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Views of St. Louis (1840–1960)

View from the rural landscape of Illinois looking west toward the urbanizing community on the bluffs above the Mississippi River at St. Louis. In this view, the Illinois side is wild and natural with grazing cattle, wild horses and dogs, people fishing, etc. The Missouri side, in contrast, appears to be fully built up without a tree or a park in sight. (Click on images below to enlarge.)
Plan and perspective view of St. Louis (c. 1840)


A pastoral scene looking north over Chouteau’s Lake (or Pond) revealing the natural features of the landscape and creating a picturesque view of the growing city in the distance with it’s church steeples. The plan view of the city above shows the meandering contours of the water as it winds its way toward the river.

View looking north over Chouteau’s Lake (c. 1840)


This view is a composite of many separate measured, accurate drawings depicting the city in 1876 prepared by the firm of Compton & Dry as a detailed multi-plate publication available for purchase. The entire publication can now be viewed online. Visit this webpage from the Library of Congress to see the key image and you can view and zoom into various parts of the city in extraordinary detail as captured at that moment in time.

Aerial perspective (c. 1876)


A view of the city from Illinois as a tilted plane beginning at the river (flowing south, toward the left) with the riverfront shown in yellow, the Eads Bridge shown at the right and various portion of the city shown as either industrialized, commercialized or residential in nature. The Mississippi River is show beyond the bridge headed upward toward the north almost as if it made a right hand turn once it passed beneath the bridge. One of the more telling details of this rendition is the way the railroad train emerges from a circular tunnel shown in the bottom of the image (as if it were bursting through the river itself). It represents the period of transition from the primacy of steamship transportation using the river to the increasing importance of the railroad as an economic engine within the city. The tunnel suggested by the illustration at the bottom center of the image would be the one connecting the western end of the Eads Bridge with the dense sets of train tracks located off to the left side of the image after the emerge from the tunnel running beneath the city.

Perspective view (c. 1893)


This aerial view of the city is looking down and toward the north. The tangle of railroad tracks on the Illinois side reveal the commercial imperative to transport goods and people toward the west. The arc at the left side indicates the city limits at this time. The two details within the circles in the upper left and upper right hand corners represent the two ends of the railroad lines at each end of the tunnel running beneath the city center. In the upper left is a detail of Eads Bridge and in the upper right is a detail of the Union Depot tunnel which emerges near the bottom of the image near the title at the center.

Aerial perspective emphasizing industry


A somewhat more accurate view of the landscape and topography of the city as it developed and spread over larger area. The Illinois side at the right) is less developed and more subject to flooding because the land was generally lower and more level. The City of St. Louis was protected from flooding to some extent by the natural bluffs along the riverfront (which were gradually removed to provide easier access for goods and transportation from steamboats).

Aerial perspective emphasizing landscape


A lovely artistic rendering of the city and its surroundings with the intensity of red indicating the pervasive brick buildings which were most densely packed at the bend in the river and gradually became less dense as development spread into the surrounding areas.

View of the city and surrounding countryside


A panorama of the city with a key indicating the locations of important buildings and sites.



This monotone rendered image appears to have been based upon the previous 1894 image. The contrast of the urban from the rural landscape is emphasized with the city limit defined along Grand Avenue. In the upper left, Tower Grove Park extends westward into the countryside.



A somewhat simplified, cartoonish version of the city which was becoming more and more important in the context of the nation and its movement toward the west. The general notion that the city is roughly symmetrical around the bend in the river is suggested by the perspective view.



A view looking south from Lucas Place depicting the “Wholesale and Office District of St. Louis”. This is one of the early views of the city which is not oriented toward the west.

1904 looking south from Lucas


Rendering of the modern industrialized city as a collection of architectural structures meant to impress the viewer with the activity and scale of the city. At this point in time, plumes of smoke seem to be considered positive signs of a vital, growing economy. Natural landscape is minimized in this view in favor of man-made constructions.

Early 20th century view


An advertising image encouraging people to “Visit St. Louis” which uses an aerial photograph looking generally toward the north. Very  little of Illinois is revealed in this image. Note that there are now three bridges crossing the Mississippi River. The one at the left, downstream of the Eads Bridge, is the Municipal Bridge with two decks: one for trains and one for cars. The Merchants Bridge is upriver of the Eads Bridge and provided more direct access to the industrial areas north of the city along the river.

“The City of a Thousand Sights” (c. 1920)


A rendering of the modern city as it was envisioned with the Gateway Arch, Gateway Mall and horseshoe-shaped Busch Stadium. Here, highways seems to symbolize progress and issues of pollution, soot and environmental damage are minimized. This image indicates the plans to proceed with large scale urban renewal with Mill Creek Valley shown as rebuilt along modern lines.

Downtown aerial view (c. 1960)
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