St. Louis, Missouri
"There's More Than Meets The Arch"
The earliest records of human
habitation in the St. Louis region date to the mound building civilization
that centered around the site of Cahokia Mounds State Park across the
Mississippi River in Illinois. There were some twenty mounds in the St.
Louis region and the city was often called "Mound City," but these
mounds were razed in the 19th century to make way for development. The city
of St. Louis has its origins when in 1764 French fur traders established a
small village named after Louis IX, the Crusader King of France, on the west
bank of the Mississippi just below the Missouri River.
St. Louis prospered as a fur-trading
center and became a main outpost of civilization in the central Mississippi
River valley. By the time the United States assumed control of the area by
virtue of the Louisiana Purchase, the early log cabins of the fur trappers
began to be replaced by substantial stone houses of permanent residents. The
beginning of the Westward Expansion began on May 14, 1804 when the Corps of
Discovery led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark began their expedition
to explore the newly acquired land from just north of St. Louis.
In 1817 the steamboat era began when
the first paddle wheeler arrived from Louisville and the city continued to
expand with heavy German and Irish immigration. In 1820 Missouri was
admitted to the Union as a slave state. Merchants and manufacturers took
advantage of the steady stream of pioneers by providing supplies needed for
the long trek west, thereby giving St. Louis the nickname of "Gateway
to the West." During the Civil War the Union maintained control of St.
Louis and the city became the main supply base for one million federal
soldiers. The war helped to make St. Louis a main hub for the railroad
industry, which took over the steamboat trade.
St. Louis enjoyed great prosperity
during the last half of the 19th Century. Many public spaces and landmarks
were built that still exist today. In 1904 the famous St. Louis World
Exposition was held and the fair made a profit and left St. Louis with
improved city services and a world class art museum. During World War II,
most of the St. Louis manufacturing industry was converted to defense
production. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his administration proposed a
national monument in St. Louis. In the late 1940's a design competition was
won by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen for his design of a soaring 630 foot
stainless steel arch. The Gateway Arch, completed in 1966, rises over the
west bank of the Mississippi as a symbol of St. Louis' role as the Gateway
to the West.
Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis
Cardinals baseball team, opened in 1965, and along with the opening of the
arch helped breathe life back into the city which had deteriorated when many
people had moved into the suburbs. More recently Union Station and Laclede's
Landing have been rehabilitated. The Cervantes Convention Center was greatly
expanded and is now known as The Americas Center and the new Edward Jones Dome
is home to the St. Louis Rams football team. The Metro Link Light Rail
System has made fast and easy public transportation available throughout the
city and county.