In 1853 John How became the sixteenth Mayor of St. Louis.
Between 1856-1857 he served as the eighteenth Mayor of St. Louis.
During John How's first administration (1853-1855) the temporary Workhouse located near the future City Hospital, was moved to Broadway and Meramec Streets. In 1855 permanent buildings were authorized. A House of Refuge was provided for. Part of the old County Poor Farm, now Marquette Park, was set aside. In 1854 Mayor How approved an Ordinance providing the Refuge with a Board of Managers consisting of the Mayor and two members from each of the houses of the City Council.
City park areas were added during How's administration. Hyde Park, containing fourteen and one-half acres, was purchased for $36,250. The block on which the Central Public Library is located was bought from James H. Lucas for $95,500. Mr. Lucas gave the City the block just to the north of the Library (Lucas Park). This two block area, from Olive to St. Charles and Thirteenth to Fourteenth Streets, was then known as Missouri Park.
The Missouri State Legislature passed a Law in 1853 permitting the City to invest in railroads. By 1856 St. Louis had acquired an interest in four railroads. City Ordinances were passed granting right-of-way privileges and rights to put up depots on certain lots. The collapse of many buildings in the City led Mayor How to suggest a Building Inspection Service in 1854. The office of Inspector of Buildings and Fires was created in 1855 and building permits were required.