Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Look Back; St. Louis Suburbs Explode after World War II

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Look Back; St. Louis Suburbs Explode after World War II

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * This area's second superhighway, known as the Third Street Expressway, opened in 1955 from the riverfront to Gravois Avenue at 12th Street. It ran all of 2.3 miles.

Viewed by today's standards, it was quaintly obsolete from day one. St. Louis, crammed with 856,700 residents in 1950, was losing 200 each week to new subdivisions eight and more miles beyond the Third Street Expressway's reach. Suburban growth, slow during the Depression and World War II, exploded as people abandoned 15 years of deprivation and crowded city apartments in a rush for the good life.

Thus the booms in babies and new single-family homes surrounded by grass. St. Louis County's population was 274,200 people when the war began. By 1960, it would top 700,000 and keep climbing.

Two other telling nuggets:

In the 10 years after the war, school-age population in the county doubled to 125,000.

In 1940, more than 55 percent of the metro's 1.5 million people lived in the city of St. Louis. Today, it is home to only 13 percent of 2.5 million.


But first, people had to get there. Until the Third Street Expressway opened, the area's only freeway was the Oakland Express Highway, which ran east from Hi Pointe to Vandeventer and Chouteau avenues. Farther west, traffic jams were horrendous along major roads in the formerly rural county.

St. Louis County had 20 municipalities in 1930, most of them hugging the city limit or the railroad lines. By 1950, the number had grown to 84. Adding to the patchwork were Crestwood (1947), St. Ann (1948), Bellefontaine Neighbors and Ballwin (1950), and Dellwood (1951).

To unleash the commuters, the Missouri Highway Commission proposed a pinwheel of freeways reaching out from downtown: the Mark Twain (Interstate 70) northwest into St. Charles County, the Daniel Boone (Highway 40, later I-64) straight west, and the Ozark (I-55) south into Jefferson County.

There were winners and losers. Highways to the suburbs meant obliterating thousands of homes in the city. …

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