City, adjacent to but independent of St. Louis county, east-central Missouri, U.S. It lies on the west bank of the Mississippi River (bridged there at seven points) opposite East St. Louis, Ill., 10 miles (16 km) below its confluence with the Missouri River.
Founded in 1764 by Pierre Laclede Liguest of New Orleans as a fur-trading post, it was organizedas a village by Auguste Chouteau and named for the canonized Louis IX of France. Transferred to Spain (1770), St. Louis was later retroceded to France; and following the Louisiana Purchase (1803) it became part of the United States. The city was the seat of government for the Territory of Louisiana (1805) and the Territory of Missouri (1812). It was the site of the first Missouri constitutional convention (1820), but it ceased to serve as capital when statehood was attained (1821). It became the crossroads of westward expansion in the United States and an outfitting point for exploring parties, fur-trading expeditions, and pioneers traveling the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon trails. The Mexican War of 1846 brought a brisk trade with the Southwest. During the American Civil War, St. Louis was kept under martial law while remaining a Union base.
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (1880) is one of the oldest in the United States. Forest Park was the site of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (St. Louis World's Fair) of 1904, which brought international fame to the city. The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, built on the original village plat, is dominated by the 629.5-foot (191.9-metre) stainless-steel Gateway Arch (1965), designed by Eero Saarinen to commemorate St. Louis' historic role as “Gateway to the West.” The Old Cathedral of St. Louis of France (Byzantine-style; 1831-34) was granted a special indulgence by Pope Gregory XVI. The Old Courthouse (1839-64) was the scene of the Dred Scott slavery case and contains frescoes by Carl Wimar.
In Aloe Plaza stands Carl Milles' fountain symbolizing the convergence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The poet Eugene Field's boyhood home has a children's museum. A theatre is housed in the Spanish International Pavilion, moved to St. Louis from the New York World's Fair of 1964-65. Eads Bridge (1874), world's first steel-truss span, has been designated a national historic landmark. Jefferson Barracks Historical Park is located 12 miles (19 km) south of the city. St. Louis is the home of the Cardinals baseball team, and a number of athletic events are held in Busch Memorial Stadium. The St. Louis Gateway Convention Center was completed in 1978.