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The Importance of Preservation

The history of any city is an important window onto the lives, values, and priorities of the people who live there. Who we are as a community is shaped, in large part, by our successes and failures, our responses to challenges and opportunities, and the extent to which we remember the past, embrace the present, and stay focused on what is yet to come.

Some have said that St. Louis is a community living in the past, clinging to fading memories of once-grand times at a time current crises demand the full attention and commitment of the populace. Indeed, ask local residents about St. Louis's finest moment and many will take you back 100 years to the 1904 World's Fair. The fact that modern day St. Louisans cannot cite a single more significant-or at least more memorable-event in the past century says much about the place that was once America's fourth largest city.

Yet St. Louis in the 21st century remains a fascinating place, full of culture, style and excitement. Local residents like to claim it offers the best features of big cities without all of the problems. The City's reputation in the arts, sports and business can effectively be argued as "major league." Visitors marvel at the wealth of historic architecture that can be found-in varying states of preservation-in every neighborhood. Civic leaders often point to these historical resources as the building blocks for future progress.

A common practice of many communities when they build for the future is to bury a time capsule for future generations to unearth. Were we to open a time capsule on the first 240 years of St. Louis' existence, its treasures would certainly paint a revealing picture of all that has made St. Louis what it is today: a beaver pelt; French, Spanish and American flags; a New Orleans to St. Louis steamship ticket; a drawing of Mr. Eads' bridge; a court document from the landmark Dred Scott case; a dog-eared copy of Huckleberry Finn; a bishop's miter; a kootchie-kootchie doll; a Cardinals scorecard; Georgia Frontiere's two-fingered Super Bowl 2000 ring; postcards of Phil the gorilla and Raja the elephant; an old Scott Joplin 78-rpm recording; a playbill for Hair that was never distributed; a collection of poems by Fields, Eliot and Angelou; a bottle of Budweiser; a bag of Puppy Chow; and, of course, a ticket stub from that train ride to the top of the Gateway Arch that happened every time the relatives came to town.

All of these things represent what St. Louis was and what it remains today: a Gateway to the West, a center of 19th century commerce, and an American transportation hub. It is home to a world-renowned zoo and symphony, and more Fortune 500 companies than any other city its size. It is a place where heritage is displayed in its structures, where history is celebrated with regularity, and where who we are is closely aligned with what we have been.

This site provides a glimpse into the people and events that have marked St. Louis' first 24 decades. It describes the buildings and landmarks that remain and some that remain only in our memories. To understand how it all weaves together is to begin to understand why St. Louis has been, and continues to be, one of the world's great cities…The Mound City on the Mississippi.



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This site was made possible by: the City of St. Louis Planning and Urban Design Agency and
the City of St. Louis Community Information Network.

This site was funded in part by Federal funds administered by the Missouri State Historical Preservation Office, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, The National Park Service, and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

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