The Frenchtown Historic District in St. Charles County, Missouri has been a project of restoration and revitalization

CJ Coombs
Frenchtown Historic District home.Jim Roberts, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Frenchtown Historic District is considered a national historic district in St. Charles, Missouri housed between N. Fifth, Clark, and French Streets and the Missouri River. There are over 200 buildings that contribute to the area's historical significance.

The district developed between 1830 and 1940. The architectural designs include the styles of Greek Revival, Late Victorian, and Colonial. The St. Charles Car Company (later named American Car and Foundry Company) founded in 1873 was an industrial complex that was part of the district.

In 1991, this historic district was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Frenchtown Historic District

The Frenchtown Historic District is on the northside of St. Charles, Missouri about 20 miles north of St. Louis. The neighborhood inside the district includes buildings that are residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial. The houses are made of brick or frame construction, have small front yards, and are one and a half stories tall. Here, you can find interesting and unique architecture on buildings and homes.

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. This district was founded in 1769 by the French. In 1991, it became a National Trust Historic District. A community of people is trying to revitalize the area. (Source.)

The Frenchtown Historic District developed as an ethnic working-class neighborhood and was economically built by the railroad car manufacturing industry. The residential neighborhood has remained steady with both owners and renters even after the phasing out of rail car production during the 1950s.

The area of commercial activity did change. Some of the former businesses like bakeries and grocers became antique shops. However, most of the buildings were maintained well. Some have new facades but still have their historic properties.

Today, works continue to be in progress to continue revitalizing the area. What used to be a fire department on 1121 North Second Street is now the Frenchtown Heritage Museum and Research Center.

Frenchtown is once again enjoying more visitors with its antique shopping and arts district. Homes have been restored on North Third, Fourth, and Fifth Streets.

The St. Charles Car Company

The St. Charles Car Company was founded around 1872-1873. There were 12 companies that merged to form the American Car and Foundry in 1899. Once the market for steel passenger cars declined, it phased out in 1959. Buildings that still exist are in the Frenchtown Historic District. The car company was part of an industrial complex existing for blocks along the riverfront. It's located between the Missouri River and Second Street.

In 1890, more than 1800 men were employed with the car company. Known worldwide, it was a leader in streetcar and railcar design. Imagine all the people walking in this community back and forth to work. There was at least one person from every household that worked for the car company by 1910, which company also manufactured more than 50,000 army escort wagons during World War I. In the subsequent WWII, hospital cars and tanks were produced. One of their large buildings was repurposed into an indoor tennis club which has since closed down.

Frenchtown Heritage Museum and Research Center

Inside a restored fire station in Frenchtown are the Frenchtown Heritage Museum and Research Center where you can find some of the historical memorabilia of St. Charles and the Frenchtown area. Also, part of its purpose is a research facility if you want to find information about the Frenchtown Historic Preservation District.

The Frenchtown area, known for its antique shopping, boasts 58 historic French Colonial and German buildings. (Source.)

Thank you for reading.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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