Points of Interest

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Bloody Island         Eads Bridge        National Stockyards        Lake Park 

Jones Park   Municipal Bridge


 1. BLOODY ISLAND and the EADS BRIDGE. Broadway and Front Streets. (To the left from this point on the river front, the Municipal Bridge may be viewed.)

Bloody Island which, arose as a small sandbar in the river opposite St. Louis in 1800, was subsequently joined to East St. Louis by Robert E. Lee in 1838 The site begins at approximately the eastern tip of the approach of the Bade Bridge and extends a half mile North and South.

This tract, now occupied by railroad tracks and freight houses, was once an island, densely screened by thick underbrush and groves of cotton-wood trees. Within its secluded shores, duels, cock-fights, and illegal boxing bouts regularly took place during the first quarter of the 19th-Century. Dueling pistols barked frequently on the island, and among the prominent St. Louisians slain were Charles Lucas, Joshua Barton, U.S. District Attorney, Maj. Thomas Biddle, and Hon. Spencer Pettis.

The duel fought by the last two named, occurred on August 27, 1830, and exceeded all others in ferocity. Spencer Pettis, while electioneering during the senatorial canvass of 1830, attacked the president of the United States Bank, Nicholas Biddle, in a campaign speech'. His remarks were immediately taken up by Major Thomas Biddle, paymaster in the U.S. Amy and brother to Nicholas, who went to the hotel of the Congressman and cow-hided Pettis as he lay sick in bed. Subsequently, Pettis, having been reelected to Congress by a large majority, issued a challenge which the Major promptly accepted. Major Biddle, having the choice of distance by being the challenged person, fixed it at five paces because of his short-sightedness. At dawn, the men met on Bloody Island, their pistols almost touching -- so near they stood -- and both were struck at the first exchange.

Spencer Pettis died the following day and Major Biddle three days later.

After passing through the cobble-stoned street before the freight houses, it is suggested that the tourist turn left on reaching Front Street, and travel approximately 75 yards to an underpass, paralleling Front Street (R), that leads to the levee. Watch out for trains!

The underpass emerges on a cobble-stoned wharf where once the ferry boats landed. An excellent view of the river and the St. Louis skyline in presented at this point. To the right is the massive Eads Bridge, named for the famous engineer, James Eads.

Started in 1869 and completed in 1874, the Eads Bridge was the first to be built of steel, and spanned bracing. Referred to by the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1875 as "the finest example of a metal arch yet erected." The bridge was the wonder of the day.

To the engineers of 1869, the depth, strength, and width of the Mississippi

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at St. Louis presented engineering problems for which there was no precedent. A truss bridge was at first proposed but Eads maintained that the weight of the superstructure and the immense burden on the piers would be impractical, and the plans for a truss-bridge were discarded. Eads insisted that steel arches of the same length as the proposed trusses would be much lighter and cheaper. His plans were finally adopted and construction of the bridge began.

eadstostlou1930.jpg (44525 bytes) The great piers were sunk to bed-rock by means of metal caissons, one of which, the deepest submarine work ever attempted at that date, was sunk 100 feet below the surface of the river.  In the dense atmosphere of the caissons, a candle snuffed out would immediately relight because of the air heavily charged with oxygen. 

Of the 352 "sandhogs" working in the air chambers, 12 were killed in the course of construction. Two abutment piers were built on which were set three arches, 502, 502 and 530 ft. in length.

When the bridge was almost finished, it was discovered that, through a misjudgment of the contractors, the central tubes supposed to close the middle arch, were 2 inches too long. Ead's assistants labored frantically for hours trying to shrink the tubing by ice applications. The problem was finally solved by Eads. Following his instructions, the tubes were cut in half and a portion removed. They were then rejoined by a plug with right and left screws, and at last. On July 4, 1874, the bridge was formally opened.


2. NATIONAL STOCKYARDS, First and St. Clair Streets.

To the casual visitor, the yards are a nightmare of sounds ranging from angry bellows, mournful lowings, and the contralto squeals of condemned pigs. Above the tumult rises the sharp cries of cattlemen as they shunt the droves into run-ways and chutes. The air is heavy with dust and charged with the earthy odor of the barnyard. It is at once remindful of the farm, the cowboy, and the far West.

When opened in 1874, the stockyards were heralded as the largest in the country. They have since been surpassed by other yards, but today they still ranks as the largest horse and mule market in the United States. The stockyards has a daily capacity for 5,000 horses and mules, 25,000 sheep, 25,000 cattle, and 50,000 pigs. Hundreds of cattle churn in the endless rows and of pens, waiting to be shipped to eastern markets, or to be slaughtered at one of the several large packing companies nearby.

Two of the largest packing companies Swift & Co. and Armour & Co., employ special guides to conduct tourists through the plants. Swift & Co. hours: 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., l:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. Armour & Co. hours:. 9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 2:00 p.m. armour.tif (86294 bytes)

The tour conducted by Swift & Co. approximating that of Amour & Co., begins in the beef-boning department and then moves on to the beef-cooling department where some 5,000 sides of beef are suspended at a room temperature of 45. Next, mounting two flights of stairs, the visitor is conducted across the roof of the refrigeration room to the "killing floor", where the cattle are dispatched by a blow of a five-pound sledge, decapitated, disembowled, and partially skinned. Passing from the "killing floor", the tour is concluded after and inspection of the sheep-cleaning department, the wrapping department, the bacon department, the smokehouse, and the loading dock. The tour lasts one hour.

