Sunday, April 10, 2011

Edifying Edifice Expedition

This is a photo I took last week of "The Jewel Box" located on a 17-acre site in Forest Park, that was built by the city of St. Louis in 1936. Its original cost was $117,000, with 45% of the funds coming from WPA (Public Works Administration). It is considered to be an Art-Deco-style structure, and at the time was "the latest word in display greenhouses". It was unconventional for a greenhouse, in that it was built of cantilevered vertical glass walls, rising 50 feet high, in a pattern called "clerestories". (Defined as an outside wall of a building, carried above an adjoining roof, and pierced with windows.) One of the reasons for this design was to prevent damage from frequent hail storms that occur regularly in this part of the country. This was achieved by constructing only the walls of glass (to admit the greatest amount of light), while all of the horizontal surfaces are metal. Rolled awnings regulate the amount of light that can come through the windows.
The photo below shows a portion of the eight fixed arches that help support the building. It is interesting that the arches of the Jewel Box were in place decades before another arch---"The Gateway Arch" became a symbol recognized around the world, as the identifier for the city of St. Louis. The arch theme is further carried out in the constant stream of the fountains (seen coming out of the floor of the building) that provide a pleasing sound, as well as reflective pools and moisture for the greenery. This photo was taken from the rear of the building, looking towards the main entrance doors. A second floor balcony is above the entryway, and is accessible by two spiral staircases on each side. As you might imagine, a setting such as this is popular for weddings and other celebrations, and such arrangements can be made on the official website of the city of St. Louis. It only costs one dollar to go in and visit the Jewel Chest, but even that small fee is waived on Mondays and Tuesdays between the hours of 9 am and noon. when you can visit for free. The price seems VERY reasonable, considering the Jewel Box just underwent a 3.5 million dollar renovation. Since it is listed on the National Historic Register, this recent investment in its restoration will ensure that "The Jewel Box" will be a "St. Louis Jewel" for future generations. The website for The Jewel Box says the edifice obtained that name because visitors frequently commented that the glass and floral patterns reminded them of a glass box used to keep jewelry in. When their website used the word "edifice" to describe the building, it reminded me of a verse in the Bible that also refers to the root meaning of edifice, meaning "to build up or establish". Ephesians 4:29 says "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." I paraphrase that to mean that my words to others should be like "little jewel boxes" that build them up and minister to them. Thanks to my recent visit to the Jewel Box in St. Louis, I now have a pleasant mental picture to store away with that wise advise from the Bible.

The age-old use of a sun dial on the grounds in front of the Jewel Box, are a reminder that ANY time of day is good for a visit to this lovely site. Even if the interior is not open, just strolling the adjacent gardens and admiring the design from the outside is a worthwhile endeavor! If you would like to learn about the dozens of other attractions in St. Louis, Missouri, that will build up and edify YOUR spirits, just log on to You'll be glad you did! Miles of smiles! Tricia