Old North St. Louis

Locale and Topography

The Near North Side area comprises the northern two-thirds of the original St. Louis Commonfields as laid out following the founding of St. Louis by Laclede. Settlers working in these long, narrow field plots were massacred by invading Indians during the British-Indian attack on the village in 1780.

The topography of the area was originally that of a broad, open fieId sloping gradually toward the river bluff. A description of the northern riverfront in 1804 describes it as "a perpendicular limestone bluff from the present location of Poplar Street north to the Rocky Branch, a distance of more than two miles." The top of the bluff was level with the present First Street, about forty feet above the normal river stage. A towpath in the sand at the foot of the bluff was used for the cordelling of keel boats during low river stages.

The most prominent early day landmark in this vicinity was the Big Mound at the northeast corner of Broadway and Mound Street. It was about 30 feet high and about 150 feet long from north to south. At the time of its removal in 1869, it was found to be an Indian burial mound. It was the largest of about a dozen mounds in a riverfront area extending southward to Biddle Street. General William H. Ashley built his country home atop one of these, another was used as a reservoir for the first city waterworks at the foot of Dickson Street in 1835. A recreation summer resort called Vauxhall Gardens was built atop the Big Mound in the 182O's. There were three terraces down to the river's edge east of the mounds and it is believed that they were used as approaches for religious ceremonies. It was from these mounds that St. Louis received its sobriquet "The Mound City".

Image - Drawing of the "big mound" at the corner of Broadway and Mound St.