The earliest industrial activity in the near south side area began in the 1830's along or near the riverfront. It was a convenient area for business due to its proximity to the central area of the city and its location near the riverfront provided facilities for shipping by steamboat and later by railroad. Many of the proprietors lived near their businesses and the immigrant population, which settled nearby, furnished a ready labor source.
As mentioned previously, one of the principal industries was the brewing of beer. The natural caves which underlie the Soulard area provided an ideal cool storage place for beer in the summer, when brewers used ice, taken from the river in winter, to augment the underground coolness of the caves. Anheuser Busch is the only survivor of the many breweries which flourished in Soulard during the late nineteenth century.
Construction of the St. Louis and Iron Moutain Railroad (now Missouri Pacific) along the southern riverfront in the mid-1850's, gave a great impetus to industrial development along its line. By 1875, such substantial industries as the Helmbacher Forge and Rolling Mill, at Lami and DeKalb Streets; the Home Cotton Mill, at Second Street and Barton; the St. Louis Woodenward Works, at the foot of Anna Street; and the St. Louis Cotton Compress Company, along Main Street from Rutger to Miller, gave evidence of the importance of the railroad to industrial progress. Further south was the Tudor Iron Works at the foot of Arsenal Street, while the Sectional Dock Company at the foot of Lesperance Street did a thriving drydock business.
Another large operation in this sector was the Factors' and Brokers' Cotton Compressing Company which occupied the entire city block from Geyer to Soulard and from Second to DeKalb Streets. West of Carondelet Avenue, one of the largest industries was the St. Louis Cotton Factory on the west side of Menard Street from Lafayette to Soulard. Other industries in the area included plants producing tobacco products, matches, stoneware, lime kilns, flour mills and ice houses.
The Soulard area today is the home of some of the city's largest industrial plants, in addition to Anheuser-Busch, there are the John F. Queeny Plant of the Monsanto Company, the Nooter Boiler Corporation, A.C.F. Industries, the Visinet Mill of Bemis, Inc. and the Welsh Baby Carriage Company.
Commercial activities in the Soulard area originated along Carondelet Avenue' which was later renamed South Broadway. Public markets were located at the Soulard Market place and a farmer's type market flourished in Frenchtown, near Broadway and Chouteau until well into the twentieth century. Stores of various types located at street corners throughout the area as a natural attribute to its urbanization. Horse car lines later caused commercial development along their routes, as along Russell, Twelfth and Gravois. The development of the Kosciusko Urban Renewal Area in the 1960's led to a new commercial concentration along old South Broadway, about the Manufacturers Bank and Trust Company.