If Crawford's department store, the International Fur Exchange or the Canard Carpet Company mean nothing to you, perhaps it's time somebody took you by the hand and showed you the way around downtown. All three are the former names of still-standing structures that can serve as the gateway (ha, ha) to downtown's history. And thankfully, civic-minded group Metropolis St. Louis is pointing out such trivia nuggets and much more on their weekly area walking tours.
Held at 10 a.m. Saturdays through November, the two-hour walking excursions divide downtown into eastern and western sections; each individual tour costs $5, payable on site (reservations or advance purchase aren't necessary). While the West tour had been conducted by Metropolis in the past, its revival and the new East tour are the brainchild of Dr. Richard Mueller, a retired American history teacher from Saint Louis University High, three-year Metropolis member and a way-back-in-the-day charter member of the Landmarks Association of St. Louis, the area's main historical-preservation society.
Comparing East to West, Mueller explains, "the buildings in the East tour are older, with more late-19th century architecture, while the West tour features terrific examples of earlier 20th century buildings." Both include churches (the Old Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral), hotels (the WS Hotel, Hyatt Union Station), plus myriad courthouses, gentrified factories and warehouses.
The East tour meets at the western entrance to the Old Courthouse, on Broadway between Market and Chestnut streets, while the West gathers 'round the sidewalk outside Union Station, just west of 18th Street on Market. Go to www.mstl.org for more information. -- Rose Martelli
Keep Kids out of the Gutter
By bowling strikes
Bowling is one of the greatest recreational pastimes conceived in the annals of humanity. As a sport, it is the great equalizer: men and women can compete against each other with no obvious advantage either way, children can play as well as adults, and everyone from the lowly peasant to the mightiest pharaoh must wear the funny shoes. Additionally, it is one of only two sports where competitors don't have to put down their drink to participate (the other sport is softball). What could possibly make bowling better? How about if it benefited children in need? This Friday at Olivette Lanes (9520 Olive Boulevard) starting at 6:30 p.m., if you can raise at least $45 in pledges, every gutter ball and strike you chuck helps Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri. They're calling it "Bowl for Kids' Sake Summer," but you'll call it nothin' but a good time. Call 314-361-5900 to find out how to sign up. -- Paul Friswold
The Rag & How to Swing It
Frederick's kicks it very old school
Ragtime is a musical form that has fallen out of favor. And yet in St. Louis, the ancestral home of ragtime, there are still practitioners of this precursor to jazz, and rightfully so. As Cecil Brown notes in his excellent history of the Stag-O-Lee ballad, Stagolee Shot Billy, ragtime was the music of the St. Louis macks and their nighttime world, predating gangsta rap with its bravado and lascivious swagger. Ragtime's off-kilter melodies and vertiginous runs simulate the warped, dreamlike stretching of time felt when you're well and truly toasted, making it the perfect good-time party music. Frederick's Music Lounge (4454 Chippewa Street, 314-351-5711) knows a thing or two about good times, and they host a free Ragtime Piano Cutting Contest on the fourth Tuesday of the month from 7-9 p.m. Dust off your spats, cock your broad-brimmed "Stutson," and get ready to party like it's 1899. -- Paul Friswold
When Buddhist monks visiting China brought the then-3,000-year-old strategy game of Wei-Chi back to Japan nearly 1,400 years ago, the warrior class studied and refined the techniques of its play to their highest potential and renamed the pastime "Go." Combining simple rules with simpler elements of play -- black and white stones on a lined wooden board -- it has since spread throughout the world and enthralled players with its subtleties. The Grand Avenue Go Club meets every Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Commonspace, 615 North Grand Boulevard. Players of all ages and skill levels are invited to learn, play and enjoy the game. Participation is free. For more information, call 314-531-1707. -- John Goddard
Who would name their band "The Presidents of the United States of America?" Who would book them to play a free show? Who would go see it? The answers, in order, are: some dudes who managed to gain some mild popularity with radio-friendly pop music in the mid-'90s; the Washington Avenue Summerfest; and, perhaps, you. If the band that performed the theme song for "The Drew Carey Show" isn't enough to lure you downtown (on Washington Avenue between Tucker Boulevard and 14th Street), then view it as just another opportunity to get drunk: Cuervo and Budweiser are major sponsors, so you must be 21 or older to attend. The event starts at 4 p.m., and there will be concessions, vendors and various other activities to enjoy (www.entertainmentstl.com). -- Guy Gray
Correction published 7/23/03:
As originally published, "Go Gaga" misstated the name of the Grand Avenue Go Club. The above version reflects the corrected text.