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View of St. Louis

Ladies Repository

January 1845

The city of St. Louis is in 38~ 37' 28" north latitude, and 90~ 15' 39" west longitude from Greenwich, and 13~ 14' 15"f west longitude from Washington. It is twenty miles, by water, below the mouth of the Missouri, two hundred miles above the mouth of the Ohio, and eleven hundred and fifty miles above New Orleans. It is the commercial metropolis of the great northwest. The banks of the Mississippi are generally rocky or alluvial, but on the site of St. Louis is a limestone elevation extending nearly two miles. It stands above the floods of the river: its first bank being twenty feet, and its second forty feet above the highest water. Eligibly located on the Father of Waters, near the entrance of three of his majestic tributaries, it boasts commercial facilities which can scarce be surpassed. It seems destined at once to command the whole Valley of the Mississippi, and to gather up no small share of its immense and annually augmenting productions and transmit them to the ocean. In 1664 M. D'Abbadie, the Director General of Louisiana, gave an exclusive grant to a certain company for the commerce with the Indian nations on Missouri. This company judiciously selected the site on which St. Louis stands for the centre of their operations, and erected thereon four stores a large house, which, in the course of six years, constituted the centre of a settlement of forty families, protected by a French garrison. In 1780 an expedition, consisting of one hundred and forty Bitish soldiers and fifteen hundred Indians, proceeded from Michilimackinac for the purpose of capturing St. Louis and other places on the west side of the Mississippi. This expedition proved unsuccessful; for, with aid of an American force under General Clark, it was defeated and driven back. Since 1:1 its population has increased from 5,600 to about 40,000. It has more than doubled its population since 1840, when it was 16,459.

The streets on the second bank are wide and airy. Those on the first bank, which were first laid out, are rather narrow and irregular. Though the whole length of the place extends in a right line more than five miles, the densely populated part of the city is about a mile and a half along the river, and half a mile back. The buildings of this city are generally substantial and tasteful, mostly of brick, but some of stone quarried on the spot. Some of the public buildings are of ample dimensions, and tasteful architecture: such as the Court House, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and several of the churches. The City Hall, on a square which was reserved for the purpose, affords, in a basement, a convenient market. The Court House is in the middle of a public square in the centre of the city. The Cathedral is one hundred and thirty-six feet long, and fifty-eight feet wide, having four fronts of white freestone. Its walls are forty feet high, above which rises the tower of its steeple to the height of forty feet. It contains a peal of six bells, the three largest of which weigh about two thousand pounds each. Of the churches of this place three belong to the Methodist denomination. Among the literary institutions there is a university, under the control of the Catholic Church, which has a president and twelve teachers, including professors, and is accommodated with a fine edifice and extensive grounds. There is also a Western Academy of Sciences, possessing an extensive museum. The benevolent institutions of the city, which are numerous and respectable, are divided between the Protestants and Catholics. We know of no site for a city, on the banks of the Mississippi, more beautiful or advantageous than that occupied by St.' Louis. The engraving is imperfect. It represents only the densely populated portion of the city, and gives but a very inadequate idea of its commerce. We are informed that it is not uncommon to see twenty or thirty steamboats at its wharves.