One of the largest cities in the Midwest, St. Louis, Missouri, is a regional economic hub, home to a population estimated to be more than 350,000 as of 2008. The city has a long and rich history, and was once the fourth largest city in the U.S., though it has now slipped much further. In its heyday of the early 20th century, the city was home to the 1904 World's Fair and the Olympics Game during that same year, marking the first time they had ever been held in the Western Hemisphere and marking a great achievement for the still growing U.S. To navigate the city today, residents and visitors can take one of the cities regional and downtown buses, or itsMetrolink light rail system, which has more than 45 miles.
St. Louis was founded in 1763 by colonial French traders just south of the spots where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers meet. The traders named the city for King Louis IX of France. It was once part of the Spanish Empire, but in 1800 the area that makes up the city was transferred back to France, and the country's leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, sold the area to the United States in 1803. The city broke apart from St. Louis County in 1876, and has been an independent city since. It makes up an area of more than 66 square miles, with four square miles containing water, and it is broken up into 79 government-designated neighborhoods. There are 92 public schools run by the St. Louis Public School District, and countless private schools. Notable colleges here include Saint Louis University, Washington University in St. Louis and Columbia College. Best known for its famous arch that overlooks the city, St. Louis is also famous for its music scene, particularly blues and ragtime, its beer industry and for its theater offerings. The arch was built in 1965 as part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and is now the city's icon. Anheuser -Busch, maker of Budweiser beer, was notably started and still runs many breweries in the city. There are a number of smaller, independent breweries as well. Theater offerings in St. Louis include the likes of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the St. Louis Black Repertory Theater Company, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, an annual summer festival featuring English-language operas. There are more than 80 theater and dance companies in the city as well.