Photos of Historic Buildings

Fort Belle Fontaine, 13399 Bellefontaine Rd., 1805

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Fort Belle Fontaine had been established in 1805 along the banks of the Missouri River not only as a military post, but also a trading post for the Sac and Fox Indians. The Indian Factory, as the trading post was called, was closed in 1808 and its stores moved to Fort Madison and Fort Osage.

The military function of Fort Belle Fontaine was continued but shortly faced two major obstacles, both related to its position on the river lowlands. Situated below the bluffs, the fort’s strategic effectiveness could easily be negated by enemy firing from the heights. In addition,
proximity to the river bank caused flooding which brought disease and rapid deterioration of the log structures.

Under General Daniel Bissell’s direction, Fort Belle Fontaine was rebuilt in 1810 in larger scale on the bluff high above the river. Construction was done with logs, in the manner of the old post, with the foundations of the buildings of limestone, quarried on the site. Although of larger size and better materials, the new Fort Belle Fontaine did not survive. As early as 1817, reports declared that the storehouses were in need of repair and by 1821 the buildings were in decay, which made a new relocation urgent. In 1826 the city of Carondelet donated land for a new military establishment south of St. Louis and the troops were moved to Jefferson Barracks.

Archaeological excavations at the site of Fort Belle Fontaine have been conducted since 1992 and the results have been encouraging. Among many artifacts, stone wall foundations of a building were found, thought to be one of the officers’ quarters.

Grand Staircase, Missouri Hills, 13300 Bellefontaine Road., Spanish Lake,
ca. 1938

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Located immediately north of the site of the second Fort Belle Fontaine, the Grand Staircase is actually a series of separate staircases, some in pairs, which descend the steep bluffs of the Missouri River to the river. At the top of the staircase is an observation terrace which offers an impressive view across the Missouri River towards St. Charles County and Alton, Illinois.

This staircase is part of an extensive project undertaken by the Works Progress Administration in the late 1930s to create a public park on the grounds of Bellefontaine Farms, built in 1913 as an orphanage and home for boys and run by the City of St. Louis. The buildings associated with Bellefontaine Farms are now owned by the State of Missouri and run by the Division of Family Services for boys and girls as the Missouri Hills Home.

In 1986 the site, excluding the Missouri Hills Home, was acquired by the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation. A number of improvements have recently been made to the park, including a 3 mile loop hiking and biking trail with interpretive signs and benches, parking lot and a restored 50 acre upland prairie and wetland area.

Wilson Larimore House, 11475 Lilac Ave., Spanish Lake, ca. 1860, NR

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One of the most imposing farmhouses in Spanish Lake is the Wilson Larimore House, an example of agricultural progress and the evolution of the architectural tastes of successful farmers, ready to measure their lifestyle in city terms. Wilson Larimore’s farmstead was much admired by Missouri’s agricultural society. In 1866 the St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Association Fair awarded the most prestigious show in Missouri to Larimore’s property “for best improved and most highly cultivated farm not less than 500 acres." The annual report of the fair included an extensive article titled “The Model Farm of W.L. Larimore” in which all aspects of his farming practice were examined. Greatest space was devoted to the house which was “erected of the best materials, and in the most substantial manner with a view to make it most convenient and pleasant.” In the reviewer’s opinion, the house would “in point of architectural design and exterior and interior finish, rank equal to many of our best city residences.”

Larimore, a native of Kentucky, was indeed a well-to-do farmer who brought to St. Louis a train of wagons with household goods and purchased land for 10- 12 dollars per acre. His Italianate house in Spanish Lake, boasting “rich and costly” details – such as a cupola, wood finishes, curved staircase and Italian marble fireplaces – indicated that St. Louis was close to the farmer not only with its markets, but also as an aesthetic example.

“Locust Grove,” 1810 Redman Rd./11749 Talbott Court, Spanish Lake,
1849

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The earliest farmhouse to survive in Spanish Lake is “Locust Grove” built in 1849 on part of the original holdings of Daniel Bissell. Robert Hughes was a steamboat captain and is said to have farmed his land by himself. The Federal style house, reminiscent of the Bissell House on Bellefontaine Road in Bellefontaine Neighbors, seems to confirm that many new farmsteads and residences in the area were fashioned after this famous predecessor.

Spanish Lake Blacksmith Shop, 12223 Bellefontaine Rd., Spanish Lake,
c. 1881

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The Spanish Lake Blacksmith Shop is the last surviving building along the old business intersection, between Bellefontaine, Parker, and Spanish Pond Roads. It was built by Jacob Wilhelm, a German settler. The shop was passed on to his son and other blacksmith’s and functioned as a blacksmith shop into the 1980's.

John Henry Twillman House, 11840 Bellefontaine Rd., Spanish Lake,
1870

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This two-story brick house on Bellefontaine Road facing Redman Road was built in 1870 by John Henry Twillman in the vernacular Greek Revival style. Twillman came to St. Louis County from Germany with his parents in 1839. John bought this property after his marriage to Louisa Nolte in 1850. After John Henry Twillman died in 1882, his farm was divided up among his family. His widow and son Louis Henry Twillman ran this particular portion of the farm.

In 1945 the house was purchased by Carl and Sally Plitt, who opened the Meadowlark Restaurant here. A on-story addition was added shortly thereafter. In 1974 the house became the Old Homestead Restaurant established by John and Mary Spiller. In 2005 the house was purchased by the Spanish Lake Community Association who plan to renovate the home as a Community Center for the residents of Spanish Lake.

Barlbort's Store, Spanish Lake, ca. 1911, NR