ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) –About 3 dozen reenactors transformed the icy St. Louis Arch grounds Saturday into a scene from the day the city was founded 250 years ago: February 15th, 1764.
It was one of the “St. Louis 250” organization’s events to celebrate the city’s 250th birthday.
The reenactors played the parts of city founder, Auguste Chouteau, and the close to 30 men who walked though an opening on a Mississippi River bluff and started building in what is now downtown St. Louis.
“This is what they were doing. They set up a camp. They’re going to stake out the lots and they’re going to start building Lacelede’s house,” said National Park Ranger Dough Hardin who took on the role of Antoine Riviere, one of Chouteau’s men building the home and fur trading post for French businessman, Pierre Laclede.
The place had its name years before the United States did.
"Laclede named it Saint Louis, after the patron saint of France, King Louis IV,” Hardin said.
Conditions when they started building were likely far from the autumn-like romanticized vision depicted in paintings when Laclede dispatched his stepson, Chouteau. According to Hardin, none of the documents or journals from the day really said much about the weather. But it was February. There was the mention of river and ice.
“And he says to Auguste Chouteau,” Hardin told onlookers in a tent below the Gateway Arch, “’in the Spring, when the ice breaks from the river, you will return to this spot and you will be in charge of building the buildings’.”
They persevered, mapped out, and built a city; a feat for which 6th grader, Brooke Brown of Overland, had a greater appreciation after being at the event. The same was true for her grandmother, Sharon Kenny.
“More respect, more respect for the city, because it truly is an amazing city; an amazing start,” Kenny said.
250 years after that “start” our story is still being told.