Soulard is unique for a variety of reasons. It is the City´s oldest remaining residential neighborhood. It served as the entry portal for waves of immigrants from Germany, Czechoslavakia and other eastern European countries. It boasts an interesting and exciting marketplace that traces its beginnings to the late 1700s. And finally, it is an architectural treasure house offering a fine collection of churches, industrial structures and homes in a variety of different architectural styles.
The Soulard area began developing during colonial times as many of St. Louis´ prosperous citizens built country estates in the area. Among them were Gabriel Cerre, Joseph Brazeau, Benito Vasquez, Eugene Poure, and the Papin family. A slow but steady growth continued until 1836, when the City authorized the sale of the City Commons, an area previously reserved for communal grazing. This sale began a subdivision boom and started Soulard´s transition from country retreat to urban neighborhood.
Soulard received its name from Antoine Soulard, who served as a surveyor for the Spanish Government. Ironically, few today would associate the name with anything other than the Market, which also carries the Soulard name. Use of the Soulard Market site as a Market can be traced almost to the City´s beginnings. The first market building at the site was constructed in the 1840s and later expanded in 1865. The building was sold to the City in 1867 and continued in use as a public market until it was destroyed by the tornado of 1896.
The existing market building was designed in 1929 by City architect Albert Osburg, and is in the Italian Renaissance style; modeled after the Florentine Foundling Hospital by Filipo Brunelleschi.
After 1830, the Soulard area increasingly became an ethnic neighborhood. The first waves of immigrants arrived in the 1830s and 1840s from Germany, which at the time was caught up in a series of religious and political upheavals. The Germans found Soulard attractive because of its proximity to the City, the river, and underground caverns (necessary for the brewing of beer, a German specialty). Soulard´s caves provided the natural refrigeration necessary to store beer during St. Louis´ hot summer months. Breweries in the Soulard area included the Lemp brewery, Eberhard Anheuser´s Bavarian Brewery, the Arsenal Brewery, Anthony and Kuhn´s Excelsior, Green Tree, and English breweries. Anheuser Busch is the only survivor of that period.
Industrial activity was not solely limited to beer. Other industries included the Factors´ and Brokers´ Cotton Compressing Company, St. Louis Cotton Factory, Helmbarker Forge and Rolling Mill, and the St. Louis Woodenware Works. Besides beer, the iron industry was probably Soulard´s most important. A number of firms in Soulard created cast iron fences, gates, balconies, and storefronts, and much of New Orleans´ famous cast iron work actually originated in St. Louis.
The Germans were merely the first of a number of immigrant groups. Serbians, Czechs, Poles and others all passed through Soulard as the first stop on their road to assimilation in America.
site was made possible by: the City of St. Louis Planning and Urban Design Agency and