When the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company (LPEC), headed by President David R. Francis, announced the decision to use Forest Park as the site for the St. Louis World's Fair, many St. Louis citizens became worried about their park. They were told that only the western half of the park would be used and that the other part would still be open for public use.
Because Forest Park would have to be returned to its original looks, a project that took three years after the Fair closed, the buildings would be temporarily made. They were all made of wood and staff except the Palace of Fine Arts. The Palace of Fine Arts had to be fire proof. It was to be built on top of a hill. The front of the building would be made of temporary staff so that it matched the looks and color of the other temporary buildings. The Palace of Fine Arts later became the present St. Louis Art Museum.
The St. Louis Park Department used its own money and also received donations of money from individuals and companies to get Forest Park ready for the Fair. Adolphus Busch donated a steel flagpole and William C. Uhri gave a set of flags that would fly throughout the Fair days.
Transportation of building supplies and water problems were an important part of the construction process. The construction and reshaping of the River des Peres, main lakes, lagoons, cascades, and the Grand Basin began. A fountain jet had to be added to Sylvan Lake. Builders planned how different types of vessels could travel the waterways to provide transportation for visitors.
The LPEC knew there was a shortage of hotel space for visitors coming to St. Louis to see the Fair so they encouraged the construction of new homes around the Forest Park area. These new homes provided places for Fair visitors to stay.
The Fair opened on April 4, 1904. The United States Government, most of its states, United States cities, and many foreign countries had buildings that represented them. During this time period, every St. Louisian and city visitor who had a fifty cent single day admission fee came to the Fair.
There were fifteen exhibit palaces for visitors to see. The buildings were outlined with electric lights that provided a beautiful scene at night. The palaces covered an area of 128 acres of the Fair's total 1,272 acres.
Some of the popular ones were the: Palace of Ariculture, Palace of Education, Palace of Electricity (Wonder House), Palace of Liberal Arts, Palace of Machinery, Palace of Manufactures, Palace of Mines and Metallurgy, Palace of Transportation, and the Palace of Varied Industries.
Nine hundred buildings were located on the other acres with restaurants and refreshment stands. Twenty two countries had building sites. Some of the buildings represented Ceylon, Japan, and China. There were also forty four United States states, cities and territories who had buildings. A large bird cage constructed by the Smithsonian Institute of the United States Government provided guests the opportunity to see an example of every known bird species of North America. There was also a working coal mine for people to behold.
Another true wonder of the Fair was the Observation Wheel (Ferris Wheel). It was designed by George W. Ferris. The Ferris Wheel was first used at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, Illinois. There were thirty six observation cars. Each car carried 60 passengers and could carry 1,440 visitors at one time. One ride provided four huge revolutions that took more than twenty minutes. Each ride cost fifty cents and provided the rider with a clear view of the Fair.
The Pike area was a popular location for all visitors. It was a mile long street with exciting people and places. There was the massive Tyrolean Alps with a Swiss Village below, Hagenbeck's Animal Paradise, the Trans Siberian Railway, the Eskimos and the Laplanders, Naval Battles, Cairo, Constanople, Galveston Flood, a story of a trip from New York to the North Pole, baby incubators with live babies, Irish Village, Chinese Village, Japanese exhibit with the traditional costumes, moving pictures, and the music of ragtime composers. The song "Meet Me in St. Louis" and songs of Scott Joplin was heard throughout the days and nights. The Pike was a modern day Disney World.
A giant Floral Clock could be seen. It was a huge clock made on a hillside. It was made of flowers and foliage. It was one of the great wonders of the Fair.
Another favorite activity for people was a visit to the Igorrote Village. The Igorrote's were stone age men and women from the Philippines whose diets consist of dog meat.
For the sports minded visitors, the 1904 Olympic Games were held. The activities were called "Olympic Events." These events took place during the week of August 29 to September 4 on Washington University's grounds. It wasn't a large event because only a few countries participated (United States, Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland and Scotland).
Visitors especially enjoyed the re-enacted every day of the Boer War. Seats were provided for the guests as the soldiers used real gun powder.
When people weren't visiting the sites, they were eating at the many restaurants and purchasing souvenirs of the St. Louis World's Fair.
There are institutions and activities that can be enjoyed by everyone. Children can catch their first fish in the water, ride a bicycle to the ball fields to hit their first home run, volley the tennis ball with a friend, jog along the walking paths, watch a golfer make a hole in one, see first master work of art, view the history of Charles Lindbergh, eat an ice cream cone while walking through Big Cat Country, see Peter Pan fly through the trees, climb on giant turtles, construct an arch, and then enjoy a picnic in the World's Fair Pavilion. All of this can be done for the cost of an ice cream cone.
The reopening of the remodeled World's Fair Pavilion was celebrated with an open house on Sunday, October 11, 1998. Money for the remodeling came from private donations of $1.1 million. The reopening celebration got the people of St. Louis excited about the future changes of Forest Park. The World's Fair Pavilion was constructed by the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Committee in 1909-1910 and was given to the city of St. Louis as part of the pledge that was made by the World's Fair Committee to return the park to its original beauty.
Today in Forest Park you can find cultural institutions for learning. The Missouri History Museum, St. Louis Science Center, The Muny, St. Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis Zoo, and The Jewel Box. These institutions have education programs for students and adults. They have also been remodeled and enlarged since they were first built.
The St. Louis Art Museum is one of the few remaining structures from the 1904 World's Fair. During the Fair it was called the Art Palace. The building was donated to St. Louis by the Exposition Company after the Fair.
The Missouri History Museum was originally called the Jefferson Memorial Building and was constructed in 1913 with money made from the 1904 World's Fair.
The Muny (Municipal Theater) has been the setting for outdoor musical performances since 1919.
The Jewel Box has been open since 1936 and it is surrounded by beautiful flowers.
The St. Louis Zoo is home to 3,600 animals and houses the site of the original bird cage made for the 1904 World's Fair.
The St. Louis Science Center has hands-on learning and also has the OMNIMAX Theater.
Dwight F. Davis brought tennis to Forest park in 1912 and today there are 19 lighted tennis courts and a stadium court. There are also racquetball and handball courts. Athletic fields are available for rugby, soccer, volleyball, and baseball/softball. People can golf in the park at the Forest Park Golf Course providing 18 holes and the Eisenhower Municipal Golf Course providing 9 holes. The Triple A Golf and Tennis Club was founded in 1897 as the St. Louis Amateur Athletic Association. It is open to everyone today with a 9 hole golf course and 14 clay tennis courts. Forest Park has paths that are 7.5 miles long where you can bicycle, roller blade, jog, and walk. You can take nature walks around the park's 1,371.75 acres and identify insects, land birds, water birds, and over 25 species of trees.
The Forest Park boat house at the Post Dispatch Lake has row boats, paddle boats, and canoes for rent. The waters around Forest Park house 25 species of fish.
The Mark C. Steinberg Memorial Skating Rink opened in 1957. Turtle Park was created by artist Bob Cassilly in 1996 as a play area. Turtle Park has eight turtle sculptures with the largest measuring 40 feet from toe to tail.