on the west bank of the Mississippi River, the village of Ste.
Genevieve was settled in the late 1740s about two miles
south of its present location. The village was one of several
important French communities forming a region known as the "Illinois
Country", part of the vast territory held by France in North
America at the time. Many of Ste. Genevieve's earliest residents
were French-Canadian habitants who farmed the rich, alluvial
soil adjacent to the village, producing salt and lead from nearby
creeks and mines.
World events impacted the habitants of Ste. Genevieve in 1762,
when France ceded all there holdings west of the Mississippi
River to Spain at the close of the French and Indian War. Despite
the transfer and new Spanish government in the region, Ste.
Genevieve retained its distinctive French character and language.
A disastrous flood in 1785 triggered the gradual relocation
of the village to higher ground between the forks of the Gabouri
Creek, the site of present-day Ste. Genevieve.
Much of historic Ste. Genevieve's charm and ambiance is due
to the remarkable preservation of the features of the colonial
settlement. Its narrow streets and fenced gardens surround
some of the most significant eighteenth-century architecture
of the nation. These "French-Colonial" style buildings
were constructed from massive logs, hewn and set vertically
to form the walls of the home. Heavy timbers were mortised
and pegged into sturdy trusses that supported the impressive
hipped roof covering the house and its wide porches. Fascinating
variations of this architectural style, known as poteaux-en-terre
and poteaux-sur-sole, are found in the historic homes of colonial
Ste. Genevieve, as well as in Quebec and Normandy. Historians
and architects continue to study these buildings, absorbed
by these links with our French colonial past.
As the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 propelled Ste. Genevieve
into another chapter in history, its French-speaking residents
suddenly found themselves citizens of the United States. Soon
the rush of Americans into the Louisiana Territory left its
mark in Ste. Genevieve as well. Merchants, lawyers and entrepreneurs
settled in the village, building their homes and businesses
among the old French houses, creating the delightful mix of
early nineteenth-century architecture found today. German immigrants
in the mid-century left a legacy of charming brick homes and
stores throughout the community.
Today Ste. Genevieve's National Landmark Historic District
offers visitors an unparalleled glimpse into its colonial past.
Its residents join together to preserve and interpret this
most remarkable community.