Home     Mission    Building    Staff    Events    Get Involved    Store    Education     Resources     Media Room     Contact    

MEDIA ROOM

 

Missouri Civil War Museum in the News

 

JEFFERSON BARRACKS POST EXCHANGE GETS 
NEW LIFE AS CIVIL WAR MUSEUM
By: Bill Phelan

September 4, 2009
Speak to Mark Trout for just a few minutes and it’s clear he is a man with a mission, a mission he is passionate about.

As chairman of a non-profit organization, Trout and a few hundred dedicated volunteers have undertaken the Herculean task of restoring the old Post Exchange building at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis as a home for the Missouri Civil War Museum.

Once part of the historic Jefferson Barracks military reservation, the Post Exchange was built in 1905 and served the officers of the post until it was abandoned after World War II. In its hay day the building boasted a gymnasium, indoor pistol range, a barber shop and a two-lane bowling ally. But decades of neglect left the building in shambles and in 1988 it was deeded to St. Louis County as part of Jefferson Barracks County Park. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building came to the attention of the Missouri Civil War Museum Corporation about seven years ago.

In 2002, the corporation reached a lease agreement with St. Louis County and began a $2 million restoration of the building, a project that is ongoing.

“The building was in a serious state of disrepair,” said Gary Stevens, a corporation spokesman. “It was overgrown with vines and plants throughout the building. We had hives with an estimated 50,000 bees in here. We had layers of animal droppings. A portion of the roof was missing and you could stand in the gymnasium and look up and see the clouds going by. It took us a year just to prepare the building for restoration.”

Faced with such a daunting task, some might have thrown in the towel and decided to find another building or build a new structure. But given Missouri’s rich Civil War history and the role Jefferson Barracks played during the war, Trout and Stevens say there is no better location for a museum dedicated to telling the story of the war in the Show-Me-State.

“The history and heritage we’re promoting here is entirely that of Missouri,” Trout said. “Some of our members have ancestors that served in the Civil War and others were stationed at Jefferson Barracks during their own military service. You cannot tell the story of the Civil War in Missouri without telling the story of Jefferson Barracks. This is the oldest active military installation west of the Mississippi River. There is no significant historic military installation greater than Jefferson Barracks.”

“Some 220 Civil War generals served at Jefferson Barracks prior to the war including Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee,” added Stevens. “There are some 16,000 Civil War veterans buried at Jefferson Barracks. Some of today’s National Guard units can trace their history back to the Civil War. The 1-138th Infantry Regiment can trace it’s lineage to the 1st Missouri Confederate Infantry Brigade.” 

Restoration activity at the Post Exchange recently attracted the attention of Sgt. 1st Class Ray Alford of De Soto, a logistics non-commissioned officer with 70th Troop Command of the Missouri National Guard. Alford, whose office is just a stone’s throw from the Post Exchange, is now a member of the restoration organization.

“I think this is a worthwhile organization and that’s why I joined,” Alford said. “I’ve always been a Civil War buff and I think it’s very important to remember our heritage and that at one point there was fighting right here on our soil, not just overseas. Jefferson Barracks was the staging area for all the northern troops during the war so it’s totally appropriate for the museum to be here.”  

Armed with the original building blueprints, restoration work on the Post Exchange includes features that were left out of the initial construction, such as a mahogany spider web window.  Such meticulous restoration work isn’t cheap and Trout said funding continues to be an uphill climb.

“As much as I hate to say it, money is still the major issue, he said. “We’ve spent about $1.5 million so far and we’re about $500,000 away from completion. 
“We were promised $250,000 from the state, but the governor had to cut the budget and we lost that money.”

Organizers hope to open the museum in April, 2011, the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. But to meet that deadline, Trout, a Marine Corps veteran, says they need help.

“I’m appealing to any member of the National Guard or anyone who cares about our military history and heritage,” he said. “We owe it to the Soldiers of the past to have a fitting tribute to them and this museum is it.”

