World War II at The Globe

This building, now known as The Globe, was originally built by the Illinois Terminal Railroad in 1932. It served as a freight terminal, passenger terminal, and corporate office for the railroad. The building is massive in its scale and infrastructure, partially because when construction started, the foundation was intended to support 20 stories, but plans were adjusted along the way and the building was capped at seven.

We're not sure, but it's likely the rock-solid construction of the building as well as its central location and skilled workforce in St. Louis made it attractive to the Army in World War II. At the beginning of the war, they leased three and a half floors of the building and made major modifications to house the Aeronautical Chart and Information Center, or ACIC. We still have the blueprints and drawings from that time which show the construction of photographic darkrooms, refrigerated storage for film, installation of large printing presses, and hundreds of ACIC offices and work areas. There were even sleeping quarters here to accommodate intense, round the clock work shifts during the war.

At its peak, the ACIC employed 500 civilians and 28 officers to convert spy plane photographs into critical, timely maps of the war theaters in Europe and the Pacific. When World War II ended in victory, it was in part due to the military and civilian St. Louisans who worked here every day on mapping and plotting the battles. The ACIC was here until 1950 when it moved into a larger location on the south side of the city of St. Louis. It eventually became known as the National Geospatial Agency, or NGA.

In 2016, after an extensive search process, NGA director Robert Cardillo announced the construction of a $1.7 billion state of the art new facility for the NGA on the north side of the city of St. Louis. The site is adjacent to The Globe building, which is now home to high tech companies like data centers, creative agencies, and software developers on the leading edge of technology. All of us at The Globe are thrilled to welcome the NGA to their new address in their home city.