Metro East

People on the Missouri side of the river have always treated the Metro East as the black sheep of the family, despite its rich history and role as the home for at least 500,000 residents. Towns such as East St. Louis, Granite City or Belleville have long been bustling cities when most suburbs in Missouri did not exist or were only small farming towns. Industry dominates the Metro East in what is known as the American Bottoms, below the bluffs where there are now more affluent communities. Once the site of the largest stockyards in the world in National City, its demise perhaps best illustrates how the area’s industrial wealth may be past. But there is still plenty to explore.

East St. Louis

East St. Louis surely has seen better days; most of the city does not even consist of abandoned buildings but rather dense forest and undergrowth. It is hard to imagine in some places that a thriving city once existed here. But there are still surprises, beautiful architecture, and intact streets in portions of the city. Surely its rebirth will happen some day; it is far too close to downtown to be irrelevant forever.

Read about East St. Louis; see it on the map

National Stockyards

The National Stockyards was once one of the busiest sites for the transfer of cattle, hogs and other livestock in the nation, if not world. As meat packing moved west in the Twentieth Century, the stockyards and their old packing houses were left behind. Swift, Morris, Armour and Hunter all once operated meat packing plants in the yards. Nowadays, very little is left, and the town of National City, incorporated to avoid the taxes of East St. Louis, was disbanded in the 1990’s. The whole area has recently been altered forever by the building of the new Mississippi River Bridge; vacant land that once held cattle pens now await redevelopment.

Read about the Stockyards; see it on the map

Armour Meatpacking Plant


One of the packing plants in the National Stockyards, Armour Meat Packing Plant employed 4,000 workers at its height. It was a massive building, even in a state of severe deterioration and demolition. Its twin smokestacks dominated the area, and its forgotten machinery in the interior was legendary. It was imploded and demolished in the spring and summer of 2016.

Read about Armour; see it on the map

Hunter Meatpacking Plant


Hunter, the youngest of the meat packing plants in the stockyards, still exists as a company, and its plant was the last to close. The building has been demolished, and now only photographs can convey its huge scale.

Read about Hunter; see it on the map


Founded by St. Louisan Rufus Easton and named after his son, Alton was an important river town that featured prominently in the history of abolition when Elijah P. Lovejoy, exiled from St. Louis, died defending his printing press from a pro-slavery mob. The city also boasts a beautiful downtown and residential neighborhoods that stretch along steep hills and tall bluffs, making one wonder if this could have been another major metropolis near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

Read about Alton; see it on the map.


East St. Louis and Belleville 110

Belleville is the county seat of St. Clair County, and also the center of a Roman Catholic diocese. Its history stretches back into the early Nineteenth Century, and its robust and interesting housing stock reflects its proud heritage.

Read about Belleville; see it on the map.


Collinsville sits high on the bluffs overlooking the ancient city of Cahokia, which is technically within the city limits of the town. A bustling downtown, anchored by the Miners’ Institute Building still preserves many history buildings.

Read about Collinsville, see it on the map.

Granite City

North City and Granite City 043

Granite City Steel, founded by the Niedringhaus family (whose eponymous avenue defines the street gird), has always dominated the life of Granite City, named after its granitewear product. Now owned by US Steel, the company still sits right in the middle of town, and it can be seen from all parts of the city. The downtown, sadly, is decimated and largely vacant, the businesses moved out to the “suburban” portion of Granite City on Nameoki Road.

Read about Granite City; see it on the map

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Chuck Kottke says:

    Great Photos of great old architecture! My great uncle John Jung owned a bakery somewhere in or near East St. Louis, sad to see how things have crumbled so over time, much as has happened all over the upper Midwest. People left the older parts of the cities for many reasons, whether the owners all decided to pack up and start afresh or whether it was competition, trade policies, etc., perhaps now is the time when we need to regain control of our government, and instead of allowing the cycle of build-up to abandonment, we make it advantageous to renovate or recycle older areas, saving the best architecture and quality structures, keeping more stability in employment regionally, and structuring transportation so that everything flows more smoothly. Seeing that the Greeks are restoring their ancient beautiful monuments, hopefully we can learn from their efforts, and put more pride in civic beauty. Here, I’ve seen old schools collapse in the middle of towns, storefronts abandoned, older malls close – which all seems a shame, as the built environment is best reinvented, restored, or recycled. Driving through Cairo, Il, I thought to myself what opportunity awaits new settlers, if they were given the chance to restore what is still an architecturally stunning town – perhaps if the residents of Cairo, Egypt were allowed the opportunity to live and work there, they would be so delighted to rebuild the city named in honor of their city! Just dreaming…

  2. http://www./ says:

    Even though your foul prepubescent rantings are mildly amusing, your tiny “peepee” mockery is wasted on me. Save it for someone more (or less) qualified.And the proper term is ‘little people”, not midgets.

  3. Stacey Brown says:

    I’d love to see a few words on Lebanon, IL with it’s rich history. I currently live in an 1850 Italianate in Lebanon built as a summer home by the founder of Liggett Tobacco and would be interested to hear any info you may be able to dig up about the place.

    1. cnaffziger says:

      I’ll definitely have to come check the town out at some point!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.