Learn About St. Louis One Pub At A Time

 In Food


Michael Allen, director of the Preservation Research Office, throwing down some history at The Shanti.

The Missouri History Museum has started up a unique program that should appeal to barflies as well as history buffs in equal measure, dubbed History On Tap. The program presents a guided tour of a particular neighborhood, centered on some of its renowned drinking establishments—kind of like a pub crawl, but with an historical bent. I was lucky enough to get a slot for the inaugural run on the evening of Wednesday, April 17, which focused on the venerable Soulard neighborhood.

The evening started at the museum’s Library & Research Center on Skinker Boulevard, where we were briefed a bit on the area we were about to visit and got a look at some unique maps and photos from the museum’s archives before boarding the bus and starting the tour proper.

We disembarked at McGurk’s first for a pint, then made our way down Russell Boulevard to the corner of Menard Street for a visit to Joanie’s Pizza. Owner Joanie Thomas gave us a rundown of the history of her building, as well as a taste of her award-winning pizza. Then, we headed north to end the evening at The Shanti.

Our guide for the evening was Michael Allen, director of the Preservation Research Office, who regaled us with stories of Soulard and its rich past, touching on subjects from architecture to immigration to industry. Nellie LaVigne, Daniel Gonzales and Charles Morehead from the museum shepherded the group to the various locations, making sure no one strayed off course into one of the many gangways that cut between the tightly packed buildings.

In addition to Joanie’s fab pizza, we each got two drink tickets, good at the three pubs on the route. But while more than a few glasses were raised, the tour was about much more than merely imbibing. All of us got a real lesson on St. Louis in general and Soulard in particular from folks who truly know their stuff, and got to see that history up close. In this blogger’s opinion, many St. Louisans don’t appreciate what’s in their own backyards and tend to stick within the confines of their own comfort zones a bit too much. This tour was a great, hassle-free way for folks to get out of their bubbles, explore a unique area of the city and learn a little something along the way

The current plan is to have several of these tours each year. The next one is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, July 24, and will traverse Dogtown let by historian Bob Corbett.

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