 

MISSOURI CIVIL WAR MUSEUM IN THE WORKS

Speakers visit Mudd's Grove with update on 1905 building restoration 
at Jefferson Barracks
by Fran Mannino

As part of an ongoing series on the Civil War, Friends of the Kirkwood Historical Society recently welcomed two members of the Missouri Civil War Museum organization to Mudd's Grove.

Mark Trout, founder and chairman of the not-for-profit group, is spearheading the restoration of the Post Exchange and Gymnasium Building at historic Jefferson Barracks in South County, future home of the Missouri Civil War Museum.

Civil War Museum

The federal-style Post Exchange and Gymnasium Building was built in 1905 for Army officers, and once contained a library, gymnasium, saunas, indoor pistol range and bowling alley. It was decommissioned after World War II, and sat empty for decades.

The structure has undergone a remarkable transformation from the crumbling, uninhabitable space it was just a few years ago to the structurally sound, updated building of today.

Trout and his volunteers have been working around the clock since 2002 to get the building habitable.

"We have two goals," said Trout. "Our first goal was to save the building. The second goal is to find a way to open on April 12, 2011, the 150th anniversary (of the start) of the Civil War.

"We started as an organization of three and have grown to an organization of 400," said Trout.

"Without a doubt this is a true grassroots project, funded entirely by the generosity of people and businesses, with no government funding."

The most immediate challenge for the museum organization is trying to raise funds during one of the worst recessions to hit the country in decades.

Mark Trout speaks to members of the Kirkwood Historical Society at Mudd’s Grove. Trout describes Jefferson Barracks as the most significant military historic site in the state and a fitting setting for a new Missouri Civil War Museum. photo by Diana Linsley points out a spider web window, one of the many historic aspects of a 1905 building 
currently being converted into the Missouri Civil War Museum at Jefferson Barracks. photo by Diana Linsley

"In reality we are a half-million dollars away from finishing this and opening it," said Trout.

The restoration budget for the 15,000-square-foot space is about $2 million. Funds raised to date have been pumped into massive improvements to shore up the decaying building.

"It's a big challenge," said Trout. "If you're a Civil War enthusiast or historian and want to get involved and do some good, we have 24 months left. We could really use your help."

New Life for an Aging Beauty

Trout is one of those rare individuals who can see past the neglect of the past to the potential of the future - even if it involves years of back-breaking labor and sacrifice in the process.

"Jefferson Barracks is without a doubt the most significant military historic site in the state," he said. "We felt the need to fill a void in this city that sent more soldiers into the Civil War than any other city west of the Mississippi."

Trout, a Webster University alum, struck a deal with St. Louis County for a 99-year lease at $1 a year. Trout's end of the bargain is to restore the structure to its former glory.

Trout's right-hand man is John Maurath, director of library services for the Missouri Civil War Museum organization. Maurath is a former Sunset Hills resident who now lives near Jefferson Barracks.

Trout and Maurath both quit their day jobs to work on the restoration, doing everything from shoveling tons of debris out of the building to laying floors. The challenge for the group is a daunting one.

"When we took this building over it had been out of service since 1946," said Trout. "There were gaping holes in the roof. There were raccoons and pigeons in here - we even had to chase a Mallard off the running track."

Volunteers working on the project range from high school students to senior citizens, even retired colonels and major generals.

Some of the group's older members said when the building was decommissioned, ads were placed in the newspapers encouraging people to come salvage what they could before it was torn down.

"The first thing they took was the slate roof," said Maurath. "Every time it rained the building filled with water. They took all the beautiful hardware, the chandeliers."

The Post building at Jefferson Barracks has three "sister" buildings still in service in other states. Trout found the original blueprints for his building at one of the sister locations in Wyoming.

"Everything we do here is guided by the original blueprints," he said. "That's the gospel of the restoration."

Mahogany front doors are ready to be installed, but will remain in storage until all the major construction is completed to keep them from being damaged. In the meantime, plywood is doing double duty at the front entrance.

