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Proposed: City/County Divide
4 May 2015
Published To

On August 22, 1876, St. Louis City and County residents voted on a new Missouri Constitution that included a clause that would effectively separate St. Louis City from the County. The motivation for this action came from city residents, who did not want to help pay taxes for the County and who did not believe that the city would expand any further West. After the Constitution reportedly did not pass by a margin of 100 votes, accusations of fraud were made, and a recount was demanded. Finally, the Missouri Supreme Court announced on April 26, 1877, that the clause had passed, and that the City was officially seceding from the County. This split is referred to as The Great Divorce.

However, it quickly became evident that this was not a beneficial split. The Westward expansion of the St. Louis metropolitan area, aided by the creation of Boulevards, such as Delmar and Page, caused the population in St. Louis city to decrease significantly as people (and the tax base) chose to move west into the County. Today, much of the biggest business and wealth resides in the County, along with jobs and revenue. The relationship between the City and the County can often be described as competitive. There have been many efforts to reunite St. Louis City and St. Louis County, but each attempt has been shut down by County or City voters. There are currently non-profits, such as BetterTogetherSTL, that lobby for reunification, as well as academics from schools such as UMSL. Although Mayor Francis Slay has been pushing for St. Louis to be incorporated as the County’s 91st municipality, it is unlikely that these two domains will reunite anytime soon.

It is often very clear when one passes from St. Louis City to St. Louis County. In the photo above, one notices simply the difference in the pavement. This photo was taken on Canterbury Avenue, which runs East-West through Maplewood into the City. Once in the city, the pavement appears rougher and is obviously not as well kept as that in the County. This is why the city/county divide should have a metaphorical cake. Although the divide did not occur in or affect one location, this is an important aspect of St. Louis history that should be acknowledged, as it continues to affect St. Louis today.

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