St. Louis, MO, is a city where history lives around almost every corner. Every neighborhood in St. Louis seems to have a fascinating history that plays a unique role in the story of how St. Louis came to be the city it is today. Nowhere is this more true than in our own neck of the woods—Dogtown. The history of the Dogtown Neighborhood is an interesting one that no doubt has its own myths and legends. So we’d like to set the story straight with a few facts of our own.
The Name ‘Dogtown’ Refers to the STL Mining Industry
Many people are familiar with the history of the Dogtown neighborhood will often tell you that the name comes from an interesting event in St. Louis’ history. The story goes like this:
During the 1904 World’s Fair, which was held in St. Louis, the city had a lot of foreign visitors, including a lot of native peoples from all over the globe who were featured as living displays. One of those native peoples were the Igorots from the Phillippines. Apparently the Igorots liked to eat dogs as part of religious ceremonies, so they would kidnap and, well, feast on them in an area just outside Forest Park. Yikes. Fortunately, this legendary tale is just that—a legend. While St. Louis did indeed host the World’s Fair in 1904, the origin of the Dogtown Neighborhood is perhaps much simpler.
The area that is now the Dogtown Neighborhood was once a clay and coal mining community in the mid-19th century. You can see from historical records across the United States that many other “Dogtowns” pop up where there is an active mining industry or a boom town. In fact, the mining industry from this time period uses the term “dog” to refer to other things, as well. Terms like “doghouse” (small shacks near the mines that the workers would use for various things) and “doghole” (a small coal mine that employed 15 miners or less) were all commonly used.
Theoretically, the miners could have had a lot of dogs guarding their homes (which was a common practice at the time and how the name “dogtown” came about in the first place). But the fact that recorded references to the Dogtown Neighborhood pop up as early as 1889 makes the Igorot theory highly unlikely!
Dogtown Was Predominantly Irish for Almost a Century
From 1850 until the 1940’s, Dogtown (which was then referred to as “Cheltenham”) was home to a large Irish population that had moved to this area when other parts of the city became too run down and crime-ridden. There was also work to be found there: the mines were the perfect opportunity for an immigrant to get to work and start making a living in America. Eventually Scullin Steel was built, which drew even more Irish—and Italian— immigrants to the area. Obviously, Dogtown is not home exclusively to the Irish these days, but you can especially feel the Irish spirit every St. Patrick’s Day!
Dogtown Pizza is so proud of our neighborhood’s rich history and unique heritage. We can only hope we make our own historic mark on the neighborhood one day!