Founded in 1769 as a trading post, St. Charles, Missouri, (population 60,000) is the oldest city on the Missouri River. Louis Blanchette, a French Canadian fur trader and hunter named the settlement Les Petites Cotes (The Little Hills) and served as its civil and military governor until his death in 1793. Most residents were French nationals, but Spain actually owned the territory. The name St. Charles dates to the Spanish occupation; San Carlos del Misuri (Saint Charles of the Missouri) became St. Charles when the U.S. government assumed control of the region in 1804.
One of the first settlers in the area was noted frontiersman Daniel Boone, who settled near St. Charles in Defiance, Missouri, in 1799. Meriwether Lewis and 40 members of the Corps of Discovery camped in St. Charles in 1804. The men were in town for about a week waiting for William Clark to finish business in St. Louis before they embarked on their journey. St. Charles served as the first capital of Missouri from 1820-1824.
Recognizing this wealth of history, the citizens of St. Charles began their preservation efforts in the late 1960s. Today the city boasts three major historic districts and welcomes 1.5 million visitors each year, many of whom are drawn to the area by its rich cultural heritage.
The Borromeo 1791 Church is a replica of a Catholic church built in St. Charles in 1791, currently being replicated and reconstructed with period tools on its original site. The church is being built in the poteaux en terre (post in ground) style with vertical cedar logs, based on plans from a 1780 vertical log church in the Missouri/Mississippi River Valley. This style, one unique to the French in the New World, was very common in the 17th and 18th centuries, but very few examples remain today. The church project is a partnership between the city of St. Charles and the non-profit group JQH Historic Preservation for Education. While the building is under construction, volunteers interpret the site to visitors.
Lewis & Clark Heritage Days has been an annual event since 1979. It commemorates the time the Corps of Discovery spent in St. Charles in May 1804. The reenactment event features a parade, crafts, food, and games. It also offers an opportunity to visit the three full-scale replica boats belonging to the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles group. This group reenacted the entire Lewis & Clark Expedition during its Bicentennial in 2004. The boats are moored at the Lewis and Clark Boathouse, which is also home to a museum interpreting the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Designated a Preserve America Community in March 2008.