St. Louis

BACKSTORY: From the City of St. Louis website: Pierre Laclede Liguest, recipient of a land grant from the King of France, and his 13-year-old scout, Auguste Chouteau, selected the site of St. Louis in 1764 as a fur trading post. Laclede and Chouteau chose the location because it was not subject to flooding and was near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Construction of a village, named for Louis IX of France, began the following year. Most of the early settlers were French; many were associated with the fur trade. St. Louis transferred to the Spanish in 1770, returned to France under a secret treaty with Napoleon and, following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, became part of the United States. According to legend, on the day of transfer of the territory to the United States in 1803, St. Louis flew under three flags in one day--French, Spanish, and American.

The town gained fame in 1803 as the jumping-off point for the Louisiana Purchase Expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. After 1804, more New Englanders and other East Coast emigrants settled in St. Louis, but the population remained predominantly French until well into the 19th-Century. St. Louis incorporated as a city in 1823. During the 19th-Century, St. Louis grew into an important center of commerce and trade, attracting thousands of immigrants eager to find a new life on the edge of the frontier.

One of the City's great moments came in 1904, when it hosted a World's Fair: the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, in Forest Park and the city's western edge. The 1904 Olympic games were also held in St. Louis, at Washington University's Francis Field, in conjunction with the fair. More than 20 million people visited the fair during its seven-month run, immortalized in the song "Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie." The 1965 construction of the Gateway Arch and 1966 construction of Busch Memorial Stadium (home of the Cardinals baseball team) helped promote the revitalization of the central business district. A thirty-year downtown building boom followed, including such projects as the Cervantes Convention Center in 1978, the Union Station rehab in 1985, and St. Louis Centre in 1986. At the same time, growing interest in preservation of historic neighborhoods--partly fueled by Federal tax credits--led to the revitalization of the Central West End, DeBaliviere Place, Soulard, and Lafayette Square neighborhoods during the 1970s and early 1980s.

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