Soulard Neighborhood Overview
Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development.
Soulard’s triangular boundaries are defined by 7th Street and Broadway to the Southeast and I-55 to the West and North.
The Soulard neighborhood received its name from Antoine Soulard, a refugee from the French Revolution who arrived in St. Louis in 1794. He married Julia Cerre. The couple acquired the Cerre Farm, as well as more land given to Antoine as a gift for his service during the regime of Governor Carlos Selassus. The widowed Soulard eventually gave two acres to the City for the Soulard Market, as well as more land to Bishop Rosati for the construction of St. Vincent de Paul’s Church. The City did not purchase the actual Soulard area until 1841. It was during this time that development occurred rapidly to the south of St. Louis. Country estates were developed by Gabriel Cerre, Benito Vasquez, Eugene Poure, and the Papin Family. Immigrants that settled in the area lived in row or "half" houses. The earliest homes in the area were built in Greek Revival style. These were generally farmhouses. Homes built after 1850 were more highly decorated. After the Civil War, many of the large mansions were built. Some these mansions belonged to Max J. Feuerbacher, Dr. Franz Artzt, Thomas Allen, Julia C. Soulard and Benjamin J. Soulard, Adam Lemp, and Eberhard Anheuser.
The first people to settle the area were the French, which is evident from the names of many of the churches and streets, and, most noticeably, the name of the city. Later to arrive were large numbers of German immigrants, mostly during political upheavals in Germany and Bohemia in 1848. Other immigrants that arrived were Syrian, Hungarian, Croatian, Italian, Serbian, Irish, Slovak, and Czech. The nickname for the area soon became Bohemian Hill because of the large number of Eastern European immigrants. The principle industry in the area was the production of beer. Natural caves beneath Soulard provided ideal locations for storing beer during summer. There were more than 50 breweries in the mid-1800s, some of which included Eberhard Anheuser’s Bavarian, Adam Lemp’s Western, Arsenal, Anthony and Huhn’s, Excelsior, Green Tree, and English Breweries. The only remaining brewery is Anheuser-Busch.
The first Soulard Market building was erected in the 1840s and was enlarged in 1865. Farmers from all over the area traveled to town to sell their products. It was sold to the City in 1867 and continued in use until 1896, when a tornado destroyed the Soulard Market, as well as many of the surrounding buildings and churches. The present building was constructed in 1929 in the Italian Renaissance style by city architect Albert Osbury. The Soulard Market is said to have been inspired by the Florentine Hospital designed by the Renaissance sculptor and architect, Filippo Brunelleschi.
The earliest activity in the area was along the riverfront. It provided close proximity to the City’s central area and facilities for shipping by steamboat. The St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad (now Missouri Pacific) was built along the riverfront in the mid-1850s. More industrial development ensued rapidly, including the Helmbacher Forge and Rolling Mill, Home Cotton Mill, St. Louis Woodenward Works, and St. Louis Cotton Compress Company. The major thoroughfare through Soulard was Carondelet Avenue (later named Broadway), running parallel with the Mississippi River. It was here that commercial activity originated. Public markets were located in or near the Soulard Market. Another farmers’ market flourished in Frenchtown, near Carondelet Avenue and Chouteau, well into the twentieth century. Horsecar lines allowed commercial and business districts to proliferate. Many new businesses, shops, and other facilities began to spring up in more residential area. One of the first major horsecar lines ran from Carondelet Avenue to Russell to 12th Street to Gravois.
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