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Granite City had busy traffic at the intersection of 20th Street, Edison and Niedringhaus. During that time, Granite City had approximately 30,000 people.
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Photo by Theo Tate
Today, Granite City has approximately 30,000 people.
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Before he was co-founder of Granite City, Frederick Niedringhaus was elected to Congress in 1888 and served one term.
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William Niedringhaus was responsible for the decision to build a new granite-ware plant and develop Granite City in 1896.
GRANITE CITY — Ed Hagnauer will always remember 2005.
That’s when he was elected the 22nd mayor of Granite City.
“It was a proud moment for me when I was elected mayor,” he said.
Hagnauer grew up in Granite City and graduated from Granite City High School in 1970. He worked in the city’s fire department for many years. Today, he’s the mayor of a city that turned 120 years old March 9.
“I walk around with my head up when I tell people that I’m from Granite City,” said Hagnauer, who is serving his third four-year term as mayor.
Granite City was founded by German immigrant brothers Frederick and William Niedringhaus. They established it as a steel town for the manufacture of kitchen utensils made to resemble granite. William, then 61 years old, discovered the granite-ware process while visiting Germany, and he was responsible for the decision to build a new plant and develop Granite City.
“When the Niedringhaus brothers picked this area, this used to be the Six Mile town and there was a reason,” Hagnauer said. “We’re six miles from here to downtown St. Louis.”
Today, Granite City is still a steel town as the Granite City Works steel mill is the city’s largest employer.
“I’m proud of Granite,” Hagnauer said. “Granite is a great place to live and I think once people get here, they’ll realize that. The hard part is to get them here because we’ve got the steel mill and people look at it as a dirty little steel town, but I think once they get here, they realize that our people reach out their hands to everybody and they welcome them.”
Granite City’s downtown area has been revitalized with a new cinema, a coffeehouse and a pizzeria. The Six Mile Library on Delmar Avenue, which was built in 1929, was renovated in 2014.
In 1896, Henry Fosseick was the first Granite City police chief. During that time, a small one-story structure was built on 19th and Edison Avenue. The City Council purchased property on 20th and Edison in 1916 and the building was completed in 1929. Its current location on Madison Avenue was built in 1978.
Rich Miller is the current chief of the Granite City Police Department. He took over duties in 2005.
The Granite City Fire Department began in 1896 on a volunteer basis. It became a full-time department in 1922. Fred Stegelmeyer was the city’s first fire chief. Vince Martinez is the current fire chief.
The Granite City Park District was formed in 1921, the same year Granite City celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Also in 1921, Granite City High School opened. The boys’ basketball team gave the high school its first of its 14 state championships in 1940. The school also won 10 state titles in boys soccer and one each in baseball (1948), girls’ soccer (2011) and wrestling (1965).
When Granite City was founded in 1896, it had close to 1,000 people. Today, it has almost 30,000.
“We’ll never be a town of 40,000 people and one reason is because people don’t want to live five feet from their neighbor and that’s how houses were built,” Hagnauer said. “They want a little room for their kids to grow up. If you really want to live in a nice neighborhood with 3,000-foot homes that are very affordable, we’re still that community.”
During the 1960s and 1970s, Granite City had 40,000 people. At one point, it was the largest city in Madison County.
“We had a bustling downtown community,” Hagnauer said. “We had 44,000 people and we packed them in these little shotgun houses and people filled them as fast as they can get in them because they all were coming to work up here. During that time, we have evolved and the center of our community has moved toward Nameoki Road, where Nameoki Commons is, and that’s where our newer homes are.”
The first City Council meeting took place May 6, 1896, in a real estate office located in the railroad depot building at Niedringhaus Avenue and the railroad tracks. Today, City Council meetings take place at City Hall, built in 1929.
James McRoberts was the city’s first mayor in 1896. During that time, mayors were elected for one year. In 1937, the term was set at four years.
Hagnauer is serving his third four-year term as mayor. He succeeded Ron Selph, who served three four-year terms, in 2005.