Since 1899, the historic Peerless Saloon & Grille has been serving up delicious brews and bites to locals in Anniston, Alabama. But the defining centerpiece of the establishment, its gorgeous mahogany bar, is not originally from Anniston. Want to learn how it made its way to Alabama? Let’s start at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
The 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair
In 1904, St. Louis, Missouri was home to the international Louisiana Purchase Exposition—more commonly known as the St. Louis World’s Fair. More than 60 countries put together extravagant exhibits, spending millions of dollars and constructing nearly 1,500 buildings on the 1,200-acre fairground. The nearly 20 million visitors saw demonstrations of the age’s newest and most exciting technology breakthroughs, such as automobiles and the X-Ray machine. If you want a better sense of the scale of the 1940 St. Louis World’s Fair, I recommend you check out this article by The Atlantic for some incredible photos.
For Birminghamians, the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair is a very special occasion. Before he sat atop Red Mountain in The Magic City, the Vulcan statue made his world-wide debut at the fair. The 56-foot statue, which depicts the Roman god of fire and metalworking, was created to represent Birmingham’s steel working prowess by Italian-born sculptor Giuseppe Moretti. In fact, Vulcan won the Grand Prize in the mineral department at the Fair!
After the fair, several cities competed to become the new home for Vulcan, including St. Louis, San Francisco and Portland. However, it was decided that Vulcan should return to his birthplace in Birmingham.
The Birmingham Connection
In February of 1905, Vulcan was dismantled in St. Louis and placed on a train for transport back to Birmingham. Along for the ride with Vulcan was another remnant from the Fair, bound for another destination in Alabama. The passenger was an ornate, mahogany bar bound for the new (at the time) Peerless Saloon in Anniston, Alabama.
Alabama’s Oldest Bar
For 115 years, the mahogany bar has been the centerpiece of the historic Peerless Saloon & Grille in Anniston. Initially opened in 1899, the Peerless Saloon & Grille was formed under the ownership of a Robert E. Garner. The bar was famous for whiskey—Old Wildcat—a brand owned by Garner himself. For decades, the Peerless Saloon was a favorite hang for locals in the area.
However, The Peerless Saloon & Grille entered an era of neglect by the 1980s. In fact, at one point the building was within three months of being torn down. Luckily, the U.S. Department of the Interior added the Peerless to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, saving the historic saloon and its one-of-a-kind mahogany bar. Now, the Peerless is a popular joint for locals and visitors alike, with brews, bites and live music each week!