Downtown (C.B.D.)


University Beginnings

Both of the major universities in St. Louis were originally located in the downtown area. The oldest of these is St. Louis University, which was founded by Bishop DuBourg in 1818 in a rented stone house on Market Street near Second. In 1820, a two story brick building was erected for the college south of the old log church. Due to pastoral duties, priests were unable to devote time to teach classes and the college had to be discontinued in 1826. In 1828, Fr. Van Quickenborne began the task of establishing a new college. A lot on Ninth Street and Christy (now Lucas) Avenue was given over to the college by Bishop Rosati. Subsequently, a block long frontage on Washington Avenue was added. The first building, three stories in height, was ready for occupancy in late 1829, with another finished three years later. The college was incorporated in 1832 as St. Louis University and graduated its first class in 1834. A chapel was established in a building finished in 1835, on Washington Avenue and in 1842 the newly formed medical school occupied a building on Washington west of Tenth.

The college church of St. Francis Xavier was consecrated at Ninth and Christy in 1843. The main college building was built on the corner of Ninth and Washington in 1855, while the last structure on the downtown campus was finished in 1864. The college purchased a farm on Bellefontaine Road, 3 1/2 miles north of the city as a new campus site in 1836 at a place called College Hill. Construction work was suspended when the contractor died, and was later abandoned. However, the farm proved to be a good investment and made possible many improvements. Portions of the farm were sold and subdivided in 1855 and in 1858 a theology school was opened in a building on the site. In May 1867, the college purchased the nucleus for its present campus at Grand and Lindell, although it did not relocate there until 1888.

Washington University was founded as Eliot Seminary on February 22, 1853, and received its present name in 1854 at the insistence of its president, William G. Eliot, because it was chartered on Washington's birthday. At first called Washington Institute, it became a university by legislative action in 1857. The first school opened on its downtown campus at 17th Street and Washington Avenue was the Smith Academy in 1856, soon followed by the buildings for other departments. Eventually, college buildings were erected near by for Mary Institute and the Manual Training School. The art department opened in 1880 in a school and museum building donated by Wayman Crow at 19th and Locust. In 1882, the university comprised six departments including the law school and the polytechnic institute. The Medical school was organized in 1899 and construction began on the present campus soon after the 1904 World's Fair, as the new college buildings were leased by the Fair for various uses.


Image - Washington University's original location in downtown St. Louis