The city of St. Louis, Missouri, known as the Gateway to the West, has a long and storied history that has shaped its unique identity. From its beginnings as a trading post for Native Americans and French colonists to the current metropolitan area of more than 308,000 people, St. Louis has been shaped by many rare but true stories.
Here are some of the most fascinating tales that have made St. Louis what it is today. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson purchased a huge tract of land in northern and western Louisiana, and a year later, the surveying team formed by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out from the banks of the Mississippi and departed from St. Louis. After exploring and mapping the Missouri River, the Dakotas, Montana, the Rocky Mountains, and the Oregon Territory on their way to the Pacific, they returned by boat to St.
Louis nearly two and a half years later. In 1825, after the War of 1812 had ended, Marquis de Lafayette returned to France to help with his revolution but soon returned to the young United States to review some of his travels in the Midwest. St. Louis was one of the places he visited and after receiving a warm welcome on the pier, Lafayette was honored with a big dinner and a dance at the home of one of the city's founders. He also wanted to meet and talk to William Clark, who still lived in the area and ran a Native American museum. When Lafayette returned to France, he received a strange gift sent from St.
Louis - an adorable young brown bear cub that he wanted to keep as a pet. When advised not to, Lafayette reluctantly gifted the bear to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris - making it the first brown bear to pose in France. The towering stainless steel arch that dominates St. Louis' skyline is the tallest monument in the Western Hemisphere and has become a symbol of the city. With a height of 630 feet, it resembles an inverted version of the curve formed by a hanging chain and is dedicated to all Americans who have contributed to westward expansion in America. In 1947, a commission of city leaders organized a competition to choose an architect and designer for this monument.
Out of 172 designs submitted, two men named Saarinen - father Eliel and son Eero - were both finalists. However, when an embarrassed secretary realized her mistake after calling Saarinen's house only to congratulate Eliel on his design being chosen as a finalist, she admitted that she had called the wrong man and that Eero's design had been chosen instead. Elder Saarinen wasn't angry; he was very proud of his son who had participated in the contest on his own - so proud that he just broke another bottle of champagne! And that's how close St. Louis came to losing its iconic arch!St. Louis is known for being the gateway to westward exploration, for its unique blend of Midwestern and Southern culture, and for its blues music heritage.
Here is a timeline of some key events in St. Louis' history:
- 1764: Pierre Laclede founds St. Louis
- 1803: The Louisiana Purchase is made
- 1804: Lewis & Clark Expedition departs from St. Louis
- 1825: Marquis de Lafayette visits St.
- 1847: The first brown bear arrives in France from St. Louis
- 1947: The Gateway Arch competition begins