Welcome To Frenchtown!
The Frenchtown neighborhood owes its name to the early French settlers who founded St.Charles
and to our distinctive style of architecture. The district has the largest concentration of French Colonial
style architecture in the Midwest and the reason the district was placed on the National Register of
Historic Places in 1991. These simple structures, constructed from about 1820-50 feature an extended
main roof over raised open air galleried front porches and double front doors accessing both the living
and dining rooms on the main level which are often mistaken as duplexes. Kitchens were in the walkout
basement and the upper floor was a sleeping loft. Most are built with brick made here in Frenchtown
on cut limestone foundations from quarries nearby. Several historic homes in the area still retain their
summer kitchens: small detached brick buildings used for cooking, washing laundry and smoking meats
as well as brick carriage houses.
Famous people associated with Frenchtown include Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, a fur trader of French
and African descent who founded Chicago and spent his last ten years in a stone house at the corner of
Second and Decatur Streets. Lewis and Clark dined at a home in Frenchtown before departing on their
exploration westward. Mother Rose Philippine Duchesne founded the Academy of the Sacred Heart
in 1818, the first free school west of the Mississippi at the corners of Clark and Second Streets. She
was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1988 and remains entombed there in the Duchesne Memorial
Shrine. The original school building is gone but the Convent, built in 1834, still stands.
The arrival of the railroad and large wave of German immigration in the 1830’s after Gottfried Duden
and Louis Eversman published a glowing account of the new frontier spurred groups and societies to
support immigration here. By the mid 1800’s, Frenchtown was a “city within the city”. North Second
Street was a bustling thriving commercial district. Butchers, bakers, tinsmiths and saddle makers all had
shops on the street; many lived above them on the second floor. Farmers brought their grain to the mill
located in the 900 block and stayed at the boarding house at the corner of French and Second Streets.
The fire department‘s restored hose company #2 at 1123 North Second Street is now the Historic
Frenchtown Museum with changing exhibits of local interest and walking tour brochures.
The St.Charles Car Company, organized in 1872 and purchased by the American Car Foundry (ACF)
in 1899 is located between Second Street and the Missouri River. By 1890 it employed more than
1800 men and was known worldwide as a leader in streetcar and railcar design. By the hundreds they
walked our streets and sidewalks to and from work. By 1910 at least one member of every household
in Frenchtown worked at ACF. During WW1, they manufactured more than 50,000 army escort wagons.
During WW11 they produced hospital cars and eleven tanks a day rolled out of the shops. Today one of
the largest buildings has been repurposed for indoor tennis by the Steel Shop Tennis Club and Foundry
Arts Center resides at the south end of the site just off Main Street.
Frenchtown is once again enjoying a rise in popularity as an antique shopping, dining and arts district.
The influx of rehabbers and young families is beginning to show in the restored homes on North Third,
Fourth and Fifth Streets. Recreational opportunities are nearby including the new Eco Park nature
walking trail with overlooks on the Missouri River, the city owned duSable Park stretches from the boat
launch are at the foot of Olive Street and northward beyond the Boeing site along the Missouri River
with playgrounds, picnic areas, pavilions, a ball park and a popular off-leash dog park. Running directly
through Frenchtown, the old MKT (“Katy Trail”) rails to trails project with level walking/bike path has
several trailheads in Frenchtown, accessing some of the most beautiful countryside in Missouri.