It doesn’t matter how many times we visit the Holiday Lights at the brewery in St. Louis (and it really hasn’t even been that many years, yet), there’s always something new to see (this year we saw wood carvers and a sand sculptor!), and the lights are always at least a little bit different. It’s one of my favorite Christmas activities, and it’s still FREE!
I love Christmas in St. Louis!
Last night, we stopped at the Anheuser-Busch brewery to see their holiday lights display. I think they may have the largest wreath in St. Louis!
Much of the display was the same as last year, and it was beautiful!
There were some new things, too…I really loved this skyline display:
And this mid-century advertisement was amazing!
There were decorations inside, as well…I especially love that they decorated the Clydesdale stable!
And one last glimpse of the main entrance before we left:
I’m so glad the brewery started this new tradition a few years ago, because it’s become one of our family’s favorite Christmas events!
With one move, he could deny the city of Milwaukee, home of Pabst and Schlitz, a professional baseball team, wrest the Cardinals’ broadcasting rights away from the Griesedieck Brothers, and turn Sportsman’s Park, where the Cardinals played, into a giant outdoor tavern–thirty thousand Budweiser drinkers held captive for two or three hours at a time in the sweltering St. Louis heat. William Knoedelseder on “Gussie” Busch in Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America’s Kings of Beer
In the process of cake hunting this year, I learned that the Busch family, with the help of architectural firm Klipstein and Rathmann (also known for their work on the Anheuser-Busch Bevo plant and the Bauernhof at Grant’s Farm), built taverns/restaurants in an Old World style in the early 1900s. This was done in a move to present a wholesome, family-friendly image to the area (as opposed to the shady drinking establishments that were common then), and to protect their interests as prohibition approached. I knew of two of the existing locations (and they both have cakes to mark their importance in their neighborhoods and the greater St. Louis area), but the third one was new to me. Of course I had to get out and see and compare them all!
The most recognizable of the restaurant trio is Bevo Mill. Once you’ve seen a giant windmill in the city, you’re not likely to forget it! It was actually the last of the Busch family restaurant trio to be built (in 1916). August Busch Sr. originally chose this location because it was approximately halfway between the brewery downtown and his home at what is now another popular St. Louis location, Grant’s Farm, so it made a nice stopping place to water the horses along the way. The stones on the outside of the restaurant were chosen by him personally from the Grant’s Farm property. He even had his own private dining room in the restaurant, and apartments upstairs! The restaurant was named to market a specific Busch product popular during Prohibition, the nonalcoholic Bevo cereal drink. Bevo Mill closed briefly in recent years, but was purchased by a new investor, and has been re-opened, mainly for private events such as weddings, but also for brunch.
Arguably the current busiest of the trio is the Feasting Fox in Dutchtown, which includes this charming Old World building, and a banquet hall, Gretchen’s Inn, next door. This is the “middle child” of the buildings, as it was built in 1914. The restaurant originally went by the name Busch’s Inn or Gretchen’s Inn, before it acquired the name that pays tribute to the mascot for the nonalcoholic Bevo cereal drink, Reynard the Fox, a character in a medieval French folk tale. This restaurant also sat vacant, but for a much longer period of time, and was quite neglected until it was rehabbed in the early 1990s. It is now known as one of the few places you can find a German meal in the St. Louis area.
The final of the three, the old Stork Inn, located at Taft and Virginia in Dutchtown not too far from the Feasting Fox, is the one I had never heard of before, which is probably in part due to the fact that it no longer functions as a restaurant. The first of the three Busch family-friendly taverns, it was built in 1910 in the familiar wedge-shape of the flatiron style, but still retains the same old world charm as the other two locations. Like Bevo Mill, the Stork Inn was built to promote a particular Busch beverage, this time Malt-Nutrine, a drink marketed toward pregnant and nursing women (thus the stork imagery, which is very popular in Germany). The building has been restored, and is currently being used as an architecture studio. Note that the white stork on top of the building is similar to the ones on top of Bevo Mill and the Bauernhof at Grant’s Farm.
There were other Busch-commissioned taverns in St. Louis in the early 1900s, all built for the same purpose of putting a better spin on drinking establishments prior to Prohibition, and then offering a progressive alternative during the country’s dry years, but these are the only three that remain standing and retain their historical integrity. As I mentioned earlier, however, the Bauernhof at Grant’s Farm shared the same architects, and it does still retain its historical integrity, as well…here’s a recent shot to compare the style (and the previously mentioned storks):
These buildings are obviously the product of a bygone era in St. Louis, and I’m glad that they are still standing to tell part of the city’s story!
