Missouri 1st District
For a century or more, St. Louis seemed the center of America: the starting point for the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804, the locus half a century later of the Dred Scott slavery case, and the site of the 1904 World’s Fair, which introduced the hot dog and the ice cream cone and got 19 million people to Meet Me in St. Louis. Its 630-foot-high Gateway Arch is just below the point where the waters of the Missouri surge into the Mississippi, about halfway between New Orleans and Lake Superior, between the Atlantic and the Pacific. This first major American city west of the Mississippi River was the final resting place of Daniel Boone and for many years was Chicago’s rival as the transportation hub of America. In 1904, St. Louis already had the Eads Bridge, one of America’s first suspension bridges; the Wainwright Building, one of Louis Sullivan’s first skyscrapers; and Union Station, the world’s largest passenger train station when it opened in 1894. Some 600,000 people lived then in densely packed brick houses on street grids radiating outward from downtown. This was a heavily German city, with a Teutonic solidity and orderliness that distinguished it from the surrounding Southern-accented rural terrain. And from Mitteleuropa came the founders of St. Louis’s great businesses—the Anheuser-Busch brewery, May Company department stores, Joseph Pulitzer’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch—and its first great politician, Carl Schurz, the senator and Interior secretary. There is almost a European aura to Forest Park, the site of the 1904 fair, and the dozen mansion-lined private streets nearby.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
St. Louis is still one of the nation’s 20 largest metro areas, but today it does not occupy as central a place in the national consciousness, and the central city itself has largely emptied out. The German order that made so many people comfortable living in close quarters and commuting by streetcar has yielded to an American desire for suburban spaces and the less restrictive automobile. St. Louis’ population peaked at 856,000 in 1950; it was down to 353,500 in 2008, far less than the 1 million inhabitants of suburban St. Louis County. Downtown St. Louis has been spruced up admirably: the Gateway Arch was finished in 1965; Union Station has been redeveloped; Laclede’s Landing and the former garment district are stocked with shops; and a new Busch Stadium opened with a panoramic view of the Arch and downtown. But most of St. Louis’s old factories have closed, and many of its once tight neighborhoods are only a memory. A sign of the times: In October 2008, the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame near Busch Stadium closed and moved to an Arlington, Texas, entertainment district. A bigger local concern was the takeover of local icon Anheuser-Busch by Belgium-based InBev, even though the company said it would use St. Louis, with a reduced workforce, as its North American headquarters.
Missouri’s congressional districts have followed the people out of St. Louis, where the Democratic organization has been weakened by the loss of patronage and by state approval of term limits. The 1st District has been historically based on the north side of the city, but now three-fourths of its residents live in suburban St. Louis County. The district includes St. Louis City north of Interstate 44, and the northern and some central portions of St. Louis County. It takes in all of the predominantly African-American suburbs north of the city, including Bellefontaine Neighbors, Ferguson, Spanish Lake, and Black Jack. It also includes working-class St. Ann and Bridgeton and, west of the city, parts of the affluent suburbs of University City, Ladue and Creve Coeur. The district is half African American, but blacks account for far more than half the votes in Democratic primaries. Barack Obama in November 2008 won the city 84%-16%. More telling was that he won St. Louis County, with more than triple the turnout, 60%-40%. In 2004, John Kerry won the county, 54%-45%.