James S. McDonnell Planetarium
The St. Louis Science Center is connected to Forest Park by a pedestrian walkway over Oakland Avenue and I-64/40 that leads to the James S. McDonnell Planetarium.
In 1955, the voters in the City of St. Louis approved a $110 million bond issue that included $1 million to build a planetarium. After years of discussion about where to build it, a city commission chose the site in Forest Park that held the old police stable. It was demolished and the firm of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum designed the $1.2 million planetarium.
The planetarium was dedicated May 30, 1963. Although it was planned to be self-supporting, the planetarium was over its budget from the start. James S. McDonnell, founder of McDonnell Aircraft Corp, stepped in and gave the city $200,000 to build the star projector. Because admission was free (it only had a charge for the sky show), the large numbers of people who attended the planetarium did not help with the revenue. McDonnell continued to provide funding for the planetarium and in 1964 it was named the James S. McDonnell Planetarium.
It continued to be a popular attraction through the era of space exploration and the landings on the moon. Visitors could see the Gemini capsule, a moon rock and even an 87-foot tall Thor rocket. But the revenue faltered and the city closed it in 1983.
The City of St. Louis sold it to the Science Center on Jan. 2, 1984 and it was remodeled and renovated before it reopened in the summer of 1985 as part of the St. Louis Science Center.
The Science Center did another renovation and it was re-opened in 2000. It again is a poplar attraction in the park. It has daily star shows and welcomes about 150,000 visitors each year.
Find out more about The St. Louis Science Center or call 289-4400 for more information.