The History of the City of Ladue

Established as a fourth-class city in 1936, Ladue today has a population of 8,989 residents (per the 2020 census) living in an area of 8.4 square miles. The city operates with an annual budget of just over $14 million and a staff of 91 (including 32 Police, 33 Fire/EMS, 14 public works, six building department and six administrative staff). In addition, the residents of Ladue enjoy the services and products from more than 249 businesses operating within the city boundaries.
Ladue has a rich history from the early 1700s when the Osage and Missouri Native American tribes lived on the land, combining hunting, gathering, and agriculture to sustain themselves. With the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Missouri became a territory of the United States. The area began to be developed in the early 1800s, the result of being divided up by Spanish Land Grants deeded to early St. Louis settlers. Early Ladue inhabitants used the land for farming, given the rich soil from the many creeks, streams, and tributaries in the area.

Over time the land was recast with farms, homes and businesses beginning to “crop up” in the area. Clayton Road (1830) was the first public road established in the current Ladue, followed by McKnight Road (1853), Warson and Lay roads (1856), and Ladue Road (1860). Ladue Road was laid out and named for Peter Albert LaDue (“LaDue” means sweet water), a prosperous lawyer and banker whose office was in the city of St. Louis on 2nd street, and whose townhouse was on 14th Street. LaDue also owned several farms out in the country. Following the prevailing custom of naming roads for the prominent families who lived along them, Ladue Road was named in recognition of the farm property owned by LaDue at the corner of what is now Ladue and Warson roads and east, including areas that are currently occupied by the St. Louis Country Club and the surrounding homes abutting Ladue Road.

In the early part of the 20th century, automobiles began replacing horses and wagons as the primary mode of transportation. As they began to bring mass transportation and better roadways, the Ladue area began to evolve from a farming community to a residential community. Once a number of people had moved to the area, villages were established in order to provide law and order. In the late 1920s the villages of McKnight, Ladue and Deer Creek were established. Although these three villages used Ladue’s fire department, each one had their own police, zoning and other ordinances. 

In 1936 the residents and elected officials of these three villages recognized that they would have many more advantages by merging and incorporating themselves into a fourth-class city. On Dec. 1, 1936, the residents of the three villages voted to merge, and the city of Ladue (named for the largest of the three villages) was established. A short time later, Dwyer Village (established in 1869 by a man by the name of T.T. Dwyer) became a part of the newly established city of Ladue. Also in the early part of the 20th century, the game of golf was spreading across the nation. The open, rolling topography and rich soil in and around Ladue provided ideal conditions for the development of golf courses. The first golf course opened in the current city of Ladue was the Log Cabin Club (1899), followed by the Bogey Club (1910), the St. Louis Country Club (1914), and Old Warson Country Club (1955). To be closer to their clubs, 
many affluent residents in the St. Louis region began to purchase farmland in Ladue and built spacious, elegant homes. These homes were designed in traditional Colonial and Tudor styles, with plenty of green space. Fine private schools and later a high-ranking public school system of neighborhood schools were established, including a number of high schools: John Burroughs (founded in 1923), Mary Institute (founded in 1859, relocated to Ladue in 1930), St. Louis Country Day School (founded in 1917, relocated to Ladue in 1958), and Ladue Horton Watkins High School (opened in 1951). 

By the time the headquarters of the St. Louis County Library had opened in Ladue on Lindbergh Boulevard (1959), Ladue had come to be recognized as an upscale and quiet rural residential community just west of the St. Louis County Government seat in Clayton. Ladue had become everything renowned urban planner Harland Bartholomew imagined when he presented a preliminary comprehensive plan to the Ladue City Council in accordance with his agreement dated June 30, 1937. Still today, Ladue residents enjoy the aesthetics emphasized in Bartholomew’s original plan: “Rolling topography…Spacious character…Winding streams and gentle sloping highlands…Country-like character.” Bartholomew also stated that “It should be recognized that cities are judged more by their character or quality than by their size.” As the land of the current city of Ladue has evolved over four centuries from hunting, to farming, to upscale residential, the vision of city planner Harland Bartholomew continues to define Ladue.

The St. Louis Story – Mcune Gill
Golfing Before the Arch – Jim Healey
The Lost Ladue – Lynne Orgel
Ladue Found – Charlene Bry
Comprehensive City Plan for the City of Ladue – Harland Bartholomew & Associates
City of Ladue Archives