This beautiful Missouri city was founded as a trading post in 1763 by French fur trader Pierre Laclede and his stepson August Chouteau. Bounded by three rivers - the Missouri to the north, Meramec to the south, and Mississippi to the east - it's not surprising that St. Louis has strong ties to the water. When the Steamboat Era came to St. Louis in 1817 and river trade became more efficient and dependable, the city flourished as an inland port for commerce.
During the 1840s, immigrants from Germany, Bohemia, Ireland, and Italy began to stream in, causing the population to soar from 20,000 to 77,860. St. Louis quickly grew into a recognized location for both residents and travelers. As its reputation expanded, its size did as well, furthering growth and development, including the construction of Union Station, the largest and busiest railroad stop in the country. The city was also selected to play host to the 1904 World's Fair and the Olympics, the first games to be held in an English-speaking country.
St. Louis' role as a hub for culture and commerce is still seen in many of its present-day attractions. Laclede's Landing showcases dining and entertainment in preserved historic buildings from the city's original riverfront establishment. Replica steamboats ferry visitors up and down the Mississippi River as they did in the early 1800s. Renowned Italian community "The Hill," established by the influx of Italian immigrants in the 1800s, serves world-famous authentic Italian cuisine, including St. Louis' original toasted ravioli. Forest Park, site of the St. Louis World's Fair and now one of the nation's largest urban parks, still preserves some of the fair's original construction, along with a host of modern attractions such as the Saint Louis Zoo and Saint Louis Art Museum.
Today, the landscape of St. Louis has been greatly transformed from its humble beginnings as a small riverfront town. As the 18th-largest city in the U.S., over 318,000 people call the city of St. Louis home. Tall buildings, high-rises, and the iconic Gateway Arch populate the skyline, as do the headquarters of large corporations, such as Anheuser-Busch, Monsanto, and Purina.