Visitors Guide to Saint Charles, Missouri



Visitors Guide to
St. Charles
St. Charles County, Missouri

Missouri's First State Capitol

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Situated a short drive northwest of St. Louis is the city of St. Charles which traces its history to the late 18th century. Founded in 1769 by Louis Blanchette, a French Canadian fur trader and hunter, as a post along the Missouri River, St. Charles is the first European settlement along this waterway. Blanchette named the settlement Les Petit Cotes (The Little Hills) and served as its civil and military Governor until his death in 1793. In 1791 the population of the settlement had grown to around 225 and a second Catholic church was built and dedicated to San Carlos Borromeo, the patron saint of King Charles IV of Spain. On the day this church was dedicated the settlementís name was changed to San Carlos, shortened from the churchís name to also honor King Charles IV.

The first American settlers began arriving in the 1790's. Daniel Boone, the famous frontiersman, became one of the first settlers in St. Charles County by building a home in nearby Defiance in 1799. Boone moved to the region after he lost title to his land claims when Kentucky became a state in 1792 after hearing from his son, Daniel M., and other hunters of the great abundance of game and fertile country. In 1800, Boone was appointed magistrate of the Femme Osage District in St. Charles County and received a large tract of land for his services. Boone again lost his land after the United States took control after the Louisiana Purchase but was later granted a tract of land by a special act of Congress in 1814.

The Lewis and Clark Connection
In 1804, when the Louisiana Purchase was finalized, the settlementís name was Anglicized to St. Charles from San Carlos. On May 16, 1804, William Clark arrived in St. Charles, still at the time a predominately French community, with the main body of the Corps of Discovery to await the arrival of Meriwether Lewis who was still attending business in St. Louis. While in St. Charles, the expedition rearranged the goods in their boats, bought additional supplies, and enjoyed the hospitality of the town. Lewis arrived from St. Louis on May 20, and the expedition resumed their epic journey up the Missouri the next day. St. Charles has been designated as a Lewis and Clark site on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and is the home of the Lewis & Clark Boat House and Nature Center that is the home base for the replica boats (a keelboat and two pirogues) of the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles. An impressive new Lewis and Clark monument featuring Lewis, Clark, and Seaman can be found in Frontier Park along the banks of the Missouri River and the annual Frontier Days in May commemorates the Expedition's departure from St. Charles on their great adventure.

Visit our special Lewis and Clark Section to learn more about the Corps of Discoveryís experience during their stay in the Middle Mississippi River Valley. greatriverroad.comís special coverage includes information on all of the regionís sites and events as well as supplemental articles relating to the expeditionís experience during the winter of 1803-04.

St. Charles served as the territorial capitol of Missouri and as itís first state capitol from June 4, 1821 until October 1, 1826 when the state capitol was moved to its permanent location in Jefferson City. The second floor of two adjoining Federal-style brick buildings on Main Street owned by local merchants provided office and meeting space for both legislatures and the governor. This building (photo right,) recently restored as a State Historic Site with a interpretive center, is open to the public and operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

St. Charles saw its population and economic base expand as a result of the western expansion and German immigration. Its inclusion in the railway and bridge building networks helped St. Charles make a successful transition from a primarily river town. One of its newest industries is tourism and the success that St. Charles is experiencing in this new endeavor is evident along Main Street. This district is on the National Historic Register and contains over 30 notable structures that now house a variety of restaurants, shops, and other businesses. Friendly and informative people who help visitors with brochures, directions, and answers to questions staff a centrally located Visitors Center. St. Charles' newest attraction is the Foundry Art Centre. This new facility has 5,000 square feet of exhibition space in four galleries that features an on-going rotation of special touring exhibitions, curated exhibits and juried competitions. 21 studios for artists have been built on the mezzanine level of the building that allows visitors to see and talk with the artists as they work. The wide variety of special events that occur throughout the year make St. Charles an interesting stop along the Great River Road or as a destination in itself. Its easy driving distance from St. Louis also makes St. Charles a great short distance getaway for people of metropolitan St. Louis.

Foundry Art Centre
St. Charles, MO
Riverlands Environmental
Demonstration Area
Daniel Boone Home
Defiance, MO
August A. Busch
Conservation Area