St. Charles

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Historic Main Street

St. Charles is a city in St. Charles County. It lies just to the northwest of St. Louis, on the Missouri River, and played for a time a significant role in the United States' westward expansion.

It is the second oldest city west of the Mississippi, founded in 1765 as Les Petites Cotes, "The Little Hills", by Louis Blanchette, a French Canadian fur trader and was the last "civilized" stop for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The city served as the first Missouri capital, from 1821 to 1826. It is the site for the Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne shrine.

St. Charles can be accessed from Interstate 70 using the Zumbehl Road, First Capitol Drive, and Fifth Street exits, or Highway 94.

Living in St. Charles

More than 60,000 people live in St. Charles.


The City of St. Charles school district has seven elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, and the Lewis & Clark Tech Building located on Zumbehl Road. St. Charles High School (sometimes called SCHS or simply "High") is the older of the two high schools. St. Charles West (called SCW or "West") was added in the late '70's in response to the city's growing population. The school has recently undergone renovation to improve both the exterior and interior of the building.

St. Charles is also home to a variety of private schools including St. Charles Borromeo, St. Cletus School (K-8), and Duchesne High School.

There are other schools in the Francis Howell School District that are in the area as well. Many students who live on the border go to Francis Howell North High School and Henderson Elementary as well as Barnwell Middle and Becky David Elementary.

Lindenwood University is located on Kingshighway, seconds from St. Charles High. Originally a women's school, the University features a variety of majors and extracurricular programs. The school is perhaps most noted for its excellence in the performing arts and education. Lindenwood is also home to 89.1 The Wood (KCLC), a commercial-free student-driven radio station.

The Orchard Farm School District serves St.Charles but is outside of the city. The district has an elementary school, middle school, and high school.

Recreation and New Developments

St. Charles lies at one end of the Katy Trail, a 225 mile long state park enjoyed by bikers and walkers. There is a historic shopping district and riverboat gambling. The City also has many events having to do with the Lewis and Clark Expedition which took place right in Old Town St. Charles. A new traditional neighborhood development called the New Town at St. Charles is currently under construction in northern St. Charles. New Town is the best example in the St. Louis area of the new movement in residential development and community planning, New Urbanism.

Riverfront St. Charles

The people of St. Charles and surrounding cities gather to celebrate several events throughout the year. The Ameristar Casino is also located on the riverfront, open year-round.

St. Charles Christmas Traditions

One of the nations largest Christmas Festivals takes place on the streets of St. Charles every year starting the day after Thanksgiving and going through until right before Christmas. Over 30 costumed Legends of Christmas stroll the streets and interact with guests, while Victorian Era Christmas Carolers fill the air with old-fashioned carols. Every Saturday and Sunday the Legends of Christmas and the world-renowned Lewis & Clark Fife and Drum Corp take part in the Santa Parade as it heads up Historic South Main Street to the site of the First Missouri State Capitol.

Fourth of July

A grand fireworks display draws large numbers on July 4th. Many bring blankets to sit near the riverfront. Others opt to view the festivities from the Old Courthouse.

Festival of the Little Hills

Another popular riverfront festival, The Festival of the Little Hills is a historic St. Charles tradition. This festival runs through an entire weekend and features great food, live entertainment, craft shops, and shows for kids. The theme of the festival centers around the famous Lewis & Clark expedition: many participants don clothing from the era and act out historic events.


This October riverfront festival celebrates the German influence on the history of the city. Many vendors sell beer and other German goods.


Louis Blanchette

Louis Blanchette was a Frenchman who travelled to the Americas, it is said, for adventure. According to Hopewell's Legends of the Missouri and Mississippi:

In the year 1765, a Frenchman, called Blanchette Chasseur, animated by that love of adventure which characterizes all who have lived a roving and restless life, ascended the Missouri, with a few followers, for the purpose of forming a settlement in the then remote wilderness.

According to Hopewell's rather romantic account, Blanchette met another Frenchman (Bernard Guillet) at the site of St. Charles in 1765. Blanchette, determined to settle at the site, asked if Guillet, who had become the chief of a Dakota tribe, had chosen a name for it.

"I called the place 'Les Petites Cotes' " replied Bernard, "from the sides of the hills that you see."
"By that name shall it be called," said Blanchette Chasseur, "for it is the echo of nature — beautiful from its simplicity."

Blanchette settled there in 1769 under the authority of the Spanish governor of Upper Louisiana, and served as its civil and military leader until his death in 1793. During this time perhaps only a couple dozen buildings were built. Although the settlement was under Spanish jurisdiction, the settlers themselves remained primarily French nationals.

San Carlos

The first church, built in 1791, was dedicated to San Carlos Borromeo, and the town became known as San Carlos del Misuri: "St. Charles of the Missouri". This church was destroyed by a tornado in 1916.

Daniel Boone

The first American-born Europeans to settle in the region were Daniel Boone and his family. The Spanish Lieutenant-Governor Delassus appointed him commandant of the Femme Osage District, which he served until the United States government assumed control in 1804. The name of the town, San Carlos, was anglicized to become St. Charles.

Lewis and Clark

William Clark arrived in St. Charles on May 16, 1804. With him were 40 men and three boats; there they made final preparations, as they waited for Meriwether Lewis to arrive from St. Louis. They attended dances, dinners, and a church service during this time, and the excited town was very hospitable to the explorers.

Lewis arrived via St. Charles Rock Road on May 20, and the expedition launched the next day in a keel boat at 3:30 pm. St. Charles was the last established American town they would visit for more than two and a half years.

State Capital

When Missouri was granted statehood in 1821, a decision was made to build a "City of Jefferson" to serve as the state capital, in the center of the state, overlooking the Missouri River. Since this land was undeveloped at the time, a temporary capital was needed. St. Charles beat eight other cities in a competition to house the temporary capitol, offering free meeting space for the legislature. The Missouri government continued to meet there until Jefferson City was ready in 1826.

German Immigration

Gottfried Duden was a German who visited in the area in 1824. Travelling under the guidance of Daniel M. Boone, he wrote extensive accounts of life in St. Charles County during his year there. These he published upon his return to Germany in 1829, and his favorable impressions of the area led to the immigration of a number of Germans in 1833. The first permanent German settler in the region was probably Louis Eversman, who arrived with Duden but decided to stay.

Sister Cities


Saint Charles is located at 38°47′19″N, 90°30′42″W (38.788698, -90.511764).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20.8 mi². 20.4 mi² of it is land and 0.5 mi² of it (2.30%) is water.


As of the census of 2000, there were 60,321 people, 24,210 households, and 15,324 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,962.4/mi². There were 25,283 housing units at an average density of 1,241.6/mi². The racial makeup of the city was 93.28% White, 3.48% African American, 0.27% Native American, 1.01% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.73% from other races, and 1.19% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.97% of the population.

There were 24,210 households out of which 30.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.4% were married couples living together, 10.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.7% were non-families. 29.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the city the population was spread out with 23.4% under the age of 18, 12.0% from 18 to 24, 30.5% from 25 to 44, 22.0% from 45 to 64, and 12.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 96.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $47,782, and the median income for a family was $60,175. Males had a median income of $40,827 versus $27,778 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,607. About 4.6% of families and 6.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.1% of those under age 18 and 5.9% of those age 65 or over.

External Links


<googlemap lat="38.784679" lon="-90.498043" zoom="11" width="700" controls="large">38.784679, -90.498043, Saint Charles, MO, USA</googlemap>