St. Louis Street emerged from a farm road that began in 1809. Fifty some years later the farm road became Fairground Road and, in the 1890’s, the road developed into today’s historic St. Louis Street, a street known for its large old trees and lovely historic homes.
The story of St. Louis Street began when John Lusk came to Edwardsville from Golconda, Illinois and pitched his tent at the end of today’s St. Louis Street. In 1809 he married Lucretia Gillham and together they built their double log cabin on land that is now Woodlawn Gardens. Their first child, Alfred, was born in the log cabin. The Lusks created the trail that became the farm road for the farmers who built log cabins along the way to the original town of Edwardsville.
Edwardsville grew. By 1817, a courthouse, a jail, several mills, two general stores and a land grant office were all situated on Main Street. The Edwardsville settlement was on the land grant Thomas Kirkpatrick had purchased from Revolutionary War veteran, Pierre Lejoy. The Land Grant Office was located in Pogue’s store [today’s Rusty’s] that handled the sale of government land that attracted land speculators, settlers, lawyers, doctors and other eager young men who came to seek their fortune on the new frontier. This growth did not affect the farm road leading to the log cabins of John Lusk and other farmers who lived along the trail.
An agricultural community developed during the mid 1800’s that did have an effect on the farm road leading to Lusk’s log cabin. The development of various mills and the growth of orchards, corn, flax, castor beans, wheat, melons and flourmills brought about the creation of The Madison County Agricultural Society. The Society bought land for fairgrounds that brought about the construction of sheds, cattle pens and stalls for the first county fair held in 1855. A racetrack was included later and the farm exhibitions were held annually for the next twenty years. The land purchased for the fairgrounds was at the site John and Lucretia Lusk had pitched their tent and built their log cabin in 1809. The farm road was named Fairgrounds Road.
In 1858, banker Edward West and Judge David Gillespie each built homes on acreage off the newly named Fairgrounds Road. Within fifteen years West and Gillespie divided their land as gifts to their children or sold it to friends.
The biggest change for Fairgrounds Road came in 1883. As one passes along St. Louis Street today, it becomes obvious that areas on the north side of the street were developed differently than on the south side. The south side reflects a period in Edwardsville’s history when the wealthy landowners built their homes away from the street on several acres of land. Around this time many of these large land holdings on Fairgrounds Road began to break up as the owner gifted or sold parcels of their land.
It was in 1883, when Judge Joseph Gillespie and others subdivided their land holdings on the north side of Fairgrounds Road and held a giant sale of lots. These lots were spaced close to each other and for this reason, there was a difference in the development of the north and south side of St. Louis Street.
The town of Edwardsville experienced growth and prosperity beginning in the 1870’s that continued for several decades. During the 1880’s and 1890’s, many two and three-story brick business buildings were built on Main Street. Many of the prosperous merchants and businessmen chose to build their homes on fashionable St. Louis Street. Queen Anne style was their architectural preference.
The year 1892 brought improvements to our street, which was now called St. Louis Street. This street and many others in Edwardsville were macadamized [oil and chip]. In 1895 the local newspaper mentions a proposal to pave the street with brick. The proposal speaks of a road 30 feet wide with sidewalks 5 to 6 feet wide.
In 1906 the paper reports that St. Louis Street was paved. The paving material is not named; however, this is the time when brick streets came to Edwardsville, including St. Louis Street.
One of the favorite stories of St. Louis Street is about the McGivern family Bassett Hound, Snoopy. Snoopy had a lot of places to visit in a day and he needed naps. He would stretch out right in the middle of St. Louis Street for his nap! This was in the late 1970’s and you guessed it – the cars would simply go around Snoopy as he napped. Those were the days!!!