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Kimmswick carves out unique niche in history
Mississippi River town is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  •    Robert Kelly
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
  • September 12, 2007
  • Section: Metro
  • Edition: Third Edition
  • Page C5

An idea proposed almost 20 years ago has come to fruition with the inclusion of a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.

Members of the Kimmswick Historical Society and other residents and business people are celebrating the new listing of nearly seven blocks of the oldest part of the quaint town in the newest edition of the National Register.

The listing means that 44 buildings in the district have national historic significance and also that owners of those buildings may qualify for tax credits to renovate and maintain their property in a condition as close as possible to what it was when the buildings were constructed.

It's also a big selling point for tourism, said Glee Naes, treasurer of the Kimmswick Historical Society.

"This is an exciting day for Kimmswick," Naes said Tuesday before a brief ceremony to recognize the listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

She said the Historical Society won a state grant almost 20 years ago to apply for a listing on the National Register. But some residents and shopkeepers were concerned at the time that being on the register could hamper their ability to make changes to their property.

The grant expired without being used, so the Historical Society started saving revenue from its regular sales of apple butter to try to apply again for the National Register, Naes said. That opportunity came in the spring of 2006, when the society had a contract with historic preservation consultant Becky Snider of Columbia, Mo., for $10,200 to prepare an application for Kimmswick to be included in the National Register.

Snider's 50-page report on Kimmswick was approved this summer by the National Park Service, which maintains the National Register.

Snider says she evaluated all buildings at least 50 years old in Kimmswick for historic significance. The historic district now included in the National Register is bounded roughly by Front, Fourth, Mill and Oak streets.

"It's really the commercial area of Kimmswick," Snider said Tuesday. "Hopefully, this will encourage more heritage tourism to Kimmswick."

She was in town to help celebrate the listing in the National Register.

Most of the restored old Kimmswick homes and businesses date to the late 1800s and early 1900s. About 30 of the old buildings have been converted to gift and specialty shops, catering to thousands of tourists annually.

The town on the Mississippi River was founded by Theodore Kimm in the mid-19th century. He was a successful St. Louis dry goods merchant when he moved to Jefferson County in 1850 and bought the tract of land that became Kimmswick. He also bought some nearby land that extended west to what is now U.S. 61-67.

Years later, Kimmswick fell into disrepair. But it was revived in the 1970s and 1980s after Lucianna Gladney Ross bought several of the old buildings and leased them to shopkeepers while helping them redevelop the property. Ross' family operated the Seven-Up Co. for many years.

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