Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday Sojourn - Main Street, Historic St. Charles

“This immence river so far as we have yet ascended, waters one of the fairest portions of the globe, not do I believe that there is in the universe a similar extent of country, equally fertile, well watered, and intersected by such a number of navigable streams” Merriweather Lewis to his mother, from Fort Mandan, March 31, 1805, writing about the Missouri River.  (Jackson, vol. 1. p. 223.)

Missouri River bank at St. Charles, Missouri

Remember that infamous Barbara Walters question, "If you were a tree, what kind would you be?"?

Well, I think I would be a willow, most of whom have deep and widely spreading roots. Willows are used a lot for stabilizing soil in danger of sliding or eroding away. Yes, I would be a willow.

I put down roots slowly and deeply. I've lived in the St. Louis region now for over three decades, and it finally feels like home. It will never be my hometown, but I've come to like it very much, if not love it as much as my birthplace.

When I first moved here, I was enchanted by the small historic district in downtown St. Charles (which is on the west bank of the Missouri River across from St. Louis). I knew it would be my saving grace for having been torn, roots and all, from my happy, fertile, spot in Kansas City.

We moved to the St. Charles County area soon after, and have been here now for thirty-five years. I still love going down to Main Street, which is a lovely combination of the French Quarters of New Orleans with a good dose of Williamsburg thrown in for historical significance.

St. Charles, first founded in 1765 as Les Petites Côtes by French Canadian fur trader Louis Blanchette, played a significant role in the United States' westward expansion.  It was the staging area and the last "civilized" stop for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which was commissioned in 1804 by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the newly gained territory of the Louisana Purchase.

Even many native Missourians are still unaware that St. Charles served as the first Missouri capitol from its entrance into statehood in 1821 to 1826, when the capitol was moved to a  more geographical center of the state, Jefferson City. For more information about historic St. Charles, click HERE.

The Fête des Petites Côtes (Festival of the Little Hills) takes place late in the summer each year, and is a great time to come visit if you like historic re-enactments, lively music, and funnel cakes.

See how far my roots have grown into this new soil of mine? I may be up for a job with the St. Charles Visitor's Center if this keeps up. 

Anyhoo, I had a lovely lunch with friends this week down on Main Street, and thought you might enjoy a walk with me there.

The city is still located right on the banks of the Missouri, just within feet of the Main Street.

The atmosphere here is always vibrant.
 Architecture is a blend of colonial and French influences...

The wavy cobblestone streets enforce a firm "NO HEELS" dress code
And the old wavy glass in the window panes gives an eerie, ghostly reflection to the wares displayed...

 Many visitors think this was the location of the first state capitol..

St. Charles County Courthouse
But it's not. The first capitol was located in this small, nondescript mercantile building...

Missouri's first state Capitol Building

The French influence is undeniable. Fleur-de-lis are everywhere

As are French names on shop signs...


Hmmm...this one may be pushing it...

This is a small area packed with huge charm...

With intriguing tiny alleyways...

As well as enormous monuments

Lewis and Clark on the banks of the Missouri River 
Bronze sculpture, Pat Kennedy, 2003 
If you come visit, I'll take you on a tour.

I hope you find a charming spot to spend the day today.

Thinking no one would really care, I opted not to include music on this post.  Well, my sweet friend, Vicki, has called me out on this decision, and so I found this music just for her.

This is an anonymous woman singing a French folk song. I'm sorry I can't be more specific than that. I love the beautiful simplicity of this music, and can well imagine a young woman hanging freshly washed linens from the balcony of one of the buildings set along the picturesque cobblestone streets of Les Petites Côtes over two hundred years ago. I hope you like it as much as I do. Enjoy!



  1. jo thanks for the little holiday! i really appreciate being in towns that are so filled with care and especially where there are little details that elevate the place above itself. steven

  2. Thanks Jo for the tour. I felt as if I was taking it all in while seated at an outdoor cafe, enjoying a masterfully prepared cappucino!

  3. Oh how I love history! What a beautiful city and you definately should be hired to be the PR guide. Your narration is just lovely and I, like Dubby enjoyed the ride...

    Love and peace to you today and always... No music??

  4. You are most welcome, Steven! I suppose what makes any city liveable is the feeling that its inhabitants care about it.

    Yes, this little town has a beautiful ethos.

    Have a beautiful Saturday, friend.

  5. Dubby, I didn't post pictures of them, but there are lots of outdoor cafes in town, too. I'll bet we could find a fine cappucino when you're ready for that tour!

  6. Vicki, if you love history, this is the place for you!

    Please come and stay a weekend with me when the weather warms, and we'll explore together!

    Thanks for letting me know you missed the music...I went and fixed that issue just for you. Hope you like it!

  7. Love the music! Now it's perfect... Love it!

  8. Thank you for that. Your state is one about which I know very little. We lived in Oklahoma for a year (military exchange) but never ventured past Louisiana and Texas. I am familiar with some of the history of the state and knew about the Canadian connections, but didn't realise that it was still so pervasive. I'd love to ramble along those streets and may have to add it to the 'someday' list.

  9. If you ever come this way, Pondside, I'd love to show you around. We have wineries that rival those in your region, Frenchtown, which abuts the historic district, and of course, Main Street.

    I'm serious...I'll be your tour guide!


Your visit makes my heart smile. Thank you.