St. Louis in the 1970s: A Photo Journey Through Time

The 1970s was a time of change and growth for St. Louis. The unmistakable scent of toasted ravioli wafting through the air, the sound of Cardinals fans cheering on their team at Busch Stadium, and the hypnotic hum of disco music emanating from clubs lining the streets – these were the sights, sounds, and smells that defined life in St. Louis during that era.

In the 1970s, St. Louis was a city in transition. The Gateway Arch was barely a decade old, a stunning 630-foot monument to westward expansion. It had already become the city’s defining landmark, beckoning visitors to explore the revitalized riverfront and the Old Courthouse, integral to the Dred Scott case. Meanwhile, the construction of the ill-fated Pruitt-Igoe housing complex, which was eventually demolished in the mid-70s, served as a stark reminder of the city’s struggles with urban decay and segregation.

The city’s sports scene was a significant source of pride for its residents. The beloved St. Louis Cardinals, led by Hall of Famer Lou Brock, kept fans on their seats as they clinched the National League pennant in 1971 and 1973. The football Cardinals, affectionately known as the “Big Red,” also enjoyed success during the decade, making the playoffs three times.

The 70s also saw the emergence of a thriving music scene in St. Louis. We were lucky enough to be home to the legendary Mississippi River Festival, an annual summer event held on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. There, music lovers from all walks of life gathered to enjoy performances by the likes of The Who, The Eagles, and Elton John. In the city’s many clubs and bars, disco fever was in full swing, with patrons twirling beneath the glimmering disco balls to the beats of Gloria Gaynor, Chic, and Donna Summer.

Regarding fashion, St. Louis was no stranger to the decade’s trends. Bell-bottom pants, platform shoes, and polyester shirts were the order of the day, and our local department stores like Famous-Barr and Stix and Baer & Fuller were stocked with the latest styles.

One of my fondest memories of St. Louis in the 1970s is the city’s vibrant street life. During the summer, the wafting smells of BBQ from our neighborhood cookouts filled the air. Neighbors would gather in front yards, sharing food and laughter as children played until the streetlights came on. In the fall, we rake vast leaves, only to have kids joyfully jump in and scatter them again.

Here are some fascinating vintage photos that will take you back to the 1970s in St. Louis. Also check, St. Louis in the 1960s.

#4 Enright Court Apartment Tenants with Ivory Perry, Housing Developer for the Union Sarah Community Cooperation, 1973

#6 AThe St. Louis levee as seen from the top deck of the Admiral Steamboat. The Gateway Arch stands in the background, 1977

#11 A Building At The Corner Of Etzel and Temple, 1970

#14 Demolition work at the old Mound City Ice and Cold Storage Co. building at 9th and Branch Streets will remove a landmark from North St. Louis, 1977

#15 Wyoming St. Residences across from Community Center, looking southwest, 1977

#17 Site of Major New Bank Building In Downtown St. Louis, 1976

#19 The Roofs On The 7100 Block of South Broadway, 1974

#22 Neighborhood Gardens Apartments – Exterior, foreground, 1972

#24 Water-filled Plastic Tubes Reduce Damage On Poplar Street Bridge, 1975

#25 The Jefferson Barracks Bridge To Be Demolished, 1978

#32 Low Apraisal is the Latest Blow For the Troubled Three-Tower Complex On the Riverfront, 1970s

#39 View of the Executive House Apartments from the 4400 block of Laclede Ave, 1975

#40 Black and white photo of Hampton Bank in St. Louis, 1977

#41 Maryland Gardens Apartments – Fairmont Hotel exterior, to be renovated, 1976

#42 Exterior Shot of the Entrance of the Mansion House Apartments, 1972

#43 Exterior Shot of the Entrance of the Mansion House Apartments, 1972

#44 Boatmen’s Bank – Laclede’s Landing Building Plans, 1979

#46 Boatmen’s Bank – Moving Day to Boatmen’s Tower, 1976

#47 Boatmen’s Bank – Boatmen’s Tower Office Building, 1976

#54 A two-lane bridge on Dorsett Road three-quarters of a mile east of Interstate 270 carries a 15 ton weight limit which is not always obeyed, 1977

#55 Bridge Will Be Replaced If Bond Issue Passes, 1977

#57 One of the Signs Supporting Last Year’s St. Louis County Bond Issue, 1977

#59 Corrosion and Deterioration on the McKinley Bridge, 1977. Corrosion and deterioration are evident on older St. Louis bridges spanning the Mississippi River.

