program. See, to be in the Honors program, you have to take 13 credit hours of honors-level classes by the end of your sophomore year, and because I wanted to complete this requirement ASAP, I took 2 honors classes this semester to finish up my credit requirements. One of the honors classes I took (well, am taking, but this semester’s so close to being over, I’m already referring to it in the past tense. I know you’re supposed to live in the present, but…I’m not going to.) is Intro to Religious Studies, an official Honors class. The other class is American History I, a regular class. I worked with my professor and the Honors people to take the class for Honors credit by reading 4 humongous biographies about people who characterized chunks of American history, on top of the regular coursework. I then incorporated all that reading into the final paper that everyone in the class had to write about the development of democracy in America from colonial times to the Civil War.
I really liked being able to take a regular class with honors work. I love history to begin with, so getting Honors credit to read about all the big people in American history was pretty sweet. My favorite book was Team of Rivals, a biography of Lincoln and some of his statesman peers by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It was a hefty one because she profiles Lincoln as well as people like William Seward and Edward Bates (from Missouri) to show that Lincoln was really part of a bigger movement of laborers-turned-lawyers-turned-statesmen that left an impact on the country. I liked the other books I read – ones on John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Andrew Jackson – but just not as much as this one.
Anyway, about bumping up a regular class to an Honors-level one. It felt cool to kind of design my own coursework for the class. Although my instructor suggested some of the books she thought I should read, I got to choose them on my own. A simple exercise of academic freedom, maybe, but it was pretty empowering. Plus, there’s just something about carrying around a 600-page tome that makes me feel scholarly. The feeling got even better when I was typing my paper and I had all four 600-page books and my notes on them spread out before me around my laptop. I was blending quotes and paraphrasing the authors left and right, and you know what? I found myself thinking, “I feel like I’m in college!”
So, I’m feeling rather accomplished these days, thanks to my experience with taking a regular class for honors credit. I was fortunate that my instructor was as enthusiastic about this project as I was, making it easy to set up and worthwhile to complete. If you’re in the Honors program, you should try it sometime!