A Preservation Plan for St. Louis

Part I: Historic Contexts

Jeffrey E. Smith, Ph.D.
Janus Applied History Group, September 1995


These historical "contexts" link the past with the St. Louis built environment. They seek to provide a backdrop for the buildings themselves (to place each in its context of period, function, people, design, or significance). This is not a comprehensive history of St. Louis. Instead, it outlines the themes, trends, ideas, and developments over time that have had an impact on the way the City looks today.

There are eleven historical context essays, each sketching a picture of a particular subject in St. Louis history. They represent the prevailing themes which have an impact upon the built environment in the late twentieth century. They provide a tool with which to evaluate buildings and their significance within the contour of the unique history of St. Louis.

  • Architecture describes the styles and tastes which combine to create our mix of structures, It is a companion to the following Section, St. Louis Property Types.
  • The African-American Experience outlines black culture from slavery to civil rights, examining both everyday lives of people and prominent leaders.
  • Business, Industry and Commerce looks at the relationship between economics and community growth, priorities, and changes.
  • Community Planning looks at the layers of ideas, trends, and technology which form the foundation for managing city growth.
  • Education relates the development of public and private school systems in St. Louis, and addresses the painful history of segregation.
  • The Relationship Between People and Government discusses governmental actions which alter its visibility in everyday lives.
  • The Peopling of St. Louis outlines waves of immigration, and how each group of arrivals made its mark on the St. Louis landscape.
  • Religious Life looks not only at houses of worship, but also the impact of those people and institutions of faith upon St. Louis society.
  • St. Louis and the American West describes the city's unique position as a gateway between east and west states throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  • Transportation is a key component of St. Louis history, in that it turns the city's central location into an economic asset.

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