ST. LOUIS 1904
Washington University originally built the stadium for use during the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, a World Fair held to celebrate the centenary of the purchase by the USA of Louisiana from France. In 1901, the University rented part of its land and some of its buildings to the Exposition. The money from that was used to finish building the stadium and the gymnasium. The university campus site chosen to build the stadium is to the north east of a wooded area. Initially planned for 1903, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition was finally held in 1904. The Olympic Games in that year, originally scheduled to be held in Chicago, were moved to St. Louis at the beginning of 1903.
The stadium was built on an oval plot. Reinforced concrete stands with around 25,000 seats formed the south part of the stadium. The numbers of each section were painted on the wall in front of the stands. The seating in the central sections was more luxurious, with wooden seats as opposed to concrete bleachers with no backrests in the rest of the stands. The north side had a gymnasium rather than stands.
The main cinder track was a third of a mile (roughly 536 metres) long and 20 feet (around six metres) wide. Its peculiar form resembles a trapezium consisting of three short straights and one longer one linked by four bends.
AFTER THE GAMES
Once the Games were over, Francis Field became the home of the University’s Bears American football team. The Bears played many university matches there between the 1920s and 1940s. Stands were installed on the north side to host as many spectators as possible for these matches. The audience also benefited from field lighting, an unusual technology at the time.
The Olympic flame visited Francis Field on three occasions (Los Angeles 1984, Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2004) to commemorate the 1904 Games in St Louis.
In 1984, the stadium underwent its first major renovation, after more than 80 years of existence. The work carried out included replacing the cinder track by a 400-metre artificial track, which is now known as the James Butler Bushyhead Track. Part of the stands was demolished, and the stadium capacity was reduced to 4,000.
DID YOU KNOW?
- An ornamental wrought-iron gate at the east entrance to the stadium was erected to commemorate the Olympic Games afterwards. The stadium and this gate are now both listed historic monuments.
- Bill Mallon, The 1904 Olympic Games. Results for All Competitors in All Events, with Commentary, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1999, pp. 11, 49, 114, 135, 149, 165, 191, 194, 197, 204, 218.
- “David R. Francis Field”, website of the Washington University in St.
- “Francis Field”, website of the Washington University in St. Louis
- “Francis Field rededication, torch relay mark end of Sesquicentennial”, the Source, 30 June 2004, website of the Washington University in St.
- George Matthews, Sandra Marshall, Images of America: St. Louis Olympics 1904, Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2003, pp. 18-20, 28, 128.
- Karl Lennartz, Thomas Zawadzki, Die Spiele der III. Olympiade 1904 in St. Louis. Kassel: AGON Verlag, 2004, p.
- “Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company Records, 1898-1925”, website of the Missouri Historical
- “Olympic flame lights St. Louis’ pride”, Globe-Democrat, 7 June 1984, in 1984 Olympic Torch Relays: News Media Results, AT&T [ed.], 1984, n.
- Programme of Olympic Games and World’s Championship Contests, Department of Physical Culture, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, ca 1904, p.
- “The Olympic Torch Relay”, Louis Post-Dispatch, 26 May 1996, extract, website of Questia.
- Un siècle du Comité International Olympique: 1894-1994: l’idée, les présidents, l’œuvre, International Olympic Committee, Raymond Gafner [dir.], 1994-1997, vol. 1, pp. 119,
|Name:||It was simply referred to as the stadium in the programmes and sources of the time. It was then named Francis Field, in reference to David Rowland Francis, who was, among other things, a student at Washington University, the 27th Governor of Missouri and President of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.|
|Location:||Washington University, St. Louis, USA|
|Status:||Built for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and also used for the Games. Currently in use.|
|Construction:||1899 to 1902|
|Events during the Games:||Cycling, athletics (including the start and finish of the marathon), weightlifting, wrestling, tug of war, some football and lacrosse matches, and some of the gymnastics events.
It also hosted other sports events held as part of the World’s Fair, but not on the official programme of the Games, including American football matches and roque (a kind of croquet).