National Park Service considering Ste. Genevieve

Tuesday, December 20, 2011
This is an undated postcard from Ste. Genevieve, showing the Spanish commandant's home. (Missourian archives)

STE. GENEVIEVE, Mo. -- The National Park Service has been studying whether to get involved in the town of Ste. Genevieve, south of St. Louis, which has a large collection of 200-year-old homes, as well as the largest concentration of colonial French architecture in North America.

Park service officials toured Ste. Genevieve this month and briefed local leaders on the status of the study, which the park service says will be finalized in 2013, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The park service has been considering several options. It could get involved in a limited way, by helping local groups or helping fund restoration projects. Or, it could acquire old French houses and other properties, and open a federally funded historic site in the Mississippi River town of about 11,000 residents.

The park service manages dozens of smaller and lesser-known places. Sharon Miles, a park service planner who is in charge of the Ste. Genevieve study, said one site that could serve as a blueprint is Louisiana's Cane River Creole National Historic Park, which includes two plantations and several out buildings. Management of the site is split between the park service and private landowners.

Miles said it's too early to discuss the alternatives under review. Even after the study is complete, any permanent role for the park service in Ste. Genevieve would require an act of Congress, she said.

Not every historic house owner is eager to give away a building. The Colonial Dames, a nonprofit group, owns one of Ste. Genevieve's best-known historic attractions, the Bolduc House Museum.

Lesley Barker, director of the museum, said that the group is happy that the park service is interested in getting involved in Ste. Genevieve but has no interest in letting go of the 219-year-old house surrounded by a stockade fence.

"The Colonial Dames (organization) is proud to own the Bolduc House, and nobody wants to get rid of it," Barker said.

Tim Conley, 64, has spent more than 40 years restoring houses in the region and owns the Jean Baptiste Vallé house, which was built in 1794.

"I've made it clear to the feds that, unless the idea of a national park bites the dust, the federal government will have the opportunity to acquire the house after I die," Conley said. "But I'm not old enough to say they can have it now."


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch,

Map of pertinent addresses

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