NEWS11 Remembers: E.G. Lewis

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UNIVERSITY CITY, MO. (KPLR) – University City has a long and storied history, but perhaps no greater character ever lived there than the man who created in the first place.

It is one of the area’s true landmark buildings; no one has a city hall like University City.

But when this octagonal tower was built in 1903, it was not built as city hall because u-city did not yet exist.  But that would change thanks to a man named Edward Gardner Lewis.

An interesting, interesting character ahead of his time in that he was a male advocate for expanded women`s rights, and he and his wife were viewed as heroes by women who were advocated for suffrage.

But also seeing an opportunity to cash in on the cause, Lewis began publishing women’s magazines.

And when he outgrew his offices in downtown, St. Louis, E.G. Lewis decided this spot near the grounds of the 1904 World’s Fair, was a good place to expand his empire; which eventually included newspapers and even banks.

Women were becoming consumers and women were becoming conscious of their own efforts to secure their rights to vote and women were banding together in ways they previously had not made possible by new media including print publications that had national circulation.

Lewis became a great proponent of women’s rights, founding the national women’s league and allowing women to make money by selling subscriptions to a wide variety of publications.

But his most lasting contribution was his decision to build a city starting with tents used to accommodate fairgoers and then a planned community of gracious homes that would become University City.

He was mayor of University City for three terms so for many years he was a beloved character and really the founder of University City and its founding mayor.

Of all E.G. Lewis’s gifts, a good head for business was actually not one of them; within a few years his publishing empire went bankrupt, so he left the city he founded and headed west, eventually creating another utopian town, Atascadero, California;  where he once again went bankrupt.

News 11 remembers is brought to you by the Missouri History Museum and America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses.  I’m Paul Schankman.