St. Genevieve is the oldest town west of the Mississippi River. The folks are friendly, proud of their heritage, and anxious to share it with visitors.
The city was in the late 18th century the capital of Spanish Louisiana, and, at its original location a few miles south, capital of French Louisiana as well.
Ste. Genevieve was established in the 1750s by French colonists, when the territory west of Americans began to arrive in Ste. Genevieve after the Louisiana Purchase in 1810, and were followed by immigrant groups as the 19th century progressed. The Mississippi River was part of French Louisiana. It became the principal civic center of the region, and continued to be so when the area passed into Spanish control with the Treaty of Paris in 1763. (Franzwa, Gregory M., The Story of Old Ste. Genevieve, Tucson: Patrice Press, 1998).
French colonial architecture of the area is known as poteaux en terre, or post in ground Both of these styles involve construction of walls consisting of vertical logs, the former placed directly into the ground, and the latter onto a horizontal sill of wood or stone. One such example of this architecture can be found at the Felix Valle House State Historic Site. The Green Tree Tavern is located on the property and still showcases the vertical log building style. It is the oldest verified vertical log building in Ste. Genevieve. Officially dated to 1790 by dendrochronology studies, this “poteau sur sole” (post on sill) vertical log construction was built by the French Canadian Nicolas Janis. This impressive structure has also been used as an inn, a tobacco store, and the first Masonic Lodge in Missouri. The Green Tree is operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Open seasonally.
The Ste. Genevieve Trolley runs through the historic district and wine country. Hop on and jump off without worry of driving on this convenient means of transportation. At 20 dollars for all day fun touring through the heart of wine country, it’s a bargain! There are two main pickup sights in town, Downtown Ste. Genevieve parking lot by Audubon's restaurant and the Phillips 66 gas station off I-55 and Hwy 32. The Trolley will carry you to the following destinations: Water Tower Winery, Chaumette Winery, Crown Winery, Crown Brewery,Twin Oaks, Sand Creek and Cave Winery.
The Cave Winery is unique and a favorite for visitors to experience. Marty and Mary Jo Strussione opened the venture in 2004. The sprawling property includes a cave which is part of the wine making process. Buy your wine upstairs in the winery above the cave, then descend into the cave itself for an enjoyable afternoon of constantly even temperatures. The winery even features a biscotti bar.
Need to take a break from wine tasting? A shopping trip is a good way to explore before checking out one of the local spots for dinner. “Ste. Gen” as the locals call it, is home to some amazing antique shops and boutiques. With such a historically significant area, treasures dating back to the beginning of the midwest might be your lucky find at one of these stores.
If not, ASL Pewter Foundry can create a mug similar to items from that era. They design high-quality, lead-free pewter products that are not only functional, but works of art. Open Daily 9:30– 5:00. Demonstrations daily.
European Entitlements brings Europe to you. They sell home décor and garden items made and manufactured only in Europe.
Sassafras Creek Originals showcases hand-crafted Colonial/primitive early American Folk Art. Each room is like a step back in time!
All of that shopping and wine tasting must have worked up an appetite, so now it’s time to try some of the best dining that Ste. Genevieve has to offer. A few places give a historical tour at the same time, being located in the original architecture of the town.
The Anvil Saloon and Restaurant is one such destination. This family restaurant is famous for onion rings, fried chicken, pork tenderloin, and homemade desserts. A restaurant has occupied this building since 1855. The bar came from an 1850’s steamboat that traveled the Mississippi River. They are open daily serving lunch and dinner, located at 46 South Third Street.
Hotel Audubon Bar and Grill is another piece of history, the century old building in which it is housed is nestled in the heart of the historic district. The first business occupied the building in 1904, The Palace Bar. The Audubon building has suffered quite a few fires, and rebuilds over the years, but has maintained the original facade. The restaurant features family friendly to chef crafted menu items, private dining availability, catered events, and craft beers. Lodging is also available here if you wish to turn your day trip into an overnight stay.
Rural Heritage Day is in October where history, reverie and reminiscence are dedicated to the hard working founders of Ste. Genevieve. Go see how it used to be done – whether it’s farming, cooking, spinning, lace making, leather working, soap making, wood carving, gardening or good old-fashioned games. You can watch demonstrations of the handicrafts of yesteryear. Stay till the evening and enjoy the “Spirit Reunion” – a fundraiser for Memorial Cemetery that features costumed ‘Spirits’ telling the stories of the early settlers buried there.
Ste. Genevieve makes the perfect day trip from Rolla at only a two hour drive on I-44 E and I-55 S. Make sure to pack a picnic basket and load it up with bread and cheese, as the many winery visits will need these very necessary supplies. Save room in the car to bring back a case or two of the fine local vintages.