History of Transportation in Maplewood
Follow this link to the poster: Maplewood Transportation: Residents on the Go
As early as the 1800s, settlers from Europe and the Northeast of the United States began to pack their horse-drawn wagons and move west in search of a more lucrative life. Present day Maplewood was on the main route west, which became a popular destination for many early settlers. James Sutton traveled by wagon from New Jersey to St. Louis in hopes of a more successful life. He is accredited for the early shaping of the city when he purchased the southwest section of what was Charles Gratiot's land, in 1826.
With the St. Louis area developing, more people journeyed from the Northeast, on their way to St. Louis. Downtown St. Louis was becoming commercialized and industrialized, which pushed settlers to reside outside of the city. In 1853 the Missouri Pacific Railroad opened the first train west of the Mississippi River. The train route ran from downtown St. Louis to Webster Groves, with a stop just beyond the Sutton's land, at the River des Peres. The implementation of the train made traveling between Maplewood and downtown easier and faster for merchants and farmers.
Near the turn of the century in 1896, the Maplewood's population reached 200. It was this same year that Maplewood welcomed the electric streetcar system. The Manchester Line, built by the St. Louis Meramec Railroad Company, directly connected downtown St. Louis with the Maplewood "Sutton Loop." With transportation progressing, at the turn of the century, "Maplewood Subdivision" had its first train station. Like the train, the electric streetcar simplified the commute, as well as helped the population flourish. Ten years after the first electric streetcar went in, Maplewood had 4000 people residing in it.
In the early 1900s as more people continued to settle into Maplewood, there was a demand by citizens for incorporation; which would bring many improvements and benefits. Maplewood was finally incorporated in 1908 after the fire at Banner Lumber yard made the need for incorporation obvious. Three St. Louis City fire companies responded to a blaze at Banner Lumberyard that devastated a whole city block, causing $100,000 in damage. Many attributed the extent of the damages to the limitations of transportation; unincorporated Maplewood did not have fire fighters of their own to respond, resulting in fire fighters from within the city having to travel by slow horse drawn wagons. In order for Maplewood to gain independent status, city leaders created new structures and services. As a part of these efforts and to ensure the city's ability to accommodate the growing population, the city took on a major street-paving project.
Between World War I and World War II, Ford rolled out the Model T. This would be the turning point in shaping the American lifestyle. The automobile took awhile to take off because they were expensive, hard to store and streets were not designed yet to accommodate the automobile. As years passed, the electric streetcars were loosening up suburban area, including Maplewood. As cars were becoming more available and more common on the streets, the use of the automobile was opening doors for Americans. A journey that took days by wagon now could be completed in a matter of hours, which encouraged people to travel. With the introduction of the automobile, new businesses were popping up in order to serve the American tourist. As the number of businesses in Maplewood grew, as did the amount of tax revenues the city had to make necessary upgrades and improvements, such as to the roads. When commercial development became a trend in the 1940s, the population grew to nearly 13,000 and shoppers flocked the streets of Maplewood. In 1949, during a time where more families were buying and driving cars, the bus system was put into place and began to replace the electric streetcar. Later that year, the last electric streetcar passed through Maplewood.
The signing of the Federal Air Road Act in 1921 helped fuel the continuance of road developments. This act required states to assign primary roads to be included in a state highway system. Five years later, an East to West route, known as U.S Route 66, was opened. Route 66 was a 2400-mile route that connected cities throughout Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. During its original years, Route 66 went straight through the city of Maplewood by way of Manchester Road. In the 1950s, Route 66 hit its high point; it became the main highway for vacationers heading west. However, this successful run soon came to an end. Americans saw the beginning of the end for Route 66 when the Interstate Highway Act was signed in 1956. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the city of Maplewood saw a drastic population decrease. Residents, who were once apart of the booming Maplewood population in the city's early years, were approaching or in their retirement. These retirees, along with the more affluent residents, left for more-trendier cities and the working class moved in. Things finally picked up for the city in the 1990s, returning to its status as a desirable place to live. The city saw significant improvements as a result of an increase in sales tax, as well as a $3 million federal grant for street improvements.
The 21st Century
Entering into the 21st century, Maplewood took it in their hands to revitalize the city. In 2001, officials met to discuss options to jumpstart Maplewood development. Maplewood Commons, a major regional shopping center, was opened in 2004. Big-box stores anchor the development, such as: Wal-Mart, Lowes, and Sam's Club. Its prime location just south of Highway 40, allows it to draw in people from St. Louis City and surrounding municipalities. Maplewood Commons has increased revenues for the city and picked up traffic throughout the city. Approximately 33,000 cars pass through the intersection of Big Bend Boulevard and Manchester Road every day. In 2006, Metro Transit opened the cross county Metro Link expansion, which expanded the Metro Link service into mid-St. Louis County from Forest Park. The Maplewood Metro Link station is located off of Manchester Road, East of the Hanley Road and Manchester Road intersection. Businesses and restaurants still continue to move into Maplewood as transportation continues to make it a more accessible area. Though the city has had its fair share of obstacles, it continues to overcome them; for as long as the city continues to grow and develop, so will its transportation.