Update: See August A. Busch Conservation Area, where munitions were stored during World War II in conjunction with their manufacture at Weldon Springs.
A group of friends and I were in the neighborhood, so we headed out to the old Weldon Spring Munitions Plant, in southwestern St. Charles County. The history of the production of armaments, both conventional and nuclear, is not very well known any more, and the sites that once produced billions of munitions for the U.S. war effort during WW2 are rapidly disappearing.
Weldon Spring sure won’t be forgotten, at least not for several tens of thousands of years! Nuclear waste, dumped throughout the metropolitan area, is a historic, if unpleasant record of St. Louis’s pivotal role in the production of nuclear warheads. The Mallinckrodts were actually pioneers of producing uranium quickly, thus permanently irradiating several buildings on the North Riverfront.
The dome of rock at Weldon Spring, though purely functional in nature, takes on a level of artistry in its inception. Honestly, it is sublime; a purported forty acre mound of rubble, consisting of multiple layers of clay and other linings, and then ton after ton of rock, each about the same size.
The view is spectacular; you can even see as far as Portage des Sioux’s massive power plant on the Mississippi.
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Another wonderful set of images, and vet timely — the Wall Street Journal has a story on A4 this morning about the West Lake site and controversy over nuclear waste in the St Louis region. Another case of historical legacies and their challenges and opportunities for the present.
The WSJ actually ran two articles. One on Westlake, and another on the health issues surrounding Coldwater Creek. The waste was moved from Coldwater Creek to Westlake in the 1970’s. Nuclear experts agree that if not properly stored, the waste will move through the environment, and can expose surrounding populations. This is what has happend at Coldwater Creek, and what will happen at Westlake. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the surrounding community in Weldon Springs is also sick. We need to join together and get this stuff removed, and educate our healthcare professionals! Here is a link to the Coldwater Creek Facebook page and illness survey: http://www.facebook.com/groups/217215444963933/ We also have a website: http://www.coldwatercreekfacts.com
When I was a kid in the late ’40s/early ’50s as a Cub and Boy scout, we went “way” out there from Kirkwood to fish in the newly-established lakes.
At the time, many of the old explosive manufacturing buildings were still standing, and some even visible from US 40. They were very large wooden structures, perhaps 3 or so stories high. Some were built on stilts, like cabins along the Meramec. All had wooden chutes on all four sides leading from doorways to the ground; the idea was that they were escape chutes, should something go awry in the manufacturing. The buildings were separated by some hundreds of yards from one another.
The many hundreds of underground storage “igloos” were still open, albeit empty, save for trash. GREAT for exploring by young boys while the Scout Dads schmoozed, smoked, and drank beer!
Later on in the early ’60s, when I was in the Guard after the Army, we used to bivouac and dig foxholes in the land that was later declared toxic… I believe the Army Reserve still has some sort of training facitly out there to this day.
While OT – those somehow-still-surviving trailer courts so beloved by Chesterfield and Frontenac were originally established to house workers for the Weldon Spring Ordnance Works. Many more were housed at the old Big Chief “Motor Hotel” on Old Manchester Road in Pond.
A local historian has created a website and DVD about the Weldon Spring Ordnance Plant and the forced removal of the people who lived in the nearby communities of Howell and Hamburg (thetntstory.org), with a great deal of contemporary source material, first-person recollections, photos, newspaper clippings, maps, and a link to the Supreme Court decision with regard to the way the property was taken. The Riverfront Times published an article in 2001 about infant mortality and cancer in Weldon Spring and the efforts of Father Gerry Kleba to seek out the truth: http://www.riverfronttimes.com/2001-03-07/news/the-right-to-answers/ Sobering reading to say the least. Thanks so much for your post — the photos are beautiful!