St. Louis, or Saint Louis, Missouri, is a city with a rich, multicultural history and many world-class cultural institutions. French traders founded the city in 1764 at the confluence of two of North America's mightiest rivers, the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and named the settlement after King Louis IX, a thirteenth-century French monarch. The city became part of the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. By 2006 St. Louis was home to roughly 350,000 people. The metropolitan area surrounding it, which expands across the Mississippi River into Illinois, is home to more than 2.8 million residents. Slightly more than half of the city's population is African American.
Over the centuries, St. Louis has grown around the west bank of the Mississippi, south of the river's meeting point with the Missouri. The northern sections of the city and the adjacent town of East St. Louis, Illinois, are historically African American. St. Louis is a city of neighborhoods, many of them retaining historic value and notable architectural features.
The Downtown district is the city's oldest, where Pierre Laclède established his fur-trading post on the river. Today it remains a site of economic activity, in the form of corporate offices as well as the main tourist area in town.
Midtown and Grand Center, just west of downtown, form the city's primary arts and theater district, with diverse cultural attractions:
The Central West End advances farther west from Midtown toward Forest Park, the city's tremendous green expanse. The picturesque residential neighborhood was the childhood home of the playwright Tennessee Williams and the writer Sally Benson, author of Meet Me in St. Louis.
Another residential neighborhood, Soulard, is the site of St. Louis' annual Mardi Gras festival, reportedly second in size only to that of New Orleans. Soulard is French for "drunkard" and the neighborhood satisfies the craving to imbibe with bars on practically every street corner. Perhaps not coincidentally, the headquarters of the brewing giant Anheuser-Busch are located here.
Anheuser-Busch, Inc. is just one of the most well-known corporations based in St. Louis. Other financial houses include the Edward Jones brokerage located in St. Louis. The metropolitan area hosts several other familiar companies as well:
The city and region retain a manufacturing base with auto plants and a major aeronautics works. McDonnell-Douglas was based in St. Louis until it merged with Boeing in 1997; Boeing continues to site its research and development division and much of the manufacturing for its Integrated Defense Systems in the area. With housing and living costs below the national average, St. Louis is known as a good place to do business.
The touchstone of St. Louis is, of course, the famed Gateway Arch, the tallest man-made monument in the United States, at 630 feet. Completed in 1965, the stainless steel arch is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, a national park at the riverfront that celebrates the Louisiana Purchase and the westward migration. Other historic features are enclosed within the memorial:
Another of the city's architectural treasures is the Wainwright Building, designed by Louis Sullivan and constructed around 1890. One of the first skyscrapers, this ten-story building established an architectural model for the modern office complex.
Other important cultural resources in St. Louis include the Missouri Botanical Garden, a world-class center of botanical research, and adjacent to the garden, the historic Tower Grove Park. Forest Park, on the western edge of town, is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. On this site St. Louis held the 1904 World's Fair, also called the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. The city hosted the Olympic Games that same year-a banner year for what was at that time the fourth-largest city in the United States. In 2004 St. Louis organized a major centennial commemoration of the fair at Forest Park. The park offers several attractions for residents and visitors:
St. Louis is renowned as a great sports town. Its baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals, played its first game in 1892 and has won ten world championships since then, most recently in 2006. Its hockey team, the St. Louis Blues, made the playoffs for 25 straight seasons between 1979 and 2004 but is still awaiting its first Stanley Cup. The St. Louis Cardinals football team moved to Arizona in 1988 after an illustrious history, but another well-established NFL franchise, the St. Louis Rams, arrived from Los Angeles in 1995. The city has numerous other professional baseball, hockey, soccer, tennis, and indoor football teams.
There are thee major universities in the St. Louis area:
The broadcast spectrum is in full operation in St. Louis. One of the first radio stations in America to feature call-in talk shows was KMOX-AM (1120), still a powerful 50,000-watt station. The city has an NPR affiliate, KWMU-FM (90.7), and an independent community station, KDHX-FM (88.1). The St. Louis metropolitan area is one of America's 25 largest media markets, with a variety of offerings:
In its glory days, the city had five daily newspapers. One remains: the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, founded by the legendary publisher Joseph Pulitzer. There is also an "alternative" weekly publication, the Riverfront Times, as well as the weekly St. Louis Business Journal.
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