Sainte Genevieve, Missouri, (population 4,463) is located on the Mississippi River 65 miles south of St. Louis. First settled between 1735 and 1750 two miles south of its present location, it was one of the important French communities in the “Illinois Country” and was considered the breadbasket of French Louisiana.
Many early Sainte Genevieve inhabitants were French-Canadian farmers who worked the rich, alluvial soil near the river and mined large quantities of lead and salt. The town was moved to its present location after a disastrous flood in 1785.
Much of historic Sainte Genevieve’s charm is due to the remarkable preservation of features of the colonial settlement period. Its narrow streets and fenced gardens surround some of the last remaining French colonial structures left in America. After the Louisiana Purchase, Americans built their homes among the old French houses. German immigrants, arriving after 1830, left a legacy of charming brick houses and stores throughout the community.
Today, the Sainte Genevieve National Historic Landmark District, which includes the Sainte Genevieve Museum and Sainte Genevieve Welcome Center, offers visitors a distinctive glimpse into the past. Tours are available of such historical houses as the 222-year-old Bolduc House, which won a Preserve America Presidential Award in 2005; the 200-year-old Guilbourd-Valle House; and the Felix Valle State Historical Site.
The Sainte Genevieve Memorial Cemetery, established in 1787 and the final resting place of many of Missouri’s early pioneers, was recently restored through a partnership of federal, state, and local entities.
The January King’s Ball, complete with period costumes, is a 200-year-old tradition. Other community events include the French Festival in June and the Joure de Fete in August, which features historical crafts and demonstrations by colonial reenactors.
Designated a Preserve America Community in March 2007.