The Palace of Fine Arts at the 1904 World's Fair is the home of the St. Louis Art Museum. The side buildings were removed after the fair, leaving the central hall as a the only permanent structure remaining from the fair.

The St. Louis Art Museum

1 Fine Arts Drive, In Forest Park

314 721-0072

The St. Louis Art Museum is one of the leading art museums in the country today. More than half a million people a year visit the Cass Gilbert designed building that stands on top of Art Hill in Forest Park.

The first municipally-supported art museum in the nation, The St. Louis Art Museum is proud to be "dedicated to art and free to all."

While the building is the only permanent structure remaining from the 1904 World's Fair, the museum can be traced back to a free evening drawing class organized by Professor Halsey C. Ives at Washington University in 1875. Its rapid growth soon necessitated larger quarters for classes as well as for a collection of art works.

In 1879, the "St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts," was established as a department of the university. A building for the art school and museum was completed at 19th and Locust Streets in 1881 through the generosity of Wayman Crow. Although the building was enlarged, continued growth of the institution and changing character of its neighborhood made a new location imperative by the turn of the century.

The City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance in 1900 to permit the St. Louis Museum of Fine Arts to erect a new building in Forest Park.

Plans for the World's Fair were underway at that time and the art committee decided to build a permanent structure to house the fair's art displays. Plans for the classic structure of gray, Bedford limestone and Roman brick were prepared by Architect Cass Gilbert of New York. Its central feature was its great Sculpture Hall, whose design was inspired by the Roman Baths of Caracalla.

After its service as the exposition's Palace of Fine Art and the later removal of its surrounding temporary pavilions, the million dollar central structure was occupied by the museum in 1906. At that time, the museum still was a department of the university.

As the importance of the institution to the city became apparent, a movement began to establish it as a municipal art museum. Enabling legislation was enacted by the State Legislature early in 1907, and on April 2 of that year, the voters of St. Louis approved a law to levy a tax to support the new museum.


In 1909, a city ordinance authorized a Museum Board of Control appointed by the mayor. The board's first meeting took place in 1912 after a delay caused by a court challenge of the constitutionality of the state's art museum legislation.

Under the leadership of a series of able directors and board members,the Art Museum's well-rounded collection had risen in size and importance so that it ranked as one of the five greatest American art galleries by the 1940s.

Addition of an auditorium during the 1950s greatly enhanced the museum's value to the public. The subject of physical expansion had been considered in 1906 and 1916, the latter being a grandiose plan by Cass Gilbert to recapture the spirit of the World's Fair in a landscaping design.

After coming under jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Museum District, a five year program of renovation of the St. Louis Art Museum's east wing was begun in 1972. Completed in December 1977, it retained the plan and atmosphere of the original Gilbert design, while also integrating it with a modern decorative appearance and new illumination, temperature and humidity controls.

A massive 13-year, $32 million renovation has restored the beauty and grandeur of the original structure.

The Art Museum is open

  • 1:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays
  • 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays
  • Closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day

For more information, visit The St. Louis Art Museum or call 314 721-0072.

History of Forest Park