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When you tally the natural factors that powered St. Louis' rise to economic might in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, you'll think of our rivers first and foremost, then rich cropland, a temperate climate and an ideal, centralized locale. All of these ready-made attributes boosted our region to commercial prominence. Now, look down at the ground -- or more exactly, at what lies concealed beneath that ground. St. Louis was really built up from our extensive system of natural caves. Our famous beer industry owes its original success to caves; the early St. Louis breweries were built atop them. The caves, with their natural cooling properties, were absolutely essential before artificial refrigeration was invented. St. Louis' caves provide an always-fascinating chapter of our city's hidden history, and you can learn more about them tonight at 7 p.m. in the presentation Beneath Your Feet: 250 Years of St. Louis Caves in the Lee Auditorium at the Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue; 314-746-4599 or www.mohistory.org). Washington University professor Robert Criss leads the free lecture.
Tue., April 15, 7 p.m., 2014

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