“Hooverville Mansions”


The Great Depression affected all aspects of daily life in the 1930s. One of the most visceral repercussions following the 1929 stock market crash was the security of a home. Rising unemployment rates and a deepening financial crisis led people to look to the federal government for much-needed relief. When assistance never came, thousands of families found themselves living in the streets and established squatter colonies in cities across the country. The homes that made up these settlements were constructed with salvaged materials like lumber, tin, cardboard, scrap metals, and other available materials. The encampments became known as Hoovervilles as a criticism of President Herbert Hoover’s lack of response to the country’s dire situation. 

St. Louis was home to the largest Hooverville in the nation. The encampment, located south of the Municipal (presently MacArthur) Bridge on the banks of the Mississippi River, stretched for over a mile and housed between 3,000 to 5,000 people. The residents of this racially integrated community established the Welcome Inn as a food distribution center, built churches, and even elected a mayor. Hooverville gained popularity as it was featured in the New York Times, becoming a tourist destination where residents would sell popcorn and offer tours. The St. Louis Hooverville was maintained until 1936 when the Works Progress Administration distributed funds to have the area razed.

Object Details

Categories: People

Creator: St. Louis Globe-Democrat

Date: 1931

Subject: Depressions--1929, Hooverville (Saint Louis, Mo.), Homeless persons, Missouri, Saint Louis, Squatter settlements

Collection Name: Francis P. Douglas Photograph Collection

Contributing Institution: Missouri Historical Society

Accession Number: P0956-00002

Copy Request: Transmission or reproduction of items on these pages beyond those allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the Missouri Historical Society: 314-746-4510

Rights: The text and images contained in this collection are intended for research and educational use only. Duplication of any of these images for commercial use without express written consent is expressly prohibited. Contact the Missouri Historical Society's Permissions Office at 314-746-4511 to obtain written consent.

County: St. Louis

Region: St. Louis Metro

Type: Photograph

Latitude: 38.642467

Longitude: 90.302541