Tucked along the end of the industrial corridor of East St. Louis, between Bond and Missouri Avenues, are the remains of the Aluminum Ore Company factory and its associated town—Alorton. Between 1902 and 1939 the factory held a monopoly on the North American continent for the preliminary refining of bauxite ore into alumina, and during this period this East St. Louis plant (once the largest employer in the city) produced every ounce of aluminum in the country. While there is little to distinguish the existing town from surrounding communities, it remains a distinct municipality within an already fractured municipal landscape. Like many of the industrial towns in the region, Alorton was incorporated as a distinct municipality in order to more completely control nuisance laws and to distinguish it from the already troubled associations with East St. Louis. Yet despite these origins, in 2014 a prominent business magazine dubbed Alorton “The Most Corrupt Village in America,” with both the mayor and police chief serving jail time for a variety of misconduct.
To the northeast of Missouri Avenue, across from the Metro East and Fluoride Industrial park, are the vast settling ponds of the former factory. The site, now bearing a two-foot earthen cap, was remediated with a novel brownfield strategy: the town partnered with Brightfields Development to use site remediation as site prep-work for a 20-megawatt (MW) solar farm development. It carries the promise to hold a 100-acre solar panel farm—the largest in the Midwest—hinging on a bill in the Illinois state legislature that would require local utilities supplier Ameren to purchase electricity from the site for the next 20 years.
To the south of town are the community of Centreville and the huge hump yards of the Alton & Southern Railway Co.—organized to add engine capacity to overcome the relatively steep slope of the MacArthur Bridge approach. Originating in this yard is the “Black Bridge”—so named both because of the hulking black trusses of its overhead viaduct and its de-facto boundary to black migration from the South—which feeds the slender MacArthur railway bridge across the Mississippi River into downtown St. Louis.