Ten miles southwest of Saint Louis was an area known to Missouri, Osage Nation and Dakota Indians and fur trappers until 1802 as the "Dry Ridge." In the early 1800s, this region, once a part of the Louisiana Territory, was changing from Spanish to French ownership and a system of land grants was inaugurated to promote immigration. Remember that during the early period of Spanish rule, officials gave land to settlers as a check against the English.
As part of this program, in 1802 Gregorie Sarpy was granted 6,002 acres (24 km²) by Charles de Hautte Delassus, the last Spanish Lieutenant governor. The land grant covered the major area now known as Webster Groves.
Webster Groves' location on the Pacific Railroad line led to its development as a suburb. In the late 19th century, overcrowding, congestion, and unhealthy conditions in Saint Louis prompted urban residents to leave the city for quieter, safer surroundings. In 1892 the developers of Webster Park, an early housing subdivision, promoted the new community as the "Queen Of The Suburbs," offering residents superb housing options in a country-like atmosphere, as well as a swift commute to downtown St. Louis jobs.
As a suburban municipality, Webster Groves has its origins as five separate communities along adjacent railroad lines. Webster, Old Orchard, Webster Park, Tuxedo Park, and Selma merged in 1896 in order to implement public services and develop a unified city government. Since that time, Webster Groves' tree-lined streets and abundance of single family homes have continued to attract people to the area as a "great place to live, work and play," not solely for the wealthy commuter suburb that early developers envisioned but for families that cut across all socioeconomic boundaries. The geographic and economic diversity of Webster Groves is evident in its variety of neighborhoods.
In the 1960s Webster Groves was featured in the CBS documentary 16 In Webster Groves, and its high school has, more recently, been profiled in Time. The Webster Groves High School Statesmen maintain the oldest high school football rivalry west of the Mississippi River with the Pioneers of Kirkwood High School.
Webster Groves is the former home of a number of notable people, including writer Jonathan Franzen, whose novels The Twenty-Seventh City and The Corrections draw on St. Louis (thinly disguised as St. Jude in the latter book) and Webster Groves settings. Webster Groves was also the setting for the short-lived NBC television series Lucas Tanner (1974-75), which starred David Hartman.
As of 2008, Gerry Welch is the mayor of Webster Groves.The Webster Groves City Council consists of councilmembers Joan Esserman, Kathy Hart, Jeanne Kirkton, Edward Robinson, Debi Salberg, and Anne Tolan.
There were 9,498 households out of which 31.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.9% were married couples living together, 9.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.3% were non-families. 30.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 3.03.
In the city the population was spread out with 24.9% under the age of 18, 7.4% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 23.7% from 45 to 64, and 17.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 84.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $60,524, and the median income for a family was $73,998. Males had a median income of $57,801 versus $38,506 for females. The per capita income for the city was $31,327. 4.8% of the population and 2.0% of families were below the poverty line. 5.0% of those under the age of 18 and 3.5% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.