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.
Creator: St. Louis Globe-Democrat
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
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County: St. Louis
Region: St. Louis Metro