A Little Time and a Keyboard: Ste. Genevieve National Historic Park: Walking French Colonial Streets in Missouri

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Ste. Genevieve National Historic Park: Walking French Colonial Streets in Missouri

 Ste. Genevieve National Historic Park: Walking French Colonial Streets in Missouri

Admiring Unique French Colonial Architecture in Ste. Geneviève, Missouri

Clustered in charming Sainte Geneviève, Missouri visitors discover a cache of distinctive French colonial structures. Ste. Geneviève, Missouri is the oldest European settlement west of the Mississippi established by French Canadians in 1750. French colonial structures in Ste. Geneviève represent rare examples of this type of architecture establishing their significance in our historical record. In 2020, Ste. Geneviève National Historic Park was created to signify and preserve this important part of our history.

Bequette - Ribault House stands as one of the last poteaux-en-terre homes in the United States.
Bequette - Ribault House stands as one of the last poteaux-en-terre homes in the United States.

 I have always found the French history and architecture of Missouri quite fascinating. So, walking through the streets of  Ste. Geneviève fed my curiosity. We began our visit by stopping that the NPS Visitor Center to orient and pick up some maps. I highly recommend stopping in the Visitor Center because it is full of fascinating exhibits including relics and explanations about the unique architectural elements found in Ste. Geneviève.

Ste. Genevieve National Historic Park Visitor Center gives an inside peek into the French colonial architecture found throughout town.
Ste. Genevieve National Historic Park Visitor Center gives an inside peek into the French colonial architecture found throughout town.

After perusing the exhibits, we followed the park map to visit the homes on the tour. Not all were open at the time of our visit. At the Visitor Center, you can obtain information about opening times, tour fees and tour hours. On this visit, we opted to enjoy the spring weather and walk throughout town.

The Green Tree Tavern in Ste. Geneviève

Learning About French Colonial Architecture

What I really love about French colonial structures in Missouri is the use of posts. Constructed in 1790, Green Tree Tavern represents one of the oldest buildings in Missouri serving first as a residence and then as an inn. The Green Tree Tavern is constructed in the porteaux-sur-sole style or post on sill style. You can see that the foundation is a platform or "sill." The posts were placed into holes in the sill. This type of French colonial design has always seemed so fanciful to me perhaps because it is so different from the colonial homes in New Jersey where I grew up.

The porch of the Bauvais-Amoureux House in Ste. Genevieve begs for an afternoon sitting out in the spring!
The porch of the Bauvais-Amoureux House begs for an afternoon sitting out in the spring!

A short walk from Green Tree Tavern stands another of my favorite homes, the Bauvais-Amoureux House. The mix between the bold posts, sweeping porch and fanned roof crafts such a charming home. I especially love the outdoor stairs marching to the loft above. The Bauvais-Amoureux House is built in the porteaux-en-terre style where the vertical wooden posts are planted in holes right in the ground (la terre). There are only five structures remaining in the US constructed in this style with three located in Ste. Geneviève, one in Louisiana and one in Mississippi.

Felix Vallé House

Charmed by the blend of stone, wood posts, clapboard shutters and porch of the  Felix Vallé House.
Charmed by the blend of stone, wood posts, clapboard shutters and porch of the  Felix Vallé House.
Bolduc House Museum

The Federal Style stone Felix Vallé House constructed in 1818 was originally built as a mercantile and home for Jacob Phillipson. Eventually sold to Felix Vallé, a member of a prominent family in town, the home became the location of the trading firm Menard and Vallé as well as the residence of Odile and Felix Vallé. The structure is open for tours and maintains period artifacts. While the Vallé family did keep their French traditions, they also incorporated early American products in their home.


Bolduc House Museum
Bolduc House Museum


The Centre of French Colonial Life

The Centre of French Colonial Life shares several homes with the public including the Bolduc House parts of which date back to the 1780's. In addition to maintaining several historic structures to tour, the Centre of French Colonial Life also has an education and exhibit center providing more opportunity to learn about French colonial life.



Jean Baptiste Vallé House

Immediately across from the National Park Service Visitor Center, we delighted in the elegant porch and stately columns of the Jean Baptiste Vallé House.  Jean Baptiste Vallé was the last commandant of  Ste. Geneviève before it became under American control after the Louisiana Purchase. The 1793 home was constructed in the porteaux-sur-sole style similar to the Green Tree Tavern. Behind the the home, we enjoyed the sizeable green space and garden just starting to show signs of spring!

French Joie De Vivre Throughout the Year in  Sainte Geneviève

Throughout the year, Ste. Geneviève hosts a variety of French colonial events such as La Veille, a French colonial summer social, and the French Heritage Festival. The holidays bring Allée Allumée where French colonial children bring gifts to the manger scene and La Reveillon celebrating a French colonial Christmas and more. La Guiannée marks the New Year with singing and dancing in the streets, cafes and pubs. The French colonial heritage of Ste. Geneviève is shared with us in a experiential manner!

Walking through town and visiting small businesses, we absorbed the community feel. There are several artisans and artisan shops to visit which definitely is reminiscent of the plethora of artisans the community needed in the early years. Some stores do have French items displaying the community heritage. We capped our visit with a made-from-scratch Blueberry Gooey Butter Cake from Beanik Cafe and Pastry

Made-from-scratch Blueberry Gooey Butter Cake from Beanik Cafe and Pastry.
Made-from-scratch Blueberry Gooey Butter Cake from Beanik Cafe and Pastry. 

We loved our little adventure to this charming French colonial town of Ste. Geneviève and are grateful that both the community and now the National Park Service are working to preserve this interesting element of heritage for future generations. Do to preservation efforts, we are so fortunate to be able to see these rare French colonial structures from a past that may have been forgotten. Vive la Ste. Geneviève! Ste. Geneviève est une belle ville avec une histoire intéressante. J'espère que vous visitez à Ste. Geneviève et explorez la belle ville et le patrimoine français.

**Disclosure: No compensation was received for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Admiring Unique French Colonial Architecture in Ste. Geneviève, Missouri


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