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University City, Missouri

University City, Missouri

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University City, Missouri

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220 Seiten
59 Minuten
Sep 18, 2012


In 1904, from a plot of land that would soon become University City, eccentric publisher Edwin Gardner Lewis shone the beam of what he claimed was the world's largest searchlight over the World's Fair in nearby St. Louis. Several years later, he claimed an even greater possession: a city, created around his publishing complex, complete with his own mayoral office, wide boulevards, and beautiful residences. The story of University City is one of urban wonder: from the city's "Hilltop Neighbor" and namesake, Washington University, to the diversity showcased in today's University City. The historic images in this volume illustrate the area's founding and development, from the largest printing press of the time, capable of producing 300,000 eight-page newspapers an hour, to the lion sculptures at the city's famed "Gates of Opportunity," standing proud as the city's everlasting symbol.
Sep 18, 2012

Über den Autor

Author, educator, and photographer John A. Wright has been a resident of University City for more than 30 years. A member of the University City Historical Society, Dr. Wright has published many books, including the Arcadia title, Kinloch: Missouri's First Black City.

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University City, Missouri - John A. Wright



The area we now know as University City was once owned by the Chouteaus and other early St. Louis settlers under French and Spanish land grants. Before the territory was settled, Old Bonhomme Road, later named Olive Street Road, which ran through the region, served as a path from St. Louis to Howell’s Ferry on the Missouri River. In 1851, a local company acquired the road and converted it into a plank road with toll gates. Taverns later opened and measured off the miles from the toll gate to the Sixteen Mile House. Soon farmers began working the land along Olive and gradually changed the road from a Mississippi River to Missouri River route to a market route.

University City’s beginning can be traced to its founder, Edward Gerner Lewis’ Publishing Company and its relocation to the area. Lewis had outgrown his printing facilities in St. Louis and needed larger quarters. Always being an individual of grand ideas and schemes, Lewis conceived of building a new printing facility surrounded by a residential area, which he would eventually incorporate into a city and serve as its mayor. It happened that his dreams coincided with the 1904 World’s Fair, occurring in St. Louis. Lewis used the Fair to promote his publishing business as well as his real estate developments. To attract Fair visitors, Lewis placed on top of his publishing building the most powerful spotlight of its kind. Intrigued by the searchlight, visitors strayed from the Fair and visited Lewis’ empire.

In 1906, when University City was incorporated, Lewis became the first mayor. He had grandiose plans for the city, which included moving the new Cathedral to the city, transferring the state capital to the city from Jefferson City, building a subway from Eads Bridge to University City, and opening the first postal bank in America. Lewis wanted his city to be a cultural and learning center. However, his dreams began to fade amidst allegations of fraud and he left University City in 1912 for California.

After Lewis’ departure, property values dropped because much of the land owned by Lewis was put up for sale. The city, however, continued to grow through the Roaring 20s and beyond.

In 1930, the City of University City purchased Lewis’ publishing building and press area, which now houses City Hall and the Police and Fire Departments. The Lewis Center now houses Washington University’s School of Fine Arts and luxury apartments.

The city’s first subdivision, University Heights, represents the highest point in Lewis’ planning. The stately homes—located on streets that bear the names of well-known institutions of higher learning such as Yale, Columbia, Amherst, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Harvard—helped to carry out his university theme. Most importantly, the homes have been preserved.

The city’s population began to change from Gentile to Jewish in the 1920s, and again during the 1960s, when the first African Americans began to move to University City. During this period, real estate agencies attempted to red-line the city and profit from white fears. The city responded with anti-block-busting legislation, which banned the use of For Sale signs and passed an Occupancy Permit Ordinance to enforce housing codes. However, despite city efforts, a number of businesses and residents left the city for newer suburbs.

The city faced up to the problems and redefined itself and emerged stronger for its diversity, which can be seen in the make-up of the city’s population, ethnic restaurants and businesses, and religious institutions, which include 24 churches and synagogues. University City is also the home of an Eruv District, which allows Orthodox Jews within the area to perform certain activities on the Sabbath.

Today, University City is a highly sought-after community in which to live. It is centrally located—15 minutes from both downtown St. Louis and Lambert International St. Louis Airport and close to most cultural institutions and events. The city is also an excellent place in which to invest. Property values increased 44 percent between 1997 and 2001.

A 1912 Map of University City. (Map Courtesy of the Archives of the University City Public Library.)



Long before University City’s founder, E.G. Lewis, arrived, the area was mostly unoccupied. Its ownership can be traced to some of the early names in St. Louis history such as Chouteau, Cabanne, Kingsbury, Papin, Forsyth, Mullanphy, Clemens, and De Hodiamont. Old Bonhomme Road, which ran through the area, was a link for St. Louisians to the Mississippi River.

In 1851, a group of area businessmen incorporated the Central Plank Road Company and acquired Old Bonhomme Road. They later established a new route and toll road to the river using the present Olive Street Road. The first toll house was located near Grand and Olive and taverns were used to measure off the miles to the Sixteen Mile House. The Sutter Post Office and Seven Mile House on the Old Plank Road (now Olive Street Road), pictured above, served the area from 1887 to 1903. (Photo Courtesy of the Archives of the University City Library.)

In 2001, Olive Street Road celebrated its sesquicentennial. The thoroughfare began as footpaths used by Native Americans to hunt game. The paths were later joined to form a road to connect Howell’s Ferry with downtown St. Louis. In 1906, when University City was incorporated, most of the land along Olive Street Road was still farmland. Occasionally, one would come across a residence or a farm house. The Central Plank Road Company, which operated the road as a toll road, turned it over to St. Louis County in 1858 when they found it hard to maintain and operate. (Photo Courtesy of the Archives of the University City Public Library.)

Roth’s Grove on Olive Street Road is remembered as

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