Sainte Genevieve, Missouri
Ste. Genevieve is the oldest European town in the State of Missouri. It was settled by French Canadians in 1750 when this part of Missouri was a colonial possession of France. I'm including Ste. Genevieve here because I'm interested in the way it's been preserved. It is almost, but not quite like an historic park. There are essentially no modern buildings in the historic part of the city and all of the signs and storefronts are basically tasteful. The town is clean and buildings are generally well maintained but it doesn't seem fake. Most of the properties in Ste. Genevieve are privately owned. The State of Missouri owns 3 houses in town that together are called the Felix Valle House State Historic Site.
Aside from the state's involvement, Ste. Genevieve's preservation is the result of the efforts of local citizens, unique economic and geographic circumstances and it's unique history. If the local economy had been better over the last hundred years, I think that the gaps between buildings seen today would have been filled in with more modern structures. Had it been worse I assume more buildings would have been lost over the years. Ste. Genevieve is close enough to Saint Louis to have drawn a steady trickle of tourists over the years but not so close that it's been overwhelmed by suburbia or services for tourists. As it is, there are several bed and breakfasts in town in renovated homes and many small restaurants and boutique shops in the commercial areas. There are no modern hotels, chain stores or restaurants in the historic core. The only exception to this that I remember seeing was a bank with a surface parking lot on the edge of the district. I assume that this is in some part thanks to local ordinances. The marginal economy of the area in the mid 1900s is also probably partly responsible.
Because of it's unique history and state of preservation, the National Park Service is considering establishing a National Historic Park in Ste. Genevieve. This would be a big boost to the local tourist economy and strengthen local preservation. Ste. Genevieve is in a fascinating part of Missouri. Saint Mary, a town abandoned by the Mississippi river is a few miles Southeast. The historic SE Missouri lead belt is a few miles west. Missouri Mines State Historic Site, is a really interesting place to visit along with the towns of Park Hills and Bonne Terre.
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