East Saint Louis

East Saint Louis lo͞oˈĭs [key], city (2020 pop. 25,377), St. Clair co., SW Ill., on the Mississippi River opposite St. Louis; inc. 1859. With rapid industrialization after the Civil War, the city was the site of labor unrest and several attempts to form unions, beginning with the successful 1877 railroad strike. In 1896, a major tornado destroyed much of the city and neighboring St. Louis. East St. Louis was also plagued by major race riots in 1917, with white mobs brutally attacking its black population, and some 300 buildings burned. Once a rail and transportation hub with stockyards and warehouses, East St. Louis has suffered serious economic decline; in 1994 Illinois took over financial management of the city government, which remained in effect until 2013. Oil refining, steel, chemicals, glass, and construction materials have all been important industries, but unemployment, population loss, and social problems have wracked the city since the 1960s. A riverboat gambling casino is now a major employer. In the 21st century, there has been some urban renewal ini the city along with a thriving urban gardening movement.

The city was once the site of significant Native American mounds built during the Mississippian period (see Mound Builders), but they were leveled as the city grew. The first European settlement here was in 1765. Cahokia Creek was bridged in 1795, and a ferry across the Mississippi began operation shortly thereafter. East St. Louis was plagued by devastating floods until its first dike was completed in 1909. Just northeast are the Cahokia Mounds. A second site was discovered in 2012 where an estimated 1000 homes were located and a pyramid mound.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: U.S. Political Geography