Just before Thanksgiving we’d been set to have lunch in St. Charles with my best man from our wedding and his wife…and I totally messed up the dates. So, Laurie and I went ahead and had lunch by ourselves and then I prepared to pay for my sins while exploring scenic and the historic downtown area.
Did I mention the plethora of quality gift shops and specialty stores that populate this major tourist area? I had ‘earned’ the chance to explore a number of them…
When we left the Trailhead Brewing Company where we had lunch, this was the view down the brick covered main street toward the center of the town’s old downtown.
St. Charles is a suburb of Metropolitan St. Louis Missouri. It lies just northwest of St. Louis along the opposite bank of the Missouri River. It’s the county seat of St. Charles County and its population is roughly 67,000. The town was founded in about 1769 as Les Petites Côtes, or "The Little Hills" by Louis Blanchette, a French-Canadian fur trader. This was when the area was nominally ruled by Spain following the Seven Years' War in Europe. St. Charles is the third-oldest city in Missouri.
St. Charles was settled primarily by French-speaking colonists from Canada in its early days. It was considered the last "civilized" stop for the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804, as they headed west exploring the western territory after the United States made the Louisiana Purchase. St. Charles actually served as the first Missouri capital from 1821 to 1826.
If you love the look of old buildings, brick paved streets, a mixture of shops that vary from the ‘ordinary’ and a selection of quaint restaurant venues in a laid back atmosphere, St. Charles is the place for you! It didn’t hurt any that it was a beautiful day in late November…
This handsome old brick home on Main Street caught my eye. It turned out that it’s an attorney’s office.
- Jean Baptiste Pont du Sable, the founder of the City of Chicago Illinois was from St. Charles (aka. Les Petites Côtes)
Laurie posed with this statue of explorer and Missouri Governor, Meriwether Lewis. From a point near this spot, following Lewis’s orders, in 1808 General William Clark led 80 dragoons west for 247 miles to a location along the Missouri River where the group established Fort Osage. Their guide and scout was Nathan Boone, the son of Daniel Boone. The ‘Great Osage Trail’ turned out to be the first phase of what was to become the Santa Fe Trail.
This is the Newbill-McElhiney House at 625 South Main Street. This Federal style home was built in 1838 and then enlarged in 1858. It now serves as the Haviland China Museum.
For those Haviland China collectors out there, they have about 1,000 pieces of china on display. Tours are offered by appointment only…cost $4.50 per person. Check out the website at http://www.havilandmuseum.com/. The home itself is listed in the National Register of Historic Places…
Frontier Park is on the riverfront and its located parallel to and just a couple of blocks down from Main Street in historic St. Charles. A centerpiece in the park is this imposing 15 feet tall bronze statue of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark with Clark’s Newfoundland dog, Seaman. In 1804, St. Charles was the point where Lewis and Clark met to assemble their supplies and ready themselves for their exploration of the western portion of the Louisiana Purchase.
While down by the Missouri River, I photographed this dredge working to keep the main channel navigable for barge traffic. Did you know that the Missouri River is the longest river in the United States? It flows east and south for 2,341 miles before entering the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, Missouri. The river is open for commercial traffic from where it flows into the Mississippi River all the way to around Sioux City Iowa.
This cute little house is actually Bradden’s Restaurant at 515 S. Main Street…one of several that we passed along the way. They offer indoor and patio dining and they’re open 7 days a week. As per Trip Advisor ratings, this is the 4th best restaurant in St. Charles… To find out more, you can go to http://braddens.vpweb.com/.
This is a view of part of the First Missouri Capital State Historic Site. The log structure isn’t the former capital building and we don’t know its original purpose…but we sure liked the look of it! We didn’t have time to tour the site but we will get around to it in the near future. To learn more, go to https://mostateparks.com/park/first-missouri-state-capitol-state-historic-site.
This is the “Old” Post Office in downtown St. Charles. Of course, in St. Charles ‘old’ is a relative term. The post office is relatively ‘new’, having been built in 1903. This handsome structure has recently been repurposed and it now serves as a co-working center for digital Startups. Newly renovated, the 10,000 square foot facility provides regional startups with affordable workspace and access to mentors, potential investors, programming, educational resources and a community of local entrepreneurs.
This large Second Empire-styled structure on Main Street was the Odd Fellows Hall. It was built in 1878 and it has served as a clubhouse, auditorium and financial institution. Odd Fellows is a social and benevolent fraternal order…
· By the end of the 1870s there were over 350 Odd Fellows Lodges in the State of Missouri.
· Today the Odd Fellows has about 12,000 lodges and 600,000 members world-wide.
This 3-story brick building at 122 South Main Street was built in 1849 as a Masonic Lodge. Then ca. 1920, the building was converted into an Elks Lodge and the ‘fancy’ three-bay primary facade was added, including the elaborate cornice/parapet that features glazed poly-chrome terracotta ornamental detailing and Elk head logo with lettering "B.P.O.E. NO 690".
While Elk Lodge No. 690 is still in operation, they have a new building and I’m not sure who is occupying this building now…but according to the Internet, it is now an office building.
The building in the center was built in 1908 for the former St. Charles Savings Bank. The name has changed but the First State Bank, which occupies the building today, was first incorporated in 1867.
Isn’t this building a beauty?! It’s known as the Cosmos Building and it’s been completely refurbished while maintaining its original beauty. This building was built in 1882 and at one time it housed the offices of the Cosmos and St. Charles Banner newspapers. Currently it’s occupied by an attorney, Jake’s On Main (with Life is Good Products…one of Laurie’s favorites), and an Aveda outlet.
This photo is an appropriate one to use to conclude this posting about historic downtown St. Charles Missouri. The appealing multicolored series of row houses and businesses shown above are part of the United States’ St. Charles Historic District. This Historic District includes almost 120 buildings on a little more than 60 acres!
Our visit was during the week before Thanksgiving and while there were people exploring the area and dining in the restaurants, this was a very laid back place where we could wander and explore. At other times of the year, I’m sure that it can be a hectic scene. FYI, There is a casino on the river just a few blocks away. Major gatherings of folks do occur with Riverfest, Festival of the Little Hills, the Missouri Festival for the Arts, Octoberfest, and the Christmas Traditions Festival.
That’s it for now! Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for the short tour of historic St. Charles Missouri!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave