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National City Stockyards
30 Apr 2014
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National City Stockyards were founded in 1871 by a group of railroad men, livestock operators, and financiers prominent in the St. Louis area. Built to rival Chicago’s famous Union Stock Yards, National City’s stockyard complex was built with over 100 acres of wooden holding pens, and was able to accommodate up to 15,000 heads of cattle, 10,000 sheep, and 20,000 hogs at a time. National City was incorporated by Illinois as a company town in 1873; as the first industrial suburb outside of East St. Louis, National City set an example for other major local industries, such as the chemical industry that formed in Sauget, and oil refining in Roxana. The stockyards opened for business in November of 1873, transferring and holding stock being moved across the country from the West to supply east coast consumers.

National City Stockyards experienced immense success due to its optimal location in the Midwest and proximity to a central railroad area. The development of sophisticated railroad networks in the nineteenth century led a small number of livestock markets located near railroad hubs to take control of the livestock and meatpacking industries, mitigating the need for local stockyards; National City was one of the stockyards that rose to prominence. Due to National City’s enormous processing volume, large packinghouses such as Swift, Armour, Hunters, and Circle purchased swaths of land surrounding the stockyards. On these properties, animals were butchered before being transported. During the stockyards’ peak year in 1947, National City processed 1,860,000 cattle, in addition to other types of livestock.

However, National City’s productivity took a downturn soon after, as a national shift from railroad-based to truck-based shipping rendered the stockyard’s location no longer advantageous. Additionally, unionization caused the decentralization of stockyards and movement of packinghouses to rural communities where workers were less likely to unionize. Beginning in the 1960s, National City’s packinghouses closed their doors; the last packinghouse closed in 1986. Following the same trend, the stockyards went from employing 100 full-time workers in 1971 to only 34 in 1990. Due to the rapid shrinkage in National City’s livestock and meatpacking industries, in April of 1996, the National Stockyards Company ordered National City’s 50 remaining residents to leave. The Board of Saint Clair County ordered the town dissolved in 1997, despite appeals from private citizens, and the town of Fairmont City annexed the site in 1999.

Attempts are presently being made to revitalize the area around National City through construction of a golf course and motorsports park to the east. Additionally, the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, connecting the border area of Brooklyn and National City to St. Louis, Missouri, was completed in February 2014 and is expected to bring more traffic to the National City area. However, despite these efforts, National City stands today as an almost entirely uninhabited ghost town of abandoned factories, reminders of the area’s previously booming industry.

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