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St. Louis History

The St. Louis' history can be summed up in three words: location, location, location. St. Louis’ central location along the Mississippi River, near its confluence with the Missouri River, has been the driving force behind the city’s development since its earliest days.   In 1764, when French fur trader Pierre Laclede Liguest established the trading post that would evolve into the city of St. Louis, he declared, “This settlement will become one of the finest cities in America.” Laclede’s prediction would soon come true. After the Louisiana Purchase was ratified in 1803, St. Louis came to great fame as the departure point for Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery voyage. By 1850, St. Louis was the second-largest port in the country and the main gateway to the west for pioneers seeking their fortunes during Westward Expansion. This burgeoning center of commerce gave rise to several corporate giants—most notably Anheuser-Busch—and attracted waves of immigrants over the following decades in St. Louis' history. Germans arrived in the 1840s, Italians in the 1890s, and thousands of African-Americans arrived from the South during Reconstruction and then the Great Migration. Their long part in St. Louis' history is still evident today, in such neighborhoods as Dutchtown, The Hill and The Ville, respectively.  In 1904—a century after Lewis & Clark’s voyage—St. Louis once again took center stage by hosting the World’s Fair. Called the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the fair attracted more than 20 million visitors to Forest Park. The fair’s legacy looms large.  Forest Park and its numerous free attractions —including the zoo, science center and art museum—remain the cultural heart of the city and a source of tremendous pride, as is the Gateway Arch, which opened in 1967.  St. Louis’ status has taken some hits over the past few decades. The city’s population has fallen by half, and its economy has been dealt some painful blows. But St. Louis is enjoying a comeback. The evolution of the Loft District, the popularity of the City Museum and the debut of the new Busch Stadium (home of the Cardinals) have provided much-needed sparks to downtown. And the underlying charms from St. Louis' history remain as appealing as ever. This is a highly cultured, accessible and affordable city. And like the mighty Mississippi that sparked its creation, St. Louis keeps rolling on.