Ste. Genevieve, MO Friday March 7
While not exhaustive and certainly not in-depth, this early part of the trip is giving us a flavor of Mississippi River towns. They share a common link of early rise due to water power and river and railraod transportation. Transportation led to the development of industry. Early fortunes were made and lost. As time and circumstances passed, the cities rose or fell according to local temperament and opportunities for change.
While the Illinois cities of Moline, East Moline, ad Rock Island are larger than the later towns we visited and seem to have more large employers, the housing stock and towns seemed more run-down and depressing.
Keokuk IA (about 10,000 people) came across as a reasonably suitable town in comparison. Homes are still small and older. Their upscale street, Grand Avenue, has grandiose homes but many looked in need of re-furbishing. Maby it is just that time of the year when everything looks gray. It has one large employer we noticed but it had a 10 month lockout a few years ago.
Quincy IL (40,000) was one step up. Still not glamorous (sorry Chammber of Commerce), it boasts of a large heritage of architecturally significant homes. However, the architecture museum we planned to visit closed 6 months ago due to a lack of funds.
We stopped at the visitor’s center housed in a mansion built in 1900 and styled after Moorish architecture the owner grew fond of during a two year stint abroad. His tenure here was less than 15 years. The property was then sold and to be used as a railroad staging area. That never came to fruition and like many large mansions, passed through numerous owners and periods of neglect before preservationists and infusions of large sums of taxpayer funds restored it.
The visitor’s center had a driving tour of several types of architecturally significant homes so we whiled away some time viewing old Quincy. National Geographic named the corner of 16th and Maine as “one of the most architecturally significant corners in the U.S.” Nice but without further information, I can not tell you why. The four buildings did not overwhelm me.
Lunch was at a restaurant overlooking the Mississippi. After the lock and dam at Keokuk, the portions of the river we could see had open water in the main channel.
As we drove to Hannibal MO from Quincy, the farm fields were flat. River flooding, if not for the Corps of Engineers, would inundate land for many miles. I am sure that is how the land became fertile in the first place. We passed towns so small there wasn’t even a bar.
Hannibal is Mark Twain on steroids. It is Huck this, Tom that and a few Beckys tossed in here and there. AAA rated the Mark Twain boyhood home (reconstruction) museum as a must see. We spent time perusing the multiple buildings and the museum’s gallery recap of Twain’s novels. We avoided the cave, the trolley, the lighthouse (not sure why that is here), the model trains, etc. March is not a peak tourist time here either but it was open and we enjoyed it. I did wonder if his books are still being covered in schools today.
As we drove to Ste. Genevieve MO for the evening, the snow disappeared-until we actually got to the town. Then there was snow. I guess it snowed last weekend and it is still around. Warmer temperatures are here and I doubt the snow will be here after the weekend.
Tourist literature states that Ste. Genevieve is the first town established west of the Mississippi-except we all know of Spanish towns in Texas and New Mexico that predate the 1740 French founding of this town. It is supposed to have the highest concentration of French colonial buildings in the U.S. More about Ste. Genevieve tomorrow.
Dinner was at the Anvil Saloon located in a buidling from 1855 and used as a saloon for the vast majority of its life. The bartender reminded me of my Dad’s outgoing personality with customers.
Ed and Chris 10:30 pm