ST. PETERS, Mo. – Decades before it became one of the most populated suburbs in the St. Louis metropolitan area, St. Peters was a small and rather rural community.

A recent Facebook post stirred interest in what life once was like in St. Peters, and for some what it once looked like within their early lifetime.

The discussion started with a black-and-white photo shared by the New Wentzvillian For St. Charles Counties Facebook page (via the Cottleville Forum Facebook group). It showed a sign of what appears to be a mostly deserted part of town with a sign reading “CITY LIMIT … ST. PETERS … POP. 486.”

St. Peters, Missouri (FOX 2 – FILE PHOTO)

The City of St. Peters confirms that its population, based on US Census figures, was indeed 486 people at the start of the 1970s.

“This is the St. Peters I grew up in!,” said a Facebook community member named Kate, who originally shared the photo.

Fast-forward more than half a century later, the population grew from roughly 500 people to more than 57,000 in present day. More than 100 times larger over the course of 50 years.

What was life like before the 1970s in St. Peters? Generally speaking, it was largely a farming community and an agricultural leader in the state of Missouri. Wheat, flour, coal, and mill feed were all produced in St. Peters. It was also rich of wildlife and a stopping point for two railroad lines before the expansion of major highways and interstates, according to online city archives.

What led to the boom? Per the archives, crews began construction on Interstate 70 through St. Peters in the 1950s. Known as a village well before then, St. Peters gained certification as a city under Missouri statutes in 1959. This allowed St. Peters to acquire funding for a municipal water system and a sewage system.

Elected officials saw potential to build around I-70 and an abundance of farmland, and post-World War II trends toward suburbia influenced many decisions. People were encouraged by reduced property and real estate taxes compared to other parts of the St. Louis metro. The potential for new roads and traffic systems also piqued interest, according to the archives. City parks also became a vision for lots of farmland that gradually became abandoned.

By 1980, the population grew to around 16,000 people, more than 30 times the size of St. Peters at the start of the decade. It grew to around 45,000 people by 1990, nearly three times its size from 1980. The population increased to above 50,000 by 2000 and has gradually increased throughout the new millennium.

City officials also credit “voluntary” annexations for helping St. Peters grow, stating around 85% of annexations linked with the city have fit the bill as voluntary, according to a 2020 city report.

One new pinpoint of city growth in the future could be Medline, one of the nation’s largest privately-owned manufacturers and distributors of medical supplies. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is announcing a $75 million investment into St. Peters-owned land on Wednesday in the form of an 800,000 square-foot Medline facility. Missouri officials say this could create around 150 jobs and generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for state and local taxing bodies.

The St. Peters Rec-Plex, a large-scale family recreation and athletic training complex is also a large drawing point for nearby athletes and visitors. It helped put the once small community on the map nationally by hosting the 2004 Olympic diving trials. The Rec-Plex is featured in the video attached above the story as part of FOX 2’s “Live In Your Neighborhood” series in May.