Monday, August 27, 2012

Jerusalem in St. Louis in 1904

I admit, I was astonished at this information of which I was unaware:

The Jerusalem exhibit was one of the [1904] St. Louis Fair’s most expensive and ambitious undertakings. “Gigantic in its conception” and “gigantic in its execution,” as its planners described, it was an enormous replica of the Old City of Jerusalem on a 1:1 scale. The largest model of Jerusalem ever built, it stretched over more than 10 acres and consisted of around three hundred structures (including astonishingly realistic copies of the Dome of the Rock, the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Tower of David). The structures were interconnected by twenty-two winding streets and alleys, and were girded by a faithful reproduction of the walls of Jerusalem (fig. 1). Once inside the model, the fair’s visitors could take part in dozens of activities. They could take a tour of the holy sites with a turbaned guide, follow “in the footsteps of Jesus” along the Via Dolorosa, and view a diorama of the scene of the Crucifixion. They could take a bumpy camel or donkey ride and shop for Holy Land souvenirs in an oriental bazaar (figs. 2 and 3). They could also mingle with the hundreds of Jerusalem natives—Moslems, Christians, and Jews— who were imported to St. Louis for the duration of the fair, and who could be seen walking around in oriental garb conducting religious ceremonies or working in their artisan workshops and booths.


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