St. Louis Arsenal

March 6, 2010

Today I visited the St. Louis Arsenal (located basically at Arsenal and the river) hoping to get some photos of the historic buildings (the oldest in the city as far as I know).  I got a few good pictures through the chain link fence and then started to drive away, pausing to snap a photo of the entrance to the Air Force Base.  Moments after I snapped my last shot, four guards ran out demanding my camera and proceeded to delete all of the photographs I had taken around the Arsenal.  Apparently photographing the Arsenal is illegal.  Luckily, I did enjoy driving around the complex and getting a good look at the low stone buildings that have seen so much history.  If anyone wants to get a look at the buildings I would recommend going on the weekends when the parking lot isn’t full of cars obstructing the view and I would also recommend not taking any photographs.


  1. Photographing the arsenal is not illegal. It can be viewed easily from publicly accessible areas. Unless you were trespassing the guards had no cause to bother you. They certainly had no cause to demand your camera and destroy your property (the photos).
    This is pretty common behavior at government facilities, and it’s probably not worth the hassle of standing up to them, but if you wanted to press the issue they probably would have backed down.
    A general rundown on photographer’s rights can be found here: http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

    • Thanks for the link – that information is certainly important. I did protest a little bit but it was pretty clear that I was better off complying with their requests.

      • Reading from the link:

        “There are some exceptions to the general rule. A significant one is that commanders of military installations can prohibit photographs of specific areas when they deem it necessary to protect national security.”

        So the guards did have permission to stop you. The Arsenal is a military/national security installation, is it not?

  2. Deleting photos usually doesn’t actually delete them from a memory card, it just marks them deleted and frees the space. If you haven’t taken any more pictures, there’s a chance you can recover them. I’ve never done this myself, so I can’t recommend any particular program.


  3. If you have not yet formatted the photo card, those photos are still there, even though they’ve been deleted.

    The digital info remains until your format it. There are several software programs that retrieve deleted images from cards. Check into a camera shop like Schillers or Creve Coeur Camera to purchase it (or maybe look around on line).

    • I appreciate the advice. I easily found a program online which restored the photos for me (which the guys at the Arsenal actually tipped me off to first), but I am keeping them off of the internet for National Security reasons. Thanks again!

  4. I walked down to the Arsenal this weekend as well. We didn’t see any guards anywhere, but walked along the access road just to the right of the Arsenal. From there it was a desolate but great walk along the graffiti wall and rail yard. I especially liked peaking into an open area near the river and checking out the giant chains docking the barges. Huge!!! Neat part of town.

    • It is a pretty cool area and a surprisingly pleasant walk to the Arch. I need to get down to the river more often!

  5. I saw a ref to your blog in the RFT! Congrats – you deserve some recognition! 😉

    • I think I did get a shoutout from Michael Allen and was very happy. Thanks!

  6. It’s not an Air Force Base

  7. National security, my arse! Any individual bent on mayhem could easily take all the photographs of the joint he/she needs for their nefarious purposes. That “National Security” BS is pure political propaganda. Besides, the guards are probably for show. The installation probably has cameras and motion detectors, among other devices, which the public isn’t privy to, and which provide the actual security. The guards, unless they were military, were probably rent-a-cops.

  8. I had a similar encounter with a Metrolink guard in one of the downtown stations. I had seen the old gas lamp fixtures down in the cross tunnels and I wanted a picture. Sadly, it is too hard to get them from a moving Metrolink car, so I walked to the end of the platform (while staying in the places you are allowed to be in) and took two pictures. The guard immediately started calling out to me and told me to stop and that I wasn’t allowed to do that.

    I asked her why and she told me that those pictures could be used by terrorists to compromise tunnels and yatta yatta. I told her in no uncertain terms that I was not a terrorist and all I was taking pictures of was the gas lamp fixtures.

    She just stopped short of calling me a terrorist but did not demand that I delete anything. I contacted Metrolink services about getting pictures of just those lamps, since they didn’t have any existing images, but I was turned down. Any one else ever see/photograph those?

    • I have not seen them but will be on the look out next time I’m on Metrolink Downtown. Metro does have a policy against photographing their infrastructure though, and I have also been asked to put my camera away on a Metrolink platform.

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