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10 Then-and-Now Photos of Classic St. Louis Streetscapes Paint a Vivid Picture of the City’s Amazing Transformation

With a population exceeding 319,000, the port city of St. Louis, situated on the easternmost border of the state of Missouri, is the 60th most populous city in the US. St. Louis’ geographical situation has impacted upon its modern economy, establishing the city as an important center for manufacturing, trade, transportation, and tourism. It has also, however, profoundly shaped the city’s rich and diverse history and culture.

Though first settled by the French in 1764, St. Louis was later to come under Spanish control from the late 18th to the turn of the 19th century. Waves of German, Irish, and Italian migrants in the 19th and 20th centuries added to the cultural melting pot of the city, creating a unique blend of music, art, architecture, and cuisine which continues to manifest itself today.

Join us at RentCafe as we take you on a virtual tour through St. Louis’ history to see the changes as well as the architectural consistency of the city’s urban landscape over the course of the last century.

1. The View Down the Gateway Mall, The Plaza Square Apartments Historic District

Starting along the central thruway of Downtown St. Louis and running east along Market Street, this greenbelt mall was constructed upon former slum land and came about through the enactment of Truman’s American Housing Act (1949). The buildings on the right of the picture – consisting of two historic churches and a group of 1,090 high-rise apartments – was listed in the national register of historic places in July 2007.


With a history that goes back almost 100 years, the 19-square block Gateway Mall runs between Market and Chestnut Streets from the Old Court House (at Broadway) to St. Louis Union Station at 21st Street. Key civic buildings within the Mall are the Civil Courts and the War Memorial. As part of the larger 1999 Downtown Plan, The Mall has been going though a major revitalization process that hopes to see the area transformed into a genuine destination for residents and tourists alike.

Photo Credit 1950s: Cityscape of St. Louis Looking West from the Civil Courts Building Down Market Street, Memorial Plaza. Photograph by Richard Moore, 1950s. Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collections. Richard Moore Collection. N40609Photo Credit 2015:

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2. Aerial View of the City, including the Gateway Arch, Busch Stadium, and The Dome at America’s Center

As shown in this photograph, the two most important symbols of 1960s St. Louis were the Gateway Arch (more of which in #4) and the Busch Memorial Stadium. The Stadium, with its seating capacity of 50,000 and crown of 96 concrete arches, was completed in 1966 and played host to the St. Louis Cardinals until the stadium’s demolition in 2005.

While the Gateway Arch survives into the present day, the Busch Memorial Stadium was replaced in 2006 by the new Busch Stadium, with its capacity of 43,975 and 61 luxury suites. At the right of the picture is the Dome at America’s Center, a multipurpose venue which was home to the St. Louis Rams until 2016. Boasting 502,000 square feet of exhibit space, the Dome contains a three-level lecture hall, a Grand Ballroom, and an Executive Conference Center.

Photo Credit 1969: Aerial view of St. Louis riverfront and city looking northwest toward the Gateway Arch, 25 January 1969. Photograph by Ted McCrea, 1969. Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collections. Ted McCrea Collection. N31029.Photo Credit 2000s:

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3. Aerial View of the city, including the demolished St. Louis Riverfront neighborhood

Significant economic and aesthetic changes came to characterize the St. Louis of the post-war years. Severely affected by prohibition laws, the city was forced to rest on its manufacturing laurels, an inevitable product of which was a high degree of coal-smoke pollution. Included in measures to combat this was the demolition of the neighborhood known as the St. Louis Riverfront – a bustling commercial area and African-American residential neighborhood – upon which the Gateway Arch would later be built.

Modern-day high-rise St. Louis strikes a very different appearance. The tall white building on the left is the Thomas F. Eagleton United States Courthouse, which, at 29 stories (557 feet) and 987,775 square feet, is the single largest courthouse in the US and third tallest building in St. Louis. The building with the blue rooftop at the center is One Metropolitan Square – the city’s tallest skyscraper at 593 feet and second tallest structure after the Gateway Arch, completed in 1989.

Photo Credit 1926: Aerial view of St. Louis riverfront and downtown St. Louis. Photograph by unknown, ca. 1926. Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collections. Swekosky Notre Dame College Collection. N33712.Photo Credit 2010:

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4. Gateway Arch and the new Bank of America Tower

This photograph from 1965 shows the Tangier Shriners Corvette Club as they stop in in downtown St. Louis to pose with their new 1966 Corvettes. Every year the troupe would purchase a fleet of brand new, identical Corvettes that would be used in parades and other precision driving events to draw attention to their philanthropic efforts for their Children’s Burn Hospitals. Flanking the members of the Omaha Tangier Shriners is the Gateway Arch, which would be completed later that year. The creation of Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, this modernist architectural masterpiece – memorializing the US’ westerward expansion – still stands as the tallest memorial arch in the country, with its height of 630 feet matched perfectly by its width.

The most notable architectural, as opposed to automotive, addition is that of the Bank of America Tower (the white building on the left of the picture). Completed in 1976, this 22-story 500,000-square-foot class A office tower houses Missouri’s largest law, financial, and accounting firms. Acquired by Hertz Investment Group in 2005, this property offers easy access to the region’s extensive highway and rail system, being conveniently located at the intersection of two major downtown arteries, Broadway and Pine. Two historic high-rise buildings used to sit on the current site of the Bank of America Tower: the Times Building on the west, and the Cotton Belt Building (formerly Planter’s Hotel) on the east.

Photo Credit 1965: corvetteblogger.comPhoto Credit 2015: Google Street View

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5. St. Louis City Hall

Occupying pride of place on Market Street is the French renaissance-style City Hall, modelled on Paris’ Hotel de Ville. Construction began in 1890 and took 14 years. In the late 1930s, structural problems saw the removal of the central tower and lesser spires near each end of the 12th Boulevard façade, much to public outrage. A plan by the incumbent Mayor Bernard Dickmann to replace the tower was, however, dropped in 1946, due to a lack of funding.

