Jefferson Barracks Visitors Center

345 North Road
Saint Louis, MO 63125

The structure has had a long and colorful history, its function evolving to reflect changes in military requirements. It was originally built in 1878 as a two-level, 6,500-square-foot barn for the artillery department’s animals and wagons: the lower level was stone and the upper level was wood. The upper level was only accessible by ladders, and hay and grain were lifted into it from wagons. As the need for military horses waned, the building was used to repair tanks after World War I, and the second floor became accessible when a stone ramp was built on the west side of the barn in 1925. With the advent of the New Deal, the building became a storage facility for the Works Progress Administration projects during the 1930s depression. With the outbreak of World War II, the barn became a reception center for new inductees into the service. The second floor was remodeled into the post’s information office, and the ground floor was converted into an exercise room, with wall pulleys, punching bags, barbells, wrestling mats and other gymnasium equipment of the era. A modern shower room was installed, with lockers, ping pong tables and writing tables. The wooden, second level of the building was removed sometime after Jefferson Barracks was deactivated as a military post in 1946, but before 1950, when the federal government ceded the northern 420-acres of the post , including its oldest surviving buildings from the 1850s, to St. Louis County for use as Jefferson Barracks Park. The remaining stone level has had a variety of uses since the acquisition by the County, including the Red Rose Tavern and the South County police station, although, not at the same time of course, and most recently as the Jefferson Barracks Visitors Center. The Friends of Jefferson Barracks, a not-for-profit organization that was formed to assist the Park Department in preservation of the historic structures in Jefferson Barracks, was formed in 1985. One of their primary goals was to see this structure returned back to its original 1878 size. The organization’s efforts and dedication to the project were realized when, in 2000, St. Louis County Parks identified this project as one of its highest priorities for capital improvement, partially due to considerable public input. The Parks Department assigned architect, Hal Olsen to design the project which was led by site director, J. D. Magurany, who provided the historical input. President of the Friends of Jefferson Barracks, Glenda Stockton documented the progress and guided her organizations efforts in raising additional funds when specific historic or design elements were identified. Many Friends members also conducted the tuck-pointing of the first level such as Ron Scheer and Bob Palmer. Maintaining the building’s historic character was a top priority in designing the renovations. Working from photographs taken in the late 1870s, as well as documentary evidence of the building’s appearance in 1941, the structure was redesigned for the adaptive reuse while returning it to its original historical significance. County Parks wanted to create a facility that would be true to the 1870s design, including restoring the historic second level, while providing modern conveniences. For instance, the new doors at the front entrance, for example, are recessed to retain the barn’s original shape. Exterior lighting is concealed from the public’s view, and air conditioning equipment was concealed with planting. To give the building back its 1870s character, board-and-batten was added to the wood frame structure as a second level. Interestingly, the upper floor was converted to a structural concrete slab in 1930, and where the concrete met the old walls, it caught the pattern of this board-and-batten siding, preserving dimensions and other information of great benefit in the current reconstruction. The ramp built in 1925 to transport tanks has been retained in the design to provide accessibility accommodations to the second floor. The first level contains administrative offices, a research room and a gift shop. The upper level contains space for meetings and events. Funding for the renovation was provided by local, state and federal grants, as well as private donations, primarily Community Development Block Grant from St. Louis County Office of Planning and Community Development; Economic Development Initiative Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Landmark Local Parks Program Grant from State of Missouri, Department of Natural Resources; Ameren SmartLights Grant, and Friends of Jefferson Barracks, as well as funding from St. Louis County Parks and Recreation including monies from the Metropolitan Parks and Recreation District. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.