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Saint Louis University Museum of Art: History

Having undergone a complete restoration, the Saint Louis University Museum of Art's 55,000-square-foot building, located at 3663 Lindell Blvd. in St. Louis, Missouri, provides a variety of intimate galleries and a setting befitting the University's extensive art collection.

"The Saint Louis University Museum of Art enhances our ability to develop an all encompassing art education outreach program to serve our community," said University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J. "It also increases opportunities for SLU's fine and performing arts program and enriches the intellectual capital of the St. Louis area."

The museum offers art and artifacts relevant to the long history of Jesuit liberal arts education including works of local, national and internationally acclaimed artists, such as Dale Chihuly, Miguel Martinez, Juan Mir· Renato Laffranchi, Richard Serra, Arnoldo Pomodoro and Charles Lotton. Also represented are local artists such as Moira Lewis, Mary Borgman, Billyo and Morton D. May, as well as works by artists from Saint Louis University.

The museum also displays selections from more than 2,000 pieces of family memorabilia and fine art donated to the University by the late Marion Rumsey Cartier, daughter of Pierre Cartier, founder of the internationally renowned Cartier Jewelers.

The Saint Louis University Museum of Art features the John and Ann MacLennan Collection of Asian Decorative Art. The collection of more than 2,500 pieces of art carved from wood, amber, coral, ivory, jade, enamel, and metal is one of the largest Asian art collections in the Midwest.

Museum Holds Rich History

The Saint Louis University Museum of Art (SLUMA) originally was built in 1900 as the home of the St. Louis Club at a cost of $320,000. The St. Louis Club dated from 1886, when it was organized in a building at Locust Street and Ewing Avenue. It was probably the most exclusive club of its time and the Lindell building was expensively equipped. An architectural competition in 1896 determined the designer and style of the building, with Arthur Dillon of the New York firm Friedlander and Dillon chosen to be the principal architect.

The architects designed the building in the Beaux Arts style, which was used for prominent urban structures around the turn of the twentieth century. The building has a raised basement of rusticated limestone and a high-pitched mansard roof. The front fa?de has a tripartite organization (the central projecting block displays Ionic columns) and a corbelled entablature. Flanking sections have tall casement windows with limestone surrounds and ornamental wall dormers.

The idea for the St. Louis 1904 World's Fair is said to have surfaced at a dinner at the St. Louis Club, and much of the planning took place there. The club then purchased 14 paintings from among those exhibited at the World's Fair. These formed the nucleus of a collection that became one of the best-regarded private collections in the city.

For its first quarter century, the building located at 3663 Lindell Blvd. was the center of St. Louis social life and was visited by a number of U.S. presidents, including Presidents Cleveland, McKinley, Taft, Roosevelt, Wilson and Harding. Herbert Hoover was entertained there while he served as Secretary of Commerce. During their visits to St. Louis, Taft, Wilson and Hoover were lodged in a suite on the third floor of the building.

A fire in 1925 led to the end of the St. Louis Club era on Lindell. Despite only minor damage, the building was sold. The building was used by a succession of companies over the years, until the University purchased the building in 1992 from Saint Louis University alumnus, Francis E. O'Donnell Jr., M.D. The building was the home of the SLU Graduate School and the School of Public Health and was known as O'Donnell Hall. The building was named the Doris O'Donnell Hall in honor of Dr. O'Donnell's mother, a long-time employee and director of alumni relations at the University. Designated as a historic landmark, the structure is distinguished for its architectural character, features and rich detail.