Some folks get pretty excited about Christmas in July. Not being really sure what the point of it is — perhaps it’s how soon one must begin shopping these days to be able to afford the holiday bounty under the tree — maybe it’s just another marketing ploy. But in Kimmswick, Missouri the largest gift shop one comes across when arriving downtown is the christmas shop, complete with a wooden Santa greeting visitors on the sign at street parking.
The long red barn-style building with a wrap-around porch of The Christmas Haus of Kimmswick presents yule time year round on 311 Elm Street. The whole length of the store is lined with Christmas trees of varying themes. It makes for easy shopping to just go to a tree and grab what you need for a particular event. The St. Patrick’s tree was adorned in leprechauns and beer mugs. A surfside tree, complete with a starfish topper and beach-themed ornaments was adorned with colors of coral and aqua blue.
The Christmas Haus boasts several fireplace mantels decorated with stockings, greenery, and old world lanterns. A giant furry Santa sits in a corner watching guests select purchases, while shelves are lined with his smaller counterparts in ceramic of many different styles. The store has one tremendous selection of Christmas ornaments. Walls are lined with about every kind of tree ornament imaginable. Customers can select custom ornaments to have personalized on-site.
The Christmas Haus is open Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sitting next to the store is a lovely nightly rental, an old-world building from the first days of Kimmswick’s residential era. Kimmswick was discovered in 1776, some 70 years after Father Jaques Gravier, a Jesuit missionary, discovered the river Miramiguoa, which is now called the Meramec. In his journal, the good Father also mentions a very rich lead mine 12 or 13 leagues (32-35 miles) from its mouth. Mirameguoua is an Indian word, meaning catfish, and was given that name because the fish were so plentiful that they couldn’t navigate their canoe through them. Father Gravier and his expedition stopped outside of Kimmswick and killed their first buffalo before establishing the town. Kimmswick sits on three rivers, the Meramac, the Mississippi, and the Big River. Traveling to the east end of Elm Street, across from the downtown parking lot, one can feel a lot of history here. The LaChance Winery of Kimmswick is housed in a trapper era building located near the river. There are two historical buildings on site at the LaChance Winery. The region running south from St. Louis along the Mississippi is called French Colonial Country. Buildings such as these still standing can be frequently found in small river towns in the region. Being colonized by the French in 1699, the region boasts the largest concentration of examples of French colonial architecture in America. They were a combination of French and Caribbean influences, with vertical log construction and white-washed exterior, the design is distinctive with their front and rear pitched roofs. The town was officially incorporated in 1871after the arrival of settlers, a railroad, hotels, and stores. The Blacksmith Shop and the Burgess-How House and Museum are the two oldest structures in Kimmswick still standing.
One would be remiss if not visiting The Blue Owl Restaurant & Bakery in Kimmswick. Since their appearance on Food Network, the eatery stays packed with visitors, many to the area just to eat there. They were featured for their Levee High Apple Pie. The pie takes 18 apples to create, and after a long and careful baking process, it is glazed with caramel and nuts. It’s the star attraction of The Blue Owl. But the food overall is good here, and the wrap-around veranda porch dining is comfortable under ceiling fans, with owner Mary Hostetter visiting customers at their tables. Warm and welcoming, it’s a place you want to order a slice of pie, a sweet iced tea, and park it on the porch and watch the many tourists rambling through the river town.
Plan to spend a whole day at Kimmswick, there is a lot to do and see, and much shopping to be done. Dream about the past at the Kimmswick Visitor’s Center at 314 Market Street, or catch the historical museum open only on the weekends.
The Kimmswick Historical Society Museum is located at Third and Vine Streets. Open Saturday and Sunday 1-4 p.m.
sources: www.st-louis.org, www.greatriverroad.com, www.gokimmswick.com