Fabulous Facts About St. Louis


Read through, below, for some interesting facts, provided by Explore St. Louis, you may not have known about the Gateway City!

Then, register for some exploratory steps of the city on October 14-15!

Did You Know?

  • St. Louis was founded in 1764 as a French fur-trading village by Pierre Laclede. He named the city “St. Louis” for King Louis IX, the crusader king who was the patron saint of Laclede’s then ruler King Louis XV.
  • St. Louis was once nicknamed “First in booze, first in shoes and last in the American League,” a reference to the city’s leadership in the brewing and shoe manufacturing industries and the poor performance of the St. Louis Browns baseball team.
  • When Thomas Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase for about four cents an acre in 1803, St. Louis was already a 40-year-old river town of 3,000 with a flourishing river trade and the beginnings of commerce.
  • The 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis introduced the ice cream cone and iced tea to the world, and hot dogs and hamburgers were popularized at the event.
  • Explorers Lewis and Clark began their westward explorations in 1804, and St. Louis was positioned as the Gateway to the West.
  • Ted Drewes located on historic Route 66 has been selling frozen custards known as “concretes” since 1929.
  • At the turn of the 20th century, more than 100 breweries were operating in St. Louis, including Anheuser- Busch. Today, visitors can tour the 1892 brew house and the Clydesdale horse stables.
  • C.L. Grigg, a soft drink salesman and owner of a general store, introduced the Bib-label lithiated lemon-lime soda in St. Louis in 1929. In 1931 he changed the name of the drink to 7-Up.
  • The Eads Bridge over the Mississippi River was the first arched steel truss bridge in the world. When it was first proposed, it was scoffed at as impossible to build. Completed in 1874, it is still in use today carrying MetroLink light rail and car traffic over the river.
  • The first cathedral west of the Mississippi River was built on the St. Louis riverfront in 1834 at the site of St. Louis’ first church. The Old Cathedral still stands there today.
  • The Old Courthouse in St. Louis features the first cast iron dome ever built. It was erected in 1862 and still stands today as part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. It was the scene of Dred Scott’s historic slavery trial in 1847, which focused national attention on the slavery issue. Scott won his case in St. Louis but the decision was overturned in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857. The court ruled that Scott was not a citizen and therefore not entitled to sue. The decision served as a flashpoint for the start of the Civil War.
  • Susan Blow started the first kindergarten in the United States in
    St. Louis in 1873. St. Louis was also the site of the first public grade school and the first public high school west of the Mississippi.
  • The Wainwright Building, located on Seventh Street in downtown St. Louis, was the world’s first skyscraper. It was designed by architect Louis Sullivan and completed in 1891.
  • Formally called the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the 1904 Fair commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Lewis & Clark expedition. The Fair was further immortalized by the movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis,” which was based on the memoirs of writer Sally Benson.
  • In 1904, the first Olympiad in the U.S. was held in St. Louis at Washington University’s Francis Field, and gold, silver and bronze medals were first introduced. It was the first Olympiad with female participants, and the last Olympics with golf as a sport. Runner George Coleman Poage was the first African-American athlete to participate in the Olympic games.
  • In 1927, a group of St. Louis businessmen gave financial backing to the first solo transatlantic flight from New York to Paris. The pilot was Charles Lindbergh and the plane was named “The Spirit of St. Louis.”
  • The Fox Theatre opened in 1929 as one of the crown jewels in William Fox’s motion picture empire. With a seating capacity of 5,060, the Fox was second in size only to New York’s Roxy Theatre.
  • The Gateway Arch is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson and the historic role St. Louis played as the Gateway to the West. Designed by Finnish-American architect, Eero Saarinen, construction of the stainless steel Arch was completed in 1965.
  • St. Louis boasts more free major visitor attractions than anywhere in the U.S. outside of the nation’s capital. The Saint Louis Art Museum, Science Center, and Zoo, History Museum, Museum of Westward Expansion, Anheuser-Busch Brewery, Laumeier Sculpture Park, Citygarden and many other sites are open free of charge.
  • The Saint Louis Zoo, considered one of the finest in the world, was a pioneer in the use of open enclosures, placing animals in natural environments without bars.
  • St. Louis’ McDonnell Douglas Corporation, now part of Boeing, designed and built the space capsule that carried the first men into space in the 1960s.
  • At Laumeier Sculpture Park, you’ll find giant works like “The Way,” which is welded from red oil drums, and art by internationally known modern sculptors that is exhibited in the gallery.
  • Famed Blues musician, W.C. Handy, wrote the classic “St. Louis Blues,” under the Eads Bridge on the Mississippi Riverfront. “St. Louis Blues” is the most recorded Blues song in history.
  • Other famous St. Louisans include Nobel Prize-winning author, T.S. Eliot; poet Maya Angelou; journalist Joseph Pulitzer who established the Pulitzer Prize awarded annually since 1917; “Joy of Cooking” author Irma Rombauer; rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry; piano man Johnnie Johnson; hip-hop superstar Cornell “Nelly” Haynes, Jr.; singer Tina Turner; actor Vincent Price; comedian Redd Foxx; pin-up star Betty Grable; entertainer Josephine Baker; and Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Kline.

Now that you’ve schooled yourself on this cool city, get ready to explore it all during race weekend!

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