National historic group names St. Louis 1 of 12 ‘distinctive destinations’

| Staff Reporter

Even though students often complain that St. Louis does not offer the excitement of cities such as Chicago and New York, one organization doesn’t agree. The National Trust for Historic Preservation declared St. Louis to be among the Dozen Distinctive Destinations in the United States.

According to the NTHP’s Web site, the Dozen Distinctive Destinations are cities and towns that offer “an authentic visitor experience by combining dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, cultural landscapes and a strong commitment to historic preservation, sustainability and revitalization.”

The other Dozen Distinctive Destinations are: Bastrop, Texas; Cedar Falls, Iowa; Chestnut Hill, Penn.; The Crooked Road, Va.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Huntsville, Ala.; Marquette, Mich.; Provincetown, Mass.; Rockland, Maine; Simsbury, Conn. and Sitka, Alaska.

According to the NTHP, St. Louis’ location on the Mississippi River in the United States has led to the eclectic nature of St. Louis’ architecture. The city is exposed to influences from the South, as well as from the Eastern immigrants as a result of 19th century western expansion.

Throughout the late 18th century, St. Louis served as a prosperous French trading outpost on the Mississippi River. Its location upstream from New Orleans led to an influx of French settlers. Many of these settlers remained in the area after the United States acquired St. Louis, while a new group of immigrants came from the East as a result of early Western expansion. This mixture of cultures has led to the diversity that led to the NTHP’s decision to name St. Louis as one of its Dozen Distinctive Destinations.

As examples of St. Louis’ distinctive architecture, the NTHP cites the “red brick buildings, cobblestone streets and terra cotta friezes designed by some of America’s most notable architects,” the Wainwright Building (sometimes considered America’s first skyscraper), and the only building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the region.

Specific sites that the NTHP recommended for a visit to St. Louis include An American Place, a restaurant in the former lobby of the Slater Hotel downtown; Soulard Farmers Market, which, having existed since 1779, is the oldest farmer’s market west of the Mississippi; the Old Courthouse; the Missouri Botanical Gardens; and the Chase Park Plaza, a luxury hotel in the Central West End.

For art enthusiasts, the NTHP also recommends visits to the Byzantine and Romanesque Cathedral Basilica, home of the “world’s largest collection of interior mosaics,” and Union Station, where one can discover the “exquisite details of Theodore Link’s stained glass windows.”

Students agreed with the NTHP’s comments on St. Louis’ cultural diversity. “I really like that there are distinct landmarks within each neighborhood,” sophomore Amelia Hetherington said. “There is such a variety of things to do in St. Louis, such as concerts, shows and festivals. St. Louis seems to have a very diverse culture.”

Sophomore Ryan Newberger said, “I think it’s kind of run-down, but they’re still working on bringing it back. There’s still a lot to offer downtown.”

Voting for the 2010 Fan Favorite has been going on since Feb. 3 and will end on Feb. 28. This year’s election is the first time that readers have helped determine the favorite distinctive destinations.

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