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Lay Center for Education and the Arts

Saint Louis University's Lay Center for Education and the Arts is a 350-acre property located in historic Louisiana, Missouri. This Mississippi River town, founded in 1808 by settlers, is known for its rolling landscapes, gracious historic homes, and the state's most intact Victorian streetscape.

Aerial View of the Lay Center

Download the Lay Center Brochure

About the Lay Center

The 350-acre Lay Center for Education and the Arts is a nature lover’s dream. Visitors are welcome to explore the grounds, which offer art and history amid a beautiful setting.  Guests can walk in a sculpture park; read, play and picnic in a themed children’s area; and visit a peaceful cemetery that dates back nearly 200 years — all in an atmosphere that invites learning and reflection. 

In addition, the center hosts academic fieldwork and tranquil retreats for the Saint Louis University community, and it is available for private events.

Lay Center History

Lay Center Sign

James McElwee, a Revolutionary War hero, and his wife, Rhoda Black, first settled this farm property in 1832. McElwee and his 12 grandchildren are buried on the property in the McElwee-Stewart-Carr Cemetery.

Henry Anthony Lay (1941-2000), an alumnus of Saint Louis University School of Law, purchased the property in May 1996. Lay's generous support of the University through donations and scholarships has enabled hundreds of young people to further their quest for knowledge and improve themselves through education. The Lay Center for Education and the Arts is the culmination of Henry Lay's dream of establishing a place where literature and art are combined with the beauty of nature to stimulate learning and imagination.