1896 St. Louis Cyclone

1896 Cyclone Path

1896 Cyclone Path

This map comes to us from a “Crash Course in St. Louis History”.


The-Great-St.-Louis-Cyclone-of-1896

20 minutes of terror  |  255 Killed  |  Lafayette Park in ruins

St. Louis Cyclone of 1896 featured in Harper's Weekly.

St. Louis Cyclone of 1896 featured in Harper’s Weekly.

Just after 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 27, 1896, the thick, low clouds hanging over St. Louis began to swirl ominously and turn a greenish hue. The barometer dropped quickly, and rain began to fall in large droplets as people quickly rushed to take cover. Within moments, a tornado of tremendous proportions swept a wide path through St. Louis and crossed the Mississippi River into East St. Louis. The tornado, known as the Great Cyclone, cut a ten-mile swath of destruction that completely destroyed 311 buildings, heavily damaged 7,200 more and caused substantial harm to yet another 1,300. In a mere twenty minutes, 255 people were killed.

The Compton Heights / Lafayette Square area took a direct hit from the powerful tornado, losing many of its structures. This view of Lafayette Avenue near Compton Avenue apparently includes the home of the notorious Arthur Duestrow, who had murdered his wife and son in it only two years earlier.

The Compton Heights / Lafayette Square area took a direct hit from the powerful tornado, losing many of its structures. This view of Lafayette Avenue near Compton Avenue apparently includes the home of the notorious Arthur Duestrow, who had murdered his wife and son in it only two years earlier.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that “all over the city, bells were tolling for the dead.” The Great Cyclone remains the single deadliest incident in St. Louis history.

The Lafayette Park bandstand was destroyed, with its heavy roof thrown to the ground.

The Lafayette Park bandstand was destroyed, with its heavy roof thrown to the ground.

Immediately after the storm clouds cleared, photographers from St. Louis, Chicago, and other cities rushed to the area with cameras in hand to document the destruction. Several studios published paperback booklets with photographs illustrating the carnage left in the wake of the 1896 tornado which served as souvenirs of the event. Numerous examples of these are preserved in the Special Collections Department of Central Library and form the basis of this exhibit.

Ruins of City Hospital. This was the earliest charitable endeavor of the City of St. Louis, established in 1845 to provide medical care to the indigent. The building that the tornado destroyed, located at Lafayette Avenue and 14th Street, had been built in 1857. Its 450 patients were moved to temporary locations, but replacement structures were not finished on this site until 1905.

Ruins of City Hospital. This was the earliest charitable endeavor of the City of St. Louis, established in 1845 to provide medical care to the indigent. The building that the tornado destroyed, located at Lafayette Avenue and 14th Street, had been built in 1857. Its 450 patients were moved to temporary locations, but replacement structures were not finished on this site until 1905.

The above material is from the St. Louis Public Library: seen The Great Cyclone of 1896.

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