St. Louis is an independent city in the U.S. state of Missouri, built along the western bank of the Mississippi River, on the border with Illinois. The city has an estimated 2015 population of 315,685, and is the cultural and economic center of the Greater St. Louis area (home to 2,916,447 people) making it the largest metropolitan area in Missouri and the 19th-largest in the United States.
Prior to European settlement, the area was a major regional center of Native American Mississippian culture. The city of St. Louis was founded in 1764 by French fur traders Pierre Laclède and Auguste Chouteau, and named after Louis IX of France. The area was ceded to Spain following France's defeat in the Seven Years' War (the area east of the Mississippi was ceded to Britain). In 1800, Spanish Louisianawas retroceded back to France. In 1803, the United States acquired the territory as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
With its French past and waves of Catholic immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries, from Ireland, Germany and Italy, St. Louis is a major center of Roman Catholicism in the United States. St. Louis also boasts the largest Ethical Culture Society in the United States, and consistently ranks as one of the most generous cities in the United States, ranking ninth in 2013. Several places of worship in the city are noteworthy, such as the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, home of the world's largest mosaic installation.
Other locally notable churches include the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, the oldest Roman Catholic cathedral west of the Mississippi River and the oldest church in St. Louis; the St. Louis Abbey, whose distinctive architectural style garnered multiple awards at the time of its completion in 1962; and St. Francis de Sales Oratory, a neo-Gothic church completed in 1908 in South St. Louis and the second-largest church in the city.
The city is defined by music and the performing arts, especially its association with blues, jazz, and ragtime. St. Louis is home to the St. Louis Symphony, the second-oldest symphony orchestra in the United States, which has toured nationally and internationally to strong reviews. Until 2010, it was also home to KFUO-FM, one of the oldest classical music FM radio stations west of the Mississippi River.
The Gateway Arch marks downtown St. Louis and a historic center that includes the Federal courthouse where the Dred Scott case was first argued, a newly renovated and expanded public library, major churches and businesses, and retail. An increasing downtown residential population has taken to adapted office buildings and other historic structures. In nearby University City is the Delmar Loop, ranked by the American Planning Association as a "great American street" for its variety of shops and restaurants, and the Tivoli Theater, all within walking distance.
Unique city and regional cuisine reflecting various immigrant groups include toasted ravioli, gooey butter cake, provel cheese, the slinger, the Gerber sandwich, the St. Paul sandwich, and St. Louis-style pizza, featuring thin crust and provel cheese. Some St. Louis chefs have begun emphasizing use of local produce, meats and fish, and neighborhood farmers' markets have become increasingly popular, as well as one downtown. Artisan bakeries, salumeria, and chocolatiers also operate in the city.