"People judge our progress by what they see boarded up on the outside," said Trout. "They have no idea what we're putting into the infrastructure."

Improvements include a new roof, a fire suppression system costing upwards of $100,000, and restoration and replacement of exterior soffits and fascia that were destroyed by years of water damage. Nearly every floor and wall in the building has been replaced.

Plastering is complete on much of the second floor of the building, which will house staff offices and a full kitchen for artifact cleaning and restoration.

Education and Enrichment

Trout stressed he is not a Civil War scholar, just a former police officer and Marine veteran with ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War conflict.

Maurath, who also has Civil War ancestors, said the true measure of success for the project will be how many yellow school buses full of kids pull up outside the new museum when it opens.

"The museum is geared to work with the outside curriculums of school districts," said Trout. "They'd come to the museum to learn about the Civil War, instead of limiting it to the classroom."

Maurath said they already have 2,000 books on the Civil War for the museum's library, and a host of other artifacts, stored for now in a climate-controlled environment off site.

Visitors to the completed museum will be able to learn about Missouri's involvement in the Civil War through interactive displays, exhibits and a library resource center.

"We've got blood, sweat and tears in this building," said Trout. "The museum is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In the end we're creating something tens of thousands of people will see."

Learn more about the Missouri Civil War Museum at www.mcwm.org. Volunteer and donation information is also available on the Web site, or by calling 845-1861.

Civil War at Mudd's Grove

Some of the Civil War items now on display at Mudd’s Grove. photo by Diana Linsley

"Our next few meetings will focus on the Civil War," said Friends of the Kirkwood Historical Society President Jean Mueller. "We have lots of artifacts and clothing that have been given to us over the years and are on display."

Historically, Kirkwood has a number of Civil War connections.

"During the Civil War a lot of troops marched from Jefferson Barracks to Kirkwood to take the train to be deployed," Maurath said.

William B. Swan, who served in the Union Army during the war, owned Swan Cottage on North Harrison Avenue, one of Kirkwood's many historic landmark buildings.

"A lot of Civil War soldiers lived here, and a lot of these homes were designed and built by Civil War soldiers," said Maurath.

Upcoming Civil War presentations at Mudd's Grove, 302 W. Argonne, include:

* Monday, April 6, 10 a.m. - Historic impersonator Marie Andel will present Mrs. George Dana. The Dana family occupied Mudd's Grove from 1889 to 1923.

* Monday, May 4, 10 a.m. - Barnes M. Bradshaw of the Missouri Historical Society will discuss the life of a Confederate prisoner of war in the Federal Prison on Gratiot Street in St. Louis.

 

 

 

 

1905 BUILDING BEING TRANSFORMED INTO CIVIL WAR MUSEUM

April 12, 2011 opening of museum at Jefferson Barracks to coincide with
Civil War Anniversary
by Fran Mannino

Overlooking the parade grounds at historic Jefferson Barracks in South County is the Post Exchange and Gymnasium Building, a beautiful federal-style structure that will one day house the not-for-profit Missouri Civil War Museum.

The building was built in 1905 for Army officers, and once contained a library, gymnasium, saunas, indoor pistol range and bowling alley. It was decommissioned after World War II, and sat empty for decades.

The structure has undergone a remarkable transformation from the crumbling, uninhabitable space it was just a few years ago to the structurally sound, updated building of today.

Museum Founder and Chairman Mark Trout and his volunteers have been working around the clock since 2002 to get the building habitable.

"We have two goals," said Trout. "Our first goal was to save the building. The second goal is to find a way to open on April 12, 2011, the 150th anniversary (marking the start) of the Civil War.

"We're not an organization of hard-core Civil War people," he said. "We started as an organization of three and have grown to an organization of 400. Without a doubt this is a true grassroots project, funded entirely by the generosity of people and businesses, with no government funding."

The most immediate challenge for the museum organization is trying to raise funds during one of the worst recessions to hit the country in decades.

"In reality we are a half-million dollars away from finishing this and opening it," said Trout.

