Since moving our home base to St. Charles County, my husband and I have tried to seek out the unique & interesting on this side of the river. Architecture, history, places, people, and of course sweet little pockets where all of the above converge quite nicely.
In the city of St. Charles, Main Street is the obvious front runner, and rightly so. It’s a genuine historic treasure with a beautiful view of the Missouri River, direct access to the Katy Trail and dozens of shops & restaurants. But it’s definitely not the only area worth visiting near there.
A few blocks north, Frenchtown is just as old and historic. And if you haven’t been there lately, you might be surprised by the businesses that have popped up.
Bookcase Basketcase opened in Frenchtown about 9 months ago and it has such a great vibe. Filled with books, art and antiques, all displayed in colorful themed vignettes, this is a store where you just want to linger and take it all in. Especially when the owner fires up her record player and treats you to some classic vinyl! Open every day but Monday @ 1106 N 2nd St, 63301.
If you want to hunt for more vintage finds, you won’t have to wander far. Just a stone’s throw from Bookcase Basketcase is Bayard Street Antique Mall (@ 1200 N 2nd), Secondhand Chic Marketplace (@ 910 N 2nd) and a handful of other antique dealers. Secondhand Chic is usually only open one weekend a month, but luckily, they have a special event coming up Thursday. Along with Bookcase Basketcase and Bayard Street, they’re hosting “Ladies Night Out” from 4-7pm on June 30, where you can shop, enjoy drinks & snacks & enter a raffle for gift certificates.
Also participating in Ladies Night Out is a neat new store called Crafty LLC (@1423 N 2nd). Only open since June 4, it offers a small but carefully curated selection of handmade local products, including jewelry, soap, SeedGeeks heirloom seeds, candles, artwork, pottery, kids’ items and even craft beer & soda.
In fact, Crafty is hosting a Beer and Band event on July 30, with live music & fresh local beer. I think they’re also planning to host crafting workshops at some point. Definitely worth a visit! All of these retailers are open for the holiday weekend!
While you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by the Frenchtown Heritage Museum (@1121 N 2nd), where you can learn about the history of the area and pick up an excellent self-guided tour of the local architecture. Frenchtown is home to dozens of fine examples of French Colonial, Greek Revival and Victorian-style buildings – so many that the district is actually on the National Historic Register.
I’ve had my eye on the building at 1100 N 2nd for a while. Pictured at the top of this post, it was built in 1900 and is currently for sale by owner. It’s perfect for live/work, with a retail space on the main level and a 3-bedroom apartment upstairs. Plus, it’s been extensively renovated and is just $179,900.
Bookcase Basketcase is right next door and there’s another intriguing business out back: the Lamborghini Gold Coast Athletic Centre. Housed in a former train car factory, this massive complex offers 58,000 square feet of space for playing soccer, volleyball, basketball, fustal, football, lacrosse, baseball and softball. You can also rent it out for events. The Foundry Art Centre is a short walk away.
Frenchtown’s other main attraction is, of course, the Shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. There you can explore the life of this brave French missionary who opened a school for girls in 1818 – the first free school west of the Mississippi.
Then, after you’ve gotten your fill of history, architecture and antiques (and maybe shopped for outdoor gear at the Take A Hike Shop), you can head back to Main Street for dining options. Frenchtown has no restaurants – yet. Unless you count STL Cake Pops, the first cake pop bakery in St. Louis.
But with another antique mall opening soon on 2nd Street and the other new businesses working hard to build momentum, I’m hoping the word gets out that Frenchtown is in the midst of a revival – again! And real estate is way cheaper there than on Main Street!
So if you’d like to buy or sell property in Frenchtown, or you just want more info on this historic, quirky, up-and-coming neighborhood, let me know!
Realtor / Vintage House Specialist
The Howard Team