Visitors Guide to
Jefferson County, Missouri

"Historic Charm on the Mississippi River Since 1859"

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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.

The 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.

Soon 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 heat.

Kimmswick 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. The 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 Sundays.

Today, 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.
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