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Last chance (for now): Soldiers' Memorial set to close for two years of renovations

Soldiers Memorial
Susan Hegger | St. Louis Public Radio
Soldiers Memorial

St. Louis residents have less than a week left to visit the Soldiers' Memorial Military Museum downtown before it closes Feb. 28 for two years, until 2018.

“It’s a very significant moment for the Soldiers' Memorial because it means the start of the complete renovation,” said Karen Goering, director of operations.

The city of St. Louis owns the Soldiers' Memorial, at 1315 Chestnut St., but on Veterans Day last year,  it signed an agreement with the Missouri History Museum "to lead a multimillion dollar renovation of the historic structure to create a state-of-the-art museum facility that honors military service, veterans and their families," according to the museum's website. The entire project is expected to cost $30 million in privately raised funds.

Currently, the Missouri History Museum has a team assembled to develop new exhibitions, and it is working with architects and engineers to renovate the building. The memorial will be closed to remove artifacts for cataloguing and evaluation by the museum’s staff.  Then a small construction crew will spend the next four to six weeks determining the full extent of renovations. Project bids will be solicited before construction gets underway this summer.

Goering acknowledges that the museum is operating with a tight timeline, given the extensive renovations needed. 

Lynnea Magnuson holds a photo showing scrap metal drives held outside Soldiers Memorial during WW II.
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio
Superintendent Lynnea Magnuson holds a photo showing scrap metal drives held outside Soldiers Memorial during World War II.

“We know there will be surprises, and we have a small contingency to deal with some of those, but others may require us to sit back and evaluate the various options,” she said. “There may be some choices that have to be made to keep the project within budget.”

The artifacts will be removed, researched and documented, and the staff will consider various exhibition storylines during the construction period.  Although the artifacts won’t be accessible to the public during this time, the museum intends to catalog some of this work through social media.

Leigh Walters, the assistant director of communications, said the public will have even more opportunity to view these artifacts after the renovations.

“Once this is reopened people will have greater access to the collection than they’ve ever had before, she said.

Mayor Francis Slay; Frances Levine, the executive director of the Missouri History Museum; and Terrie Hobson, the president of the St. Louis Chapter of the Gold Star Mothers, will attend the memorial’s closing ceremony at 1 p.m., Sun., Feb. 28. There will be a color guard and the playing of taps while the flag outside the building is lowered until the building reopens in 2018. 

The memorial was originally built in 1935 in a tribute to World War I veterans. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke at its dedication in 1936.