Name: Wells, Rolla
Category: Politics and Government, Transportation and Infrastructure (Number 30)
Term as Mayor: 1901-1909
Born/Started: Jun. 01, 1856
Died/Ended: Nov. 30, 1944
Description: Rolla Wells was the 30th mayor of St. Louis, serving two terms from 1901 to 1909. During his administration, St. Louis hosted the Louisiana Purchase exposition and became the toast of the world.
"New St. Louis" was the slogan of Wells’ administration. It was during his term that the City Water Department finally achieved clarification of the water supply, just in time for the World’s Fair. The City also bought Fairground Park for $700,000. City playgrounds and public bath houses were constructed. City planning activities were started. Many of the main streets were hard surfaced. In 1906 a $2 million bond issue was approved by voters to build the Municipal Courts, Jail, and Childrens´ buildings. These were completed during later administrations.
Mayor Wells born in St. Louis, the son of St. Louis’s pioneer street-transit promoter and owner. He was educated at Washington University and Princeton University. In 1878 he married Miss Jennie Howard Parker and they were the parents of five children. At the time of his death, Mr. Wells was survived by his second wife, Mrs. Carlota C. Wells.
In 1878 he went into the street railroad business with his father. He became superintendent of the Olive and Market Horse Car Lines. In the late 1880s he was active in the management of the St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Fairs held at Fairground Park. He became the first president of the American Steel Foundry Company, organized in 1894.
In 1896 Wells bolted the Democratic Party´s Bryan free-silver ticket. Nevertheless, he was nominated by the Democratic Party for the office of mayor in 1901. In 1912 Mr. Wells became treasurer of the Democratic National Committee. President Wilson appointed him as the first governor of the Eighth Federal Reserve District in St. Louis in 1914. His autobiography, Episodes of My Life was published in 1933. He died in November 1944. Burial was at Bellefontaine Cemetery.
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