Way back in 1779, the Farmer's Market in the Soulard Neighborhood in Saint Louis got its start. Operating continuously on Wednesdays - Saturdays, the farmers market has seen the neighborhood have its ups and downs. That's a good thing - if Soulard hadn't gone through ups and downs, the neighborhood known for its blues might have made another kind of music entirely.
The neighborhood is named for Antoine Soulard, the Frenchman who surveyed St. Louis for the King of Spain, and at times has held the nickname of "Frenchtown''. Each year certain French traditions are observed, like Bastille Day and a massive Mardi Gras celebration. However, the French roots don't run that deep, because the fall Oktoberfest is celebrated with equal enthusiasm.
Most of the festivities take place in the streets. Just five minutes from downtown, the homes are compact in the old French style. Done up in a distinctive red brick, colonial and Italianate style predominate. The public square was donated to form a market square, so locals get good use out of it by doubling it as a concert and festival space.
The late 80's and 90's have also seen a decided effort to re-gentrify the area. It had fallen down a bit over the years. Revitalization efforts have brought in a number of restaurants and pubs, giving the area a lively nightlife that pulls in young people from across the city.
As with many areas close to downtown, parking is an issue at times and traffic can be brutal at rush hour. However, the large number of eateries means that there is no reason not to wait out the rush hour with some famous St. Louis BBQ and listen to some home-grown blues. The trumpets and saxes still mix in live music shows all over the neighborhood, ensuring that the old Frenchtown will continue to be (Soul)ard.