Saint Louis, MO

The historic Jewel Box of Missouri: a remarkable greenhouse designed by William C. E. Becker in 1934

CJ Coombs
Jewel Box in Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri.Photo byMarcus Qwertyus, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The historic Jewel Box built in 1936 is also referred to as the St. Louis Floral Conservatory or the City of St. Louis Floral Display House. This is a large greenhouse located at the intersection of Wells and McKinley Drives in Forest Park in St. Louis City, Missouri. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 14, 2000.

The building architect was engineer, William C. E. Becker, who was also the Chief Engineer of Bridges and Buildings for the City of St. Louis. The greenhouse was constructed by the Robert Paulus Construction Company. The architectural style is Art Deco. The Jewel Box serves as a horticultural facility. The foundation is limestone and the walls are glass. The building is important in the area of architecture.
Photo byFaceook/Jewel Box.

The building

The Jewel Box is a remarkable designed greenhouse. When Becker designed it, he worked at achieving the right light levels, and wanted to ensure it could withstand hailstorms. In over 80 years, the building has seen a lot of storms.

In the early 1900s, with the concern of soot and smoke in St. Louis, and whether plant life could survive it, greenhouses were built containing pollution-resistant plants and shrubs. Lines of people would line up to see the now-destroyed greenhouses. Supposedly, there was a comment that the greenhouse looked like a jewelry box, so that's where the name was born.

When it came time for a new facility, the task fell to Becker. He started looking into what the requirements would be to consruct a large greenhouse. The plans began in early 1934. Becker had determined what some of the standards of lighting should be after working on light-meter testing for about four months.

The roof of the greenhouse includes a series of clerestories which are high levels of walls above eye level. When Becker's proposed design was published in some of the local newspapers, the editor received some negative letters. One person said the design was grotesque. Becker thought the remarks missed the point and that it wasn't the building as much as the contents displayed inside that would be popular.
Photo byFacebook/Jewel Box.

Despite public criticism, the Board of Public Service approved the design. Seven companies bid for the job and it was awarded to the Robert Paulus Construction Company of St. Louis. Construction began on December 12,1935.

The new Jewel Box structure opened November 14, 1936. The popularity of the new structure was a success and so much so that electric lights were installed so the hours to visit it could be extended to 9:00 p.m. Interestingly, when a bad hailstorm hit the city in early 1938, while nearby greenhouses had their panes of glass broken, the Jewel Box wasn't damaged.

William C. E. Becker died in 1973 at age 83. Visit here for information associated with the structural drawings of Becker which were donated to the State Historical Society of Missouri

Open to the public

Today, the Jewel Box is open year-round. It has seasonal displays and weddings occur inside. Visit here for rental information.

The Jewel Box hours are listed below.

  • Monday through Thursday (9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.)
  • Friday (9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.)
  • Saturday (9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.)
  • Sunday (9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)

On Monday and Tuesday, there is free admission from 9:00 a.m. to noon, otherwise it is $1 per person.

There are special floral shows during Christmas. The Jewel Box is operated by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry.

Visit here for more information.

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Multi-genre writer and author/publisher with a BA in Eng Journalism/Creative Writing. I worked in law firms for 30+ years and retired early to pursue writing. I was born into the Air Force, so you could say I'm from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, research, history, true crime, reading, art, and travel.

Kansas City, MO

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