Visitors Guide to
Jefferson County, Missouri
"Historic Charm on the
Mississippi River Since 1859"
Kimmswick is located
along the banks of the Mississippi River just 22 miles south of St. Louis.
The area along Rock Creek contained 14 mineral springs that were a source of
salt for early Native Americans. In 1779 Thomas Jones established a salt
works but had to abandon the endeavor due to hostile raids by local tribes.
During the colonial era there were two main modes of travel available to
area inhabitants. Using boats or canoes on the Mississippi provided the
easiest form of transportation, particularly for destinations downriver. The
other mode was overland using inland trails that were primarily used by the native tribes and
wild animals. The Spanish used these trails on their way upriver from New
Madrid and Ste. Genevieve to St. Louis. This route passed near what would
become Kimmswick and was called El Camino Real (the Royal Road) and is the
oldest road in Missouri. To mark the route, the Missouri Daughters of the
American Revolution erected a red granite boulder in 1917. The marker can be
seen on the east bank of Rock Creek, 30 feet back from Highway K.
history of the town itself begins when Theodore Kimm, a successful St. Louis
dry goods merchant and native of Brunswick, Germany, moved to Jefferson
County in 1850 and purchased a large tact of land. In 1858 the St. Louis
Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad laid track through his land. The town
was platted by Kimm along the tracks of the railroad along the Mississippi
River at the mouth of Rock Creek in 1859. The town was named after himself
combining "Kimms" with "wick" which means a village, a
castle, or dwelling in Old High German. Kimm then built a number of houses,
and sold them and the lots on which they stood on trust deeds, to induce
mechanics and others to settle.
Kimmswick was prospering as wealthy families from St. Louis and immigrant
stonecutters settled this mainly German community. The town boasted a bank,
hotel, flouring mill, iron works foundry, lumber mill, gristmill, brewery,
slaughterhouse, butcher shops, and large greenhouses that shipped fresh
flowers to St. Louis. The stonecutters worked in nearby limestone quarries
and stones they cut were used to build the Old Courthouse in St. Louis. By
1876, Kimmswick was the second largest town in size in Jefferson County.
There were several hotels and with train service to St. Louis the town
became a popular summer resort for St. Louisans wanting to escape the summer
began to decline with the rise in the popularity of the automobile. The
highways bypassed the town and riverboat and passenger train service was
discontinued. Businesses moved to flank the new highways and many old
buildings were torn down.
loss of these historic buildings inspired Lucianna Gladney-Ross to begin an
effort in 1969 to restore and save the town. In 1970, the restoration began,
with several of the old homes being renovated. In addition old log buildings
from throughout St. Louis County and surrounding areas were dismantled and
reassembled in Kimmswick. In July of 2007 nearly seven blocks with 44
buildings in the oldest part of this quaint town were listed on the
National Register of Historic Places. The Kimmswick Historical Society continues the
effort of restoration and now has a museum in what was once the Kimmswick
Bible Church at 3rd and Vine Streets. A Visitor Center on Market Street
welcomes provides a wealth of information and is open Tuesdays through
visitors will discover a friendly hospitality of a small town of about 150
people, many unique 18th and 19th century buildings that feature antique,
collectable and artisan shops, and a delicious home-style restaurant. Kimmswick
is well known for its yearly festivals, which include the Strawberry
festival in June and the Apple Butter
Festival in October. Please note that
many of the shops in Kimmswick are closed on Mondays.