Today I went to Grant’s Farm (by myself!) to go on a Busch Family Estate Walk. For those who are familiar with Grant’s Farm, you know that the Busch family, of Anheuser-Busch fame, called Grant’s Farm home for many years. And if you’ve ridden the tram, you may have noticed the family mansion peeking through the trees. If you’re lucky enough to have gone on a private expedition like our family did several years ago, you’ve even gotten to see the back of the house, but not take pictures of it…photography was strictly forbidden.
This year, everything changed. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Grant’s Farm as a public place in St. Louis, Grant’s Farm is offering the chance to go on an estate walk, an hour-long tour around the residential property, including visits to the playhouse, the chapel, and the swimming pool, and views of the house from all sides (but not the inside). To start the tour, you go through a rather forbidding looking gate down past the area of the Tiergarten where the camels and zebras can be found:
The first stop on the tour is the children’s playhouse. It’s a charming two-room house, complete with running water and functional wood-burning fireplace. Knickknacks and family photos decorate the rooms. The house is still used for tea parties and other fun children’s events. It’s completely adorable and charming!
Just behind the playhouse, you get a glimpse of the family’s tennis court, which is also equipped with basketball goals:
There is lovely man-made pond with a fountain known as “Dandelion Lake.” There are several benches by it, as well as statues of different types of wildlife. The many trees beginning to change color made it especially beautiful!
One of my favorite stops on the tour was at the family chapel, St. Hubert’s. The chapel is named for the Belgian patron saint of hunters, a nod to the Busch family’s love of hunting and wildlife. Tradition has it that Hubert saw a stag with a crucifix in its antlers while hunting one day, and immediately gave up his position and wealth to become a priest. He become the Bishop of Liège in 708, and died in 727. His feast day is remembered on November 3.
The chapel is beautiful, with stained-glass windows made by Louis Tiffany, son of the jeweler who founded Tiffany and Company. It was built by August Busch Jr. as a gift to his wife, a Swiss woman who had longed to have a chapel like the ones found in her home country on their property, on the occasion of the birth of their fifth child. Her parents gifted the chapel with its bells, which are from Switzerland, and are inscribed with the names of the children who had been born to the family up to that point. The chapel has served for family baptisms and other services, and was blessed by Cardinal Ritter, the only private chapel in the area to have such a distinction.
Of course, the highlight of the tour for me was seeing the house again, and getting to photograph it. It’s a 100-year-old, 34-room mansion, complete with 14 bathrooms, 12 bedrooms, and two kitchens. The entire third floor is a ballroom, and the Busch children used it as a roller skating rink when no parties were being given. I was delighted to see the front of the building for the first time:
And looking at with the Dandelion Lake in the foreground completes the picture of a stunningly beautiful family estate:
Our tour continued with a stop at the family swimming pool. It’s a heated pool, although even with the heat, it normally would have been closed for the year by now. They left it open for the tours, however, and you could almost see into the past, when the Buschs used to have Cardinals like Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst and their families over for pool parties. It may have been at one such party that “Gussie” first considered allowing visitors to tour the Deer Park and the Bauernhof (the original home and stables on the property)…one of the Cardinals wives suggested he open it to the public, and he eventually decided it was a good idea!
We also got a glimpse of the “cottage” on the property…a 17-room home built for Gussie’s widow after his death because the big house was too big for her with all of her children grown and moved out. Gussie’s former personal chauffeur still lives in the house, and Busch family members occasionally stay there, as well.
The back of the house was the one part I had seen before, but there’s a huge difference between driving past it, and being able to stop and look at all the details. That the rear entry of a home can look so grand is almost unbelievable to me, and yet here it is:
There were so many other little details I noticed as we walked around all sides of the house, including a statue of Kaiser Wilhelm on one of the side porches (I’d love to know the story behind that!), and beech trees like the ones that provide the beechwood that Budweiser beer is so famous for using in their aging process. There were also so many other stories I heard, including the fact that Gussie used to allow the two elephants that are still at Grant’s Farm today, Bud and Mickey, into the house when they were babies. He even fed them fruit off the family table, and they weren’t even the only wildlife allowed in the house. His wife must have been a very patient person!
I’ve heard some people complaining about the $25 price for the ticket, but I think it’s well worth it. I learned quite a lot, saw some beautiful things, and talked to some interesting people. If you have a chance before Grant’s Farm closes for the season, I highly recommend buying a ticket to this tour, because at this point, they haven’t decided if it will be offered again next year, and this is an opportunity you don’t want to miss!