Centrally situated downtown on the Gateway Mall at 1200 Market Street, City Hall retains both its aesthetic charm and its administrative functionality, used by the Board of Public Service and the Board of Alderman amongst other public bodies. Its location means that it affords easy access to both the highway and rail systems (accessible at Union Station and MetroLink Station).

Photo Credit 1900: St. Louis City Hall. Twelfth and Market Streets. Photograph by A.W. Sanders, April 1900. Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collections. Public Buildings Collection. N33944.Photo Credit 2015: Google Street View

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6. Missouri Athletic Club Building

On March 9th 1914, the deadliest fire ever to have occurred in St. Louis broke out at the 7-story Missouri Athletic Club Building on 405 Washington Avenue. The blaze, the cause of which was never discovered, claimed the lives of 30 people and completely destroyed the building that had been founded only 11 years previously. Boatmen’s Bank occupied the lower floor of the building. Reopened in 1916 as the Missouri Athletic Association, the club reverted back to its original name in 1939.

The Platinum Club’s current 10-story incarnation retains the same name as the building destroyed by the fire, and operates both as an athletic club and as a hotel with 73 rooms on the upper floors. It sits little more than a stone’s throw away from the Gateway Arch trail and Eads Bridge and a 5-minute walk from the Dome at America’s Center

Photo Credit 1914: Fire wreckage at the northwest corner of Fourth Street and Washington Avenue. Photograph by unknown, 1914. Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collections. Swekosky-MHS Collection. N08369. Photo Credit 2015: Google Street View

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7. Mill Creek Valley

Settlement of the Mill Creek area began in 1765, but over time the 5,600 ‘substandard’ residential units (home to 19,700 residents, 95% of whom were African-American) and commercial buildings on this 465-acre site fell into disrepair, becoming one of the city’s “worst slums”. The solution, as voted in 1955, was demolition, financed by a $10 million dollar bond-issue. Pictured here was the largest urban renewal project in the city (and in the US for a time) which included the addition of new residential, commercial and industrial buildings.

The Mill Creek area of today, which has been described as perhaps the city’s most strange, placeless landscape, makes no reference to Mill Creek’s troubled past. Situated almost due west of downtown St. Louis and flanked to the north by Harris-Stowe State University, the site is now occupied by numerous corporate and distribution buildings (facilitated by a parallel-running rail track).

Photo Credit 1961: Vintage St. Louis Facebook PagePhoto Credit 1961: Google Street View

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8. Looking East on I-70 at I-270

Running generally parallel to the Mississippi and stretching from the Lewis and Clark Viaduct in Kansas to the Stan Musial Memorial Bridge in St. Louis, this section of interstate started in 1956 and continues to serve its purpose to the present. What is perhaps most remarkable about this image – showing an interchange just east of the Missouri River – is the rural nature of the surrounding landscape.

Aside from changes to the clover-like shape of the intersection, the most notable development is the widening of the lane system to accommodate traffic coming in and out of St. Louis to the east. Looking away from the freeway, however, we are offered a glimpse into the rapid urbanisation of the area surrounding the interstate and indeed of downtown St. Louis (in the far distance).

Photo Credit 1955: Vintage St. Louis Facebook PagePhoto Credit 2015: Google Street View

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9. Washington Avenue West from Sixth Street

Capturing the everyday bustle of downtown St. Louis is this photograph from 1906. The buildings to the left of the frame, including the Barnum Hotel, have now been replaced, and ease of transport is now catered for by the city’s metro rather than the tram system in operation at the turn of the century. Visible on the right is the Stix Baer and Fuller department store – a local retail giant of the age.

The most apparent addition is perhaps that of the Thompson Coburn LLP building (the tall building on the left). The 230,000-square foot building, dating from 1975, leases office space to the international law firm of Thompson Coburn, founded in 1929. The glass building standing before it is the One City Center – a 25-story office tower and former shopping mall– which occupies the site of the building just beyond the Barnum Hotel in the previous photograph.

Photo Credit 1906: Washington Avenue west from just east of Sixth Street. Photograph by unknown, 1906. Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collections. St. Louis Streets Collection. N15016.Photo Credit 2012: Google Street View

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10. Natural Bridge at Shreve

The intersection at Natural Bridge and Shreve avenues sits approximately 8 kilometres northwest of the Gateway Mall downtown, and leads in the same direction out of the city joining I-70 at exit 237. Just visible on the right of the street, beyond the Liquor Store and the laundry, is the Londoff Motor Co. established on Natural Bridge Avenue in the 1940s.

Though the nature of industries, not to mention automotives, has changed over time, the presence of businesses servicing local residents in this outer-central area has not. Visible on the corner in this streetview image is a hair salon which has come to replace the 1940s building. Across from that, the Faith Missionary Baptist Church now stands in place of the 1940s liquor store.

Photo Credit 1912s: Vintage St. Louis Facebook PagePhoto Credit 2015: Google Street View

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The visual and architectural St. Louis of today is a fitting testament to the city of the past. Comprising a mixture of change and continuation, of innovation and adaption, St. Louis marks itself out as a city on the rise, and so justifies itself a target of prime investment for both businesses and residents alike.

Have we missed anything? Let us know in our comment section, and don’t forget to include your own photos. You just might see them here in a future RentCafe article!

Fair use and redistribution

We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the images in this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.

Amalia Otet
Amalia Otet is an online content developer and creative writer for RENTCafé. She loves all things real estate and strives to live beautifully, one green step at a time.

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