Alton is a historic river port on the Mississippi just North of Saint Louis. It was established in 1818 and it's economy has transitioned radically several times over the years. In the 1800s it was a port town. In the 1900s it became a center of heavy industry. Currently it has a primarily services oriented economy with an emphasis on tourism. Alton has an attractive central historic area situated between the bluffs and the river bank. Downtown Alton is lively with shops and restaurants and dominated by massive riverside grain silos. There is a recently built "riverboat" casino, park with amphitheater and marina on the riverbank.
The economy of Alton in the 1900s was dominated by industry. Much of this industry was located in a large area Southeast of downtown. This area was home to the huge Laclede Steel mill, container factories, bottle factories and a vinegar factory. I drove around looking for traces of Alton's industrial past when I visited in 2013. I did not find much. Much of the former industrial zone is currently fenced off empty fields that are reverting to forest. Traces of foundations can be seen here and there but most of the original buildings have been demolished. A small portion of the Laclede mill is still standing and operating as Alton Steel. I tried to get to a few ruins in this area that are visible on satellite images. The route I took (Cut Street) is blocked off and the area around it is fenced and posted. One of the ruins (possibly the vinegar works) was being cleared by heavy equipment when I visited. The area South of the railroad tracks seems like it might be interesting to explore- possibly another time.
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