Click here to read about the National Stockyards from an employee's perspective


3.  LAKE PARK, 42nd St. and Lake Drive. (Hrs: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.)

Formerly a mosquito-ridden swamp and dumping ground, the 1,120 acres were acquired by the East St. Louis Park Board in 1929 and converted into an elaborate park. Within the grounds are three lakes for fishing, swimming and boating; a 9-mile bridle path; an 18-hole championship golf course, picnic grounds, athletic fields, and tennis courts.

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The fish hatchery, which supplies the Jones Lagoon and the east side of Lake Park, is located at 59th St. and Lake Drive.


4.  JONES PARK, 25th St. and Caseyville Ave. (Hrs: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.)

Long an intra-city recreational center, Jones Park has 6 athletic fields, 10 tennis courts (no fees), a lagoon for boating (25 cents per hour), extensive children’s playgrounds, a public picnic ground and a large outdoor swimming pool (no fee). It is suggested that the tourist turn right from 25th St., at the replica of a shattered tree stump, on to Argonne Drive, continuing past the ornate flower beds, and stop at the parking grounds (R) opposite the grandstand. Immediately south of the parking lot lies a lily pool inset among Lombardy poplars. At night the scalloped surface of the pool is lighted by vari-colored rays that combine to make this park the most beautiful in the city. Bullfrogs squat at the edge of the pool and large goldfish coast among the blossoming lilies.

jones.tif (103064 bytes) A short distance from the lily pond are the picnic grounds and a small aviary containing white doves and several varieties of pheasants. Bordering the lagoon and north of the picnic grounds stands the pavilion where band concerts are presented on Sunday evenings in the summer. The boathouse, where canoes and rowboats are rented, is located on the ground floor.

Arranged in geometric exactness beside the winding gravelled walks are numerous beds of scarlet cannas. The flowers throughout the park are profuse and strikingly arranged.


5.  MUNICIPAL BRIDGE, 10th and Piggott. (Toll: 10 for private cars, 15 for commercial cars.)

Although not so picturesque as the neighboring Eads Bridge, the huge steel framework of the Municipal Bridge bears approximately seventy percent of the traffic traveling between St. Louis and East St. Louis. Throughout the day and well into the night, an apparently endless queue of trucks and automobiles rumbles across its asphalt-covered decks. The bridge is the largest spanning the Mississippi and "one of the largest double-deck, steel, span bridges in the world"

The economic causes which resulted in the construction of the Municipal Bridge were an outgrowth of the commercial combats which, historically, had been waged for control of the transportational facilities which linked St. Louis with the east. Pitched battles had been fought in each era for control of ferries, railroads, and more recently, the bridges. By 1905 a group of fourteen railroads known as the Terminal Railroad Association dominated the field with ownership of the two bridges entering St. Louis: the Merchants Bridge and the Eads Bridge. On the Illinois side of the river lay rich coal beds which were essential to the industrial production of St. Louis. But on each ton of coal entering St. Louis by the Merchants or the Eads Bridge, the Terminal Railroad Association levied a toll of twenty cents.

To avoid the toll, incoming manufacturers spurned locations in St. Louis and choose sites on the Illinois side of the river. Indeed, several of the smaller towns near East St. Louis can ascribe their development to the toll on coal. It soon became evident to the city of St. Louis that its economic growth would be stunted unless passage across the river could be wrested from the hands of private owners.

The simplest way to break the grip of the Terminal Railroad Association was to erect another bridge. Thus, on June 25, 1906 a bill providing for the construction of a Municipal Bridge at St. Louis was passed by Congress. A year later work on the western approach of the proposed structure began, and the final plans, approved by the War Department, were submitted on May 20, 1909.

When it became certain that a municipal bridge was to be erected, the Terminal Railroad Association offered to lease the highway deck of the Eads Bridge to St. Louis. The city refused to compromise, however, and construction work, save for delays caused by financial problems, steadily progressed. Whereupon, in complete rout, the Terminal Railroad Association adjusted rates so that freight originating more than one hundred miles away could enter St. Louis without paying an additional charge.

On June 20, 1917, the highway deck of the new bridge was opened to the public. As part of the ceremonies, a truck drove across the bridge, carrying the first ton of coal to enter St. Louis toll free in twenty-five years. Despite its official name, Municipal Bridge, the structure was instantly renamed "the Free Bridge" by local residents.

The bridge, almost two miles long and constructed of 61,000 tons of steel, cost the city of St. Louis slightly more than six million dollars. The main span is 668 feet long and 219 feet above the low-water mark of the Mississippi.

In comparing the Eads and the Municipal Bridge it will be seen that use value and aesthetic value are pleasantly counter-balanced in the one, while in the other use value outweighs secondary considerations. The Eads is a graceful membrane; the Municipal is a grim skeleton. The Eads soars lightly across from shore to shore, while the Municipal plods and lumbers on the water. In fairness to the engineers, it should be noted that the Municipal Bridge was built to conform with a physical environment far more complex than that which existed when the Eads Bridge was constructed. The Eads Bridge linked the east and the west; the Municipal Bridge linked Illinois and Missouri.

Reference: St. Louis Globe-Democrat, January 20, 1917.


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