Downtown St. Louis’ history: Street-roaming cattle, Dickens’ impressions and renowned architecture

Downtown St. Louis has been shaped by countless personalities over the years. It is a place where Indians came by canoe and built a large hill town. It is also a place that is home to both great Victorian architecture and international style skyscrapers.

Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

NiNi Harris

What other secrets does downtown St. Louis hold? On Tuesday “St. Louis on the Air, ”historian and author NiNi Harris, spoke to host Don Marsh about her latest book, Downtown St. Louis, which reveals some of these secrets. In addition to writing about the architecture, ethnic heritage, and neighborhood history of St. Louis, she has offered tours of downtown St. Louis for over 30 years.

Here are three fun facts we learned from her about the history of downtown St. Louis:

1. Charles Dickens was a fan.

“Dickens was very impressed with it. He didn’t think St. Louis would do Cincinnati justice. He was positively impressed with St. Louis. In the text I have his description of the building boom in the 1840s and how the old French part of St. Louis was in the 1840s. “

2. There used to be a Chinatown in downtown St. Louis.

“Chinatown was on the eighth and at the market. The description is really exotic. It seems to have been created by railroad workers. This is how many Chinese were involved in building the railways from the west coast to the center of the continent. That’s how it started, but it’s a small community. It remains in the same downtown area until the 1960s. It was known to have lanterns across the streets because it was a very colorful place, but it was clearly an impoverished community. It is a very difficult community to keep track of because they have been reluctant to speak to censusers. This was likely related to the Chinese Exclusion Law, which forced many Chinese workers to return to China. “

3. They were able to find cattle and pigs roaming the streets until much later than expected.

“From the origins of this city, it has been this energetic place. We begin with the founding of St. Louis when all of St. Louis was in downtown St. Louis. Downtown St. Louis had about 1,200 cattle and 250 horses, and people lived and worked there – it was all. As early as the turn of the century and the First World War, cattle and pigs were being herded through the streets of St. Louis. “

Listen here to learn about the history of downtown St. Louis, including information on specific structures and buildings such as Kram Fish and what is known as the Mother’s Fish building.

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns in the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter and join the conversation at @STLonAir.

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