The earliest history of the downtown area of St. Louis is synonymous with the beginnings of the City itself, as the original village of St. Louis was contained within the present limits of downtown along the riverfront. It was on the site of the present Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The location was chosen by Pierre Laclede, the City's founder, because it met his requirements for a fur trading post site that was not subject to flooding and was near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The present downtown riverfront area then consisted of a high limestone bluff about forty feet high, which began to rise north of the mouth of Mill Creek and extended northward about two miles. Behind this bluff the land sloped westward in two terraces, which were covered by a growth of timber as far west as the present Fourth Street. Westwardly, beyond that point, a broad rolling prairie with infrequent clumps of trees reached to the horizon. Mill Creek, called La Petite Riviere by the French, flowed across this prairie through a wooded valley.
Image - An early map of the downtown area
Image - Arial view of historical downtown