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St. Louis: Gateway to the Midwest

Written by Courtney Ronan on Sunday, 03 January 1999 6:00 pm

St. Louis has long been considered the gateway to the Midwest, a status confirmed by the great Arch that towers above the city skyline. It was once the center of civilization in an otherwise unsettled territory. Today, however, it's a sprawling metropolitan center with multiple suburbs. Its combined population, including the St. Louis greater metropolitan area, is approximately 2,600,000; St. Louis proper has approximately 375,000 residents. Six million visitors pay homage each year to the Show Me State's most acclaimed city.

Because St. Louis doesn't receive as much media attention as other major U.S. cities, you might be surprised to learn that the city is the sixth-largest Fortune 500 headquarters city in the nation. Some of the city's key corporate players include Anheuser-Busch, Emerson Electric, Boeing (formerly McDonnell-Douglas), Ralston Purina and Trans World Airlines (TWA). According to recent figures, the average cost of a single-family home in St. Louis is an affordable $103,000, compared to the national average of $143,000. Needless to say, relocating families from the East and West coasts are pleasantly surprised to find that they can afford much more home than they bargained for in St. Louis. Combined city and state sales tax is 6.6 percent (state tax is 4.225 percent; city tax is 1.775 percent).

St. Louis lives up to the Midwest's reputation for brutally cold winters. Average annual snowfall in St. Louis is 20 inches, and winter temperatures range anywhere from 55 degrees (high) to below zero. Summer temperatures are fickle, ranging from 57 degrees to 90 degrees, depending upon the whims of Mother Nature. St. Louis finds itself the unlikely recipient of harsh storms throughout the year. Powerful thunderstorms, high winds and excessive moisture are quite common. Average annual rainfall in St. Louis is 38 inches.

Among the city's points of interest are the Missouri Botanical Garden . The gardens, located about 35 miles southeast of St. Louis in a town called Gray Summit, include the Shaw Arboretum, an extension which includes 2,500 acres of natural landscape from the Ozarks, as well as various plant collections. In addition to providing a forum for ecological research, the Gardens hold a series of educational programs throughout the year for nature lovers of all ages.

St. Louis is well-known for its parks. Whether your interests lie in boating, fishing, rollerblading or just watching the world go by, you'll find a spot that suits your tastes. Among the city's vast array of parks is Forest Park, a 1,300-acre piece of land comprised of woods, gardens, lakes, a statuary, tennis courts, several miles of trails, boating, and an ice rink. Forest Park is also home to the St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Zoological Park, Jefferson Memorial Missouri History Museum and the St. Louis Science Center. Another noteworthy spot is Tower Grove, the largest Victorian walking park in the United States. Tower Grove is registered as a National Historic Landmark. In addition to gazebos, a statuary and fountains, the park holds picnic areas and a dazzling display of flowers, plants and trees. Outdoor concerts are held here each summer.

Of course, you can't miss the St. Louis Gateway Arch. The Arch is exactly twice the height of the Statue of Liberty. Its tram is an elevator of sorts that carries visitors to an observation deck at the top of the Arch.

Something else you may not know about St. Louis: It's filled with historic homes that were once home to some of Missouri's most distinguished families. Today, these homes are open to the public. They include the Campbell House Museum; the Cupples House, a 42-room Romanesque Revival-style mansion made of an unusual combination pink Missouri granite and Colorado sandstone; the Daniel Boone Home & Boonesfield Village; the DeMenil Mansion & Museum; the Eugene Field House & St. Louis Toy Museum; General Daniel Bissell House; the nation's first military post west of the Mississippi River; the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (White Haven); Hawken House; Historic Hanley House; and many others.

If a relocation to St. Louis is in your future, you've got a lot of choices. For an online tour of St. Louis' most popular suburban communities, head to St. Louis Realtor Janet McAfee's Web site. Its thorough descriptions make the site an excellent resource for anyone faced with the difficult challenge of finding a home in an unfamiliar city.

Read Additional: Community Profiles

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