French-Canadian colonists established Ste. Geneviève in 1735 when the land west of the Mississippi was part of French Louisiana. It was the first permanent European settlement in Missouri. In 1785 the river flooded, and the town relocated three miles away on higher ground.
I visited Ste. Geneviève with the National Park Traveler’s club during the 2022 convention in St. Louis. We watched the park film and toured the Jean Baptiste Vallé House across the street from the visitor center. Then we followed the ranger across town to the Green Tree Tavern for the final stop on the tour.
The area passed into Spanish control with the Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1762. Spain returned the Louisiana Territory to France in 1800. Citizenship changed once again with the Louisiana purchase in 1803. The ranger giving our group’s tour asked how we would feel if one day we woke up and our home was in a different country. Because of this history, Ste. Geneviève had a unique blended culture.
The French used distinctive construction methods known as Poteaux-en-terre and Poteaux-sur-sol. These translate to “post in ground” and “post on sill.” The walls use vertical, instead of horizontal, logs placed directly into a trench in the ground or on a sill. These walls are topped off with large timbers to create a steeply pitched roof.
This design had some advantages. The vertical logs stood up better to the earthquakes that hit the area in the early 1800s. And the large attic space was used to store hay in the winter, providing insulation. By the time the weather warmed up, the hay had been fed to the livestock opening up the attic for ventilation.
Ste. Geneviève is home to most of the remaining examples of this type of architecture. The National Park Service designated the village a National Historic District in 1960. The district achieved National Historical Park status in 2020.
Jean Baptiste Vallé House➤
Jean Baptiste Vallé served as the last commandant of Ste. Genevieve. His father, Francois, held the position before him. Jean Baptiste inherited the position in 1804 and oversaw Ste. Genevieve’s shift from French to American.
The Jean Baptiste Vallé House was constructed in 1794. It remained a private home until 2010. Over the course of those two centuries the home transformed along with the community from Spanish to French to American. After Vallé’s death in 1849, the home passed to other families. They renovated it, added on and modernized it.
Ste. Genevieve Posts➤
- Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park
- Jean Baptiste Vallé House
- Green Tree Tavern
Location: 327 St Marys Rd, Ste. Genevieve, MO
Designation: National Historical Park
Date designated/established: October 30, 2020
Date of my visit: July 15, 2022