#60 Tedious Traffic On The Poplar Street Bridge, 1975

#61 Traffic of the Poplar Street Bridge on the East Side is bottle necked by barricades, 1977

#62 Downtown traffic approaching Poplar Street Bridge and I-55 traffic and traffic exiting from bridge, 1977

#64 Riverbend Apartments, 4718 South Broadway, two blacks south of the intersection of Interstate 55, 1975

#65 The Site For A Proposed State Office Building, 1976

#66 Sherwood Court Apartments, 4501-31 McPherson Ave., 1976

#67 A building deteriorates as the roof begins to fall apart and the inside of the building’s structure can be seen, 1974

#68 Community members stand in front of a neighborhood of abandoned buildings on the 4500 block of Washington, 1971

#69 An abandoned and deteriorated building at the corner of 29th St. and Bond Ave, 1972

#70 Two children search through debris left by a building after it was destroyed, 1970

#73 A building with a candy shop located at the bottom, 1973

#74 Smoke surfaces as the building begins to dismantle, 1972

#75 Groundbreaking ceremonies for an addition to the St. Louis Heart Association’s Daudt Building at 4643 Lindell Bl., 1977

#76 At the corner of Mills and N. Leffingwell a deteriorated, abandoned building sits across from a pile of debris and junk, 1973

#77 A window in the 3300 block of Olive Street, there are either no jobs available or there are no unemployed, 1976

#79 Building at N. Broadway between Olive and Pine Streets, 1977

#81 Closed Illinois Route 3 ramp, looking northwest toward St. Louis, 1975

#82 Traffic flows off the exit ramps of the Poplar Street bridge into downtown St. Louis. East Side approaches to the bridge are under repair, 1977

#83 The Falstaff Brewery building, at Lemp and Shenandoah avenues, has been the site of brewing for 127 years, 1977

#84 Anheuser-Busch Brewery – Truck Crosses Picket Line, 1976

#91 Barriers stop motorists at the 7th Street approach at the MacArthur Bridge, 1979

#92 Cars lie without wheels after derailment on MacArthur Bridge, 1973

#95 Old townhouses were traded for new when Blumeyer was built, 1971

#97 The NL Industries titanium plant, at the River Des Peres and the Mississippi, 1977

#102 Bob’s Delivery Service building at 4066 Shenandoah which was the scene of a St. Louis, 1979

#103 Downtown A.D. Brown Building to be Renovated, 1977

#104 The Beaumont Medical Building, the victim of a low occupancy rate and high utility costs, 1976

#108 The traffic situation on Convention Plaza at about 4:45 p.m. Friday. The photo was taken from the 8th Street pedestrian overpass, looking east, 1978

#109 Convention Plaza just east of 12th Boulevard, 1978

#110 Convention Center Workman and Tour, St. Louis, 1976

#111 Convention Center Construction and Workers, 1976

#112 Landscape-oriented view of 2900 Indiana from the intersection at Pestalozzi, 1977

#113 View down walk which goes around the lagoon, looking northeast, 1977

#114 Alley between James & Victor Sts., looking south, 1977

#116 Anheuser-Busch Brewery from Cherokee Playground, 1977

#118 Arsenal St. past Benton Park, looking East, 1977

#121 Benton Park from Indiana St., looking north, 1977

#122 Cherokee & Salena Sts. Commercial Corner, looking west, 1977

#123 Cherokee Playground from Corner of Utah St. & DeMenil Pl, 1977

#126 Congress St. Residences and Vacant Lot, looking north, 1977

#128 Cushing St. from Falstaff (Lemp) Brewery Parking Lot, looking west, 1977

#132 Landscape-oriented view of Fremont Park looking towards the back alley of the 2800 block of McNair and intersection with Lynch, 1977

#133 Fremont Park, Details (formerly Pontiac Central Park), 1977

#134 Fremont Park, towards Lynch St., looking north (formerly Pontiac Central Park), 1977

#137 Illinois Ave. Residence across from Benton Park, 1977

#140 Jefferson Ave. & Cherokee St., looking east, 1977

#141 Jefferson Ave. down Sidney St., looking west, 1977

#142 Lagoon and Rolling Terrain from high point, looking northeast, 1977

#144 Lami St. Restored Residences, looking east, 1977

#146 Lynch St. Derelict Buildings, across from Fremont Park (formerly known as Pontiac Central), 1977

#148 Salena & Victor Sts. Residence across from Falstaff (Lemp) Brewery, looking northwest, 1977

#149 Senate & Salena Sts. Vacant Lot, looking northeast, 1977

#151 Sidney & Salena Sts. Restaurant, looking west, 1977

#153 Sidney St., south side entrance to residence, looking east, 1977

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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  1. The Arch grounds before the Arch! I can’t believe they tore this down! This would be an amazing neighborhood today even though most of downtown also looked like this and got torn down anyway! I don’t understand the history of American cities in the 20th Century!

  2. It’s odd how little has changed since a lot of these pictures were taken. Like sure, some of them show vast differences, but some of them (outside of the vehicles) look like a current day B&W photo. Which is kind of telling for why we haven’t seen much city improvement since the early 80’s until very recently.