In 1881 William L. Ewing became the twenty-ninth Mayor of St. Louis.
In the April election William Ewing defeated Mayor Henry Overstolz, running for re-election by 14,000 votes.
During Mr. Ewing's administration the City's election system came under State Control. St. Louis' Police Department had been State controlled since 1861. Now by Acts of the State Legislature in 1881 and 1883, a registration system was set up under a State Recorder of Voters appointed by the Governor. Power of the Missouri Legislature to over-ride the provisions of the House Rule Charter of 1876 was sustained by the Supreme Court of Missouri in 1884.
The wooden block pavements that had been laid east of Eighteenth Street had deteriorated in 15 years. A new program called for granite blocks set on edge in a sand or cement bed. Twelve miles of business streets were paved in this way and charged to the property owners by special taxes. Building Inspection and the enforcement of such Ordinances was transferred from the Fire Department to the Commissioner of Public Buildings, in 1882. An Ordinance of 1883 provided that the St. Louis Exposition and Music Hall Association might erect a building in Missouri Park where the present Central Public Library is located. The Exposition was completed in 1885.
The cable car was in use in St. Louis for the first time. Construction began in 1885 on a line from Sixth and Locust to Vandeventer Streets. There, a connection was made with the narrow gauge railroad (later the Hodiamont Street Car Line) to the City limits and then north to the city of Florissant in St. Louis County.