If you are interested on how life was in St. Louis in the 1800’s, you can find out by exploring the new 6,000 square foot exhibit “A Walk in 1875 St. Louis”. This exhibit is based on the illustrated maps that were made in 1874 by the team of Richard Compton and Camille Dry. The bird’s eye view map spans eight feet in height by 24 feet in length and shows how both the wealthy and the working class lived. What is so amazing about the map illustration is its accuracy that can be considered a historical record on how the people lived in St. Louis. Every single home, building, street including every tree was in accurate perspective.
Little is known about Camille Dry except that he was from Paris and had drawn landscapes of the United States during the Civil War. About 12 illustrative maps have been made before Dry went to St. Louis. Richard Compton was the publisher of the map illustrations which resulted into an 11 by 17 inch book that cost so much to produce that the publisher had to charge $25 – that is $500 today.
What does the exhibit feature? The three most popular places to visit are the city jail, insane asylum and the morgue. Based on the bird’s eye view city map, water then was not very clean which leads people into thinking what it tastes like. There were separate illustrated maps for individual neighborhoods like the map of Tower Grove Park with intricate drawings of each of the pavilions that still stand today.
The exhibit A Walk in 1875 St. Louis had the map art blown up to scale that has never been done before so that visitors can walk through St. Louis lavish opulence and crowded tenements. The reference materials were all in black and white and they have to figure out how to bring it to life with color. Artist Dan Zettwoch worked with exhibit architects so that graphics can fit perfectly on the walls including doorways. What started as small became 10 times more than its original size and printed on canvas wallpaper-like material for installation.