Pike County, Missouri

Georgia Street in the 1940's
by Reed Stoeckley

"Missouri's Picturesque Rivertown"

Located in the center of the Little Dixie Highway of the Great River Road, a 30-mile stretch of highway along the great Mississippi River that has been designated a national scenic byway, is the river town of Louisiana. Set amongst the oak and hardwood forests of the Lincoln Hills, an area that resembles the rugged hills of the Ozarks, and set on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi, Louisiana is town of some 4,000 inhabitants with many antebellum homes and Victorian era buildings in the downtown business district.

The Louisiana area was called the "Land of Golden Hills" by early French explorers. The area was first settled shortly after the Louisiana Purchase by Americans attracted by the rolling landscape and river charm and Fort Buffalo was built 2 miles south of present day Louisiana in 1812 to defend the early settlers from the Sauk and Fox tribes that were allied with the British during the War of 1812. The town site was settled in 1816 just north of Noix Creek and south of Salt River and was platted in 1818 and selected as the county seat of when Pike County was formed in 1819. Louisiana is one of Missouri’s older towns and is believed to have been named for Louisiana Bayse, reportedly the first child born in St. Louis after the Louisiana Purchase. Her father, J. W. Bayse moved his family to the new town in 1818 when his daughter was 14 years old. A restored log cabin from this era, built by James Stark around 1830, can be found at the historic Stark Bro's Nurseries and Orchards.

The county seat was moved from Louisiana to Bowling Green in 1822, but the town continued to prosper from river trade. The city’s strategic location on the Mississippi made it a principal shipping point and a commercial and manufacturing center. Louisiana grew to a population of over 7,000 by the late 1800s. Grain and lumber mills were early industries and both still exist. Heavy steamboat traffic was a common sight at the riverfront landings. Louisiana continued to thrive with the arrival in 1871 of the Clarksville and Western railroad. The 1883 railroad river bridge, with an unusual rotating span, is one of the oldest still operating on the entire length of the Mississippi. Louisiana at the height of its manufacturing period had tool, button, tobacco, and glove factories employing hundreds of people. Continued prosperity was assured when trade from interstate trucking boosted the economy when the Champ Clark Bridge was completed in 1928. The bridge functioned as a toll bridge until 1952 and is still the only automobile span across the Mississippi River from Alton, Illinois to Hannibal, Missouri, a distance of over 120 miles. Overlooking the bridge is Henderson Park which was given by and named for John B. Henderson, a United States Senator from Louisiana, who is credited with authoring the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.

The downtown district, which features predominately Italianate or Greek Revival, Late 19th and 20th Century styles of architectural, was built during years during the riverboat and railroad era. The Georgia Street Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 and consists of over 54 buildings in the downtown area. The State Department of Natural Resources has said Louisiana has "the most intact Victorian Streetscape in the state of Missouri" and the Louisiana Historic Preservation Association hosts its Great Mansions & Estates Tour every October where the public can visit Louisiana’s finest Federal and early Victorian style private family mansions normally not open to the public.

Louisiana is part of a dynamic art community that also includes Hannibal and Clarksville and forms the 50 Miles of Art Corridor where artists and artisans create works of art that can’t be found anywhere else. Twice a year, in the spring and in the fall, these artists hold the 50 Miles of Art! event where these professional artists open their studios, galleries, and retail spaces. Louisiana also features an outdoor mural project consisting of 20 murals and a 20-acre sculpture park.

The natural beauty of the region that surrounds Louisiana is known to attract visitors. There are scenic overlooks of the Mississippi River at Riverfront Park and Riverview Cemetery in Louisiana and two scenic overlooks on Route 79 north of town. The town hosts a variety of events throughout the year including the Winter River Festival, 50 Miles of Art!, Great Mansions & Estates Tour, and the Louisiana Country Colorfest. Louisiana also offers visitors unique antique and specialty shops, artists’ shops, interesting restaurants, and inviting bed and breakfasts. Louisiana’s downtown of historic storefronts, gracious homes, and beautiful vistas make it an ideal destination to spend a day or two rediscovering the charming appeal of yesterday that this small city still embodies.

Louisiana is located approximately 85 miles north of St. Louis and 33 miles south of Hannibal on Route 79.

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Cuivre River
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Elsah, Illinois
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St. Charles, MO

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