The restoration budget for the 15,000-square-foot space is about $2 million. Funds raised to date have been pumped into massive improvements to shore up the decaying building.

"It's a big challenge," said Trout. "If you're a Civil War enthusiast or historian and want to get involved and do some good, we have 24 months left. We could really use your help."

New Life for an Aging Beauty

Trout is one of those rare individuals who can see past the neglect of the past to the potential of the future - even if it involves years of back-breaking labor and sacrifice in the process.

Trout, a resident of Wildwood, first spotted the decaying Post Exchange building in 2002 while on a visit to Jefferson Barracks.

"A couple of us talked about how it would be nice to see some sort of Civil War museum here," he said.

"Jefferson Barracks is without a doubt the most significant military historic site in the state," he said. "We felt the need to fill a void in this city that sent more soldiers into the Civil War than any other city west of the Mississippi."

Trout and company struck a deal with St. Louis County, which owns the building, for a 99-year lease at $1 a year. Trout's end of the bargain is to restore the structure to its former glory.

Trout's right-hand man is John Maurath, director of library services for the Missouri Civil War Museum organization. Maurath is a former Sunset Hills resident who now lives near Jefferson Barracks.

Trout and Maurath both quit their day jobs to work on the restoration, doing everything from shoveling tons of debris out of the building to laying floors.

The challenge for the group is a daunting one due to the extreme neglect the building suffered over the years, and the trying economic times.

"When we took this building over it had been out of service since 1946," said Trout. "There were gaping holes in the roof. There were raccoons and pigeons in here - we even had to chase a Mallard off the running track."

Volunteers working on the project range from high school students to senior citizens, even retired colonels and major generals.

Mark Trout describes Jefferson Barracks as the most significant military historic site in the state. It will serve as a fitting locale for a new Missouri Civil War Museum. The former elevated track will serve as a gallery. photo by Diana Linsley

Some of the group's older members said when the building was decommissioned, ads were placed in the newspapers encouraging people to come salvage what they could before it was torn down.

"The first thing they took was the slate roof," said Maurath. "Every time it rained the building filled with water. They took all the beautiful hardware, the chandeliers.

"We're restoring it to its original look so that if a World War I soldier walked in here today it would look the same as it did in his day."

The Post building at Jefferson Barracks has three "sister" buildings still in service in other states. Trout found the original blueprints for his building at one of the sister locations in Wyoming.

"Everything we do here is guided by the original blueprints," he said. "That's the gospel of the restoration."

Mahogany front doors are ready to be installed, but will remain in storage until all the major construction is completed to keep them from being damaged. In the meantime, plywood is doing double duty at the front entrance.

"People judge our progress by what they see boarded up on the outside," said Trout. "They have no idea what we're putting into the infrastructure."

Improvements include a new roof, a fire suppression system costing upwards of $100,000, and restoration and replacement of exterior soffits and fascia that were destroyed by years of water damage. Nearly every floor and wall in the building has been replaced.

Plastering is complete on much of the second floor of the building, which will house staff offices and a full kitchen for artifact cleaning and restoration.

Education and Enrichment

Trout stressed he is not a Civil War scholar, just a former police officer and Marine veteran with ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War conflict. He studied political science and history at Webster University, and has a great appreciation for historic preservation.

Maurath, who also has Civil War ancestors, said the true measure of success for the project will be how many yellow school buses full of kids pull up outside the new museum when it opens.

"The museum is geared to work with the outside curriculums of school districts," said Trout. "They'd come to the museum to learn about the Civil War, instead of limiting it to the classroom."

Maurath said they already have 2,000 books on the Civil War for the museum's library, and a host of other artifacts, stored for now in a climate-controlled environment off site.

Visitors to the completed museum will be able to learn about Missouri's involvement in the Civil War through interactive displays, exhibits and a library resource center.

"We've got blood, sweat and tears in this building," said Trout. "The museum is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In the end we're creating something tens of thousands of people will see."

 

© 2009 Missouri Civil War Museum