Historical distinction in Ste. Genevieve could mean more tourists, jobs

Ste. Genevieve earns distinction that could mean more tourism, jobs
(Photo courtesy of NPS)
(Photo courtesy of NPS)

STE. GENEVIEVE, MO (KFVS) - The Interior Secretary and Congress will have to make a decision that would affect the future of Ste. Genevieve becoming a national park.

Last week, Senator Roy Blunt addressed the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell about the National Park Service recommendation for St. Genevieve to be a nationally recognize site last week.

Ste. Genevieve received great news recently, in August, from a study conducted by the National Park Service.

The study found there is a nationally significant historic district in the city and county of Ste. Genevieve, and it is suitable for inclusion in the National Park System.

The study found there is a nationally significant historic district in the city and county of Ste. Genevieve, and it is suitable for inclusion in the National Park System.

"This would really be a shot in the arm for our tourism foot traffic," Sandra Cabot, Director of Ste. Genevieve Tourism and Economic Development, said.

"A tax dollar that's spent in your community is has a greater significant impact without draining other resources to support it so it's an important to the mix," said City Administrator Martin Toma.

Extra tax dollars spent in the area would change more than just what the city could plan for, but also businesses.

"When I think about the implications that are pointed out in this study 50,000 new people, that requires a different business plan than what I started with," owner Hank Johnson said. "In fact, I characterize this as a game-changer of St. Genevieve. I think it's going to make a difference in many, many directions in the economic impact."

The NPS focused mainly on the French heritage homes in the study; downtown Ste. Genevieve has many homes and buildings dating back into the 1800's, with a handful of homes that date back to the 1700s.

"It's one of five such buildings in the whole United States and two of the other five are in St. Genevieve," Johnson said. "So, this architectural and historical heritage of St. Genevieve is important to the United States."

Johnson said French colonial history needs to not only be preserved, but taught in schools. He thinks these old homes hold the key to showcasing his hometown.

"The opportunity for education about French colonial architecture, French colonial history, it's unique, it's never been told, you don't ever hear about it in St. Louis Schools you don't hear about the French presence."

"There are two types of vertical post homes," Cabot said. "There are vertical homes built with posts on a sill and vertical homes with posts in the ground. We have three of the post in the ground vertical homes and there are a total of five in the nation."

Ste. Genevieve could be added to the National Park Service as early as this year.  However, Cabot said it depends how long it takes to go through Congress.

"Our entire downtown is already on the National Registry of Historic sites, and several of the French homes are National Historic Landmarks," Cabot said. "But the NPS recognition would be a big step."

The study concluded 10 years after the Ste. Genevieve County National Historic Site Study Act of 2005 was first started.

Ste. Genevieve was founded circa 1750 by French-Canadian settlers, most of who came from earlier settlements just across the Mississippi in present-day Illinois.

Though resources, such as salt and lead, attracted settlers to the west side of the Mississippi, the rich soil was the greatest draw for most settlers. Ste. Genevieve was primarily an agricultural settlement, with both free and enslaved residents working in the Grand Champ, or Common Field, according to the study.

After a series of floods, the most severe of which occurred in 1785, the town was moved inland approximately three miles, to where it stands today.

Residents continued to work the Common Field, which though smaller, is still used and cultivated today. Ste. Genevieve became a hub of trade, and following the Revolutionary War, there was an influx of British-Americans that intensified following the Louisiana Purchase, expanding the village.

Ste. Genevieve retains many of its historic buildings, landscapes and community characteristics.

Ste. Genevieve is one of the oldest National Historic Landmark districts in the country. When initially designated in 1960, it was recognized for the unique concentration of French vertical log architecture.

"We had a major earthquake in 1811 and these homes are still standing even through that earthquake and have withstood the test of time," Cabot said.

Download the KFVS News app: iPhone | Android

Copyright 2016 KFVS. All rights reserved.