George B. Vashon Museum: Old North’s Hidden Treasure

What have we been up to, you ask? When we aren’t calling legislators, recognizing outstanding projects and spreading the word about at-risk places, we’re doing our best to get out and provide assistance to those who need it.

This morning we had the pleasure of visiting the George B. Vashon Museum in Old North St. Louis. The 2 1/2 story, Second Empire home-turned-funeral parlor-turned-museum (wonderfully historic in it’s own right) sits tucked away on St. Louis Avenue. Once known as “Millionaires’ Row,” this portion of St. Louis Avenue is now little more than a few blocks of stately mansions that provide a peek into the grand past of the now crumbling Old North (head a few blocks east and you’ll find another piece of StL history, Crown Candy Kitchen!)


Don’t let thDSC_0437e media and construction of the future NGA headquarters scare you away from checking out what Old North has to offer. The George B. Vashon Museum truly is a hidden gem.

Started by former teacher and black memorabilia collector, Calvin Riley, the George B. Vashon Museum houses a collection that encompases 250 years of African American history in St. Louis. Their mission is comprised of three parts:

  • To build community relationships by teaching with a collection of artifacts, objects, and historical documents for exhibiting, interpreting, and review of early St. Louis residents and people across the United States who were labeled, “Negro or Colored.”

  • To teach social justice where people of all races can research life during Slavery and “Jim Crow” ways of life.

  • Promote world peace, inclusion and diversity.

Like most small museums,  running the Vashon Museum is a labor of love. Curator, Mr. Riley, not only owns and cares for the museum property, but also manages the DSC_0438.JPGcollections, acquisition of artifacts, displays and interpretation. Also, like most small museums and non-profits, the Vashon Museum relies heavily on donations to sustain themselves.

Where do we come in? Our goal is to help Mr. Riley find the resources he needs to take care of the museum and collections so it may continue to teach future generations about the history of African Americans in St. Louis. With assistance from a graduate student of museum studies at UMSL, we’re hoping to provide the Vashon Museum with an assessment of the museum’s collection. We’re also assisting in hunt for financial resources- such as grants for collections management software, acid free storage materials, and other much needed items.

Are you aware of any grants targeted towards museums, education, and places with a focus on African American history? Please let us know!

For more information, check out the website for the George B. Vashon Museum.

Do yourself a favor and schedule a visit– Mr. Riley has truly gathered a one-of-a-kind collection.