A Walk on the Olde Side

As interest is being revived in the Olde Towne Fenton business district, here's a review of a walking tour put together by the Fenton Historical Society.

Olde Towne Fenton consists of just eight square blocks, so a walking history tour is easily doable. Here's what you'll see:

Information courtesy of the Fenton Historical Society.

Start off at the the headquarters of the where many of the town's early artifacts and photos are displayed.

The Society's two-story HQ was built around 1906 by businessman Frank M. Swantner and is currently known, suitably, as the Swantner House.

A few basic facts about Fenton's history

Olde Towne Fenton was founded in 1818 by William Lindsey Long, who named the town after his Welsh grandmother, Elizabeth Fenton Bennett.

Before Long's arrival in the area the only people attracted to the area were native American tribes and European explorers. Mound street, for example was named after the many Indian mounds in the area.

Long offered lots for sale in his newly organized "town" as early as 1819, but he moved away and the legal platting of the area was delayed until 1837. The delay means that 2012 is recognized as the 's 175th birthday, which is expected to be celebrated later this year.

A ferry boat across the Meramec River was established in 1833, the same year Caleb Bowles established the first post office, which has operated continually since that time.

Bridges, not surprisingly, are a big part of Fenton's history. The first bridge across the Meramec River was built in 1854 under the auspices of a corporation formed by Samuel T. Vandover. The covered toll bridge was used until 1885 when it was replaced by an iron bridge. A third bridge was built in 1925. It was torn down three years ago, making way for the fourth bridge spanning the Meramec, which is currently under construction and scheduled for a late summer opening.

In Fenton's early years, Gravois Road was Fenton's Main Street. But with the construction of that 1925 bridge, Gravois Road was re-routed around Olde Towne. It was during that time that Fenton gradually began to expand beyond the original eight-square-block area.

Now, back to the walking tour:

Next to the Swantner House is the old Navajo Hotel, currently the home of .

The Fenton Ice House is the next site on the walking tour. It was first established in the late 1920s by a man named Ed Schallom. Before modern refrigeration, the ice house was a popular destination for every household, as well as the many people who owner weekend retreats on the Meramec River.

The oldest house in Fenton is considered to be the structure located at the corner of Main and Ferry streets. Although the historical society indicates the exact age of the building is unknown, it is considered to be the oldest house in Fenton. It currently is divided into apartments.

Fenton Bank building, on Main Street between Mound and Ferry streets, was the location of Farmers and Merchants Bank of Fenton from 1918 to 1935. The bank operations moved to a new location on Gravois Road and then in 2001, moved to its current location as Commerce Bank, in Dierberg's Plaza.

Fenton Flour Mill, at the corner of Ferry and Water streets, was built in 1924 by Ed Mueller, replacing the Temple Mill that was destroyed by fire a few year's earlier. The mill is now owned by Diehl Feed Co. and known as the Fenton Feed Mill. The location is just across Water Street from where a ferry boat was used to transport people and goods across the river.

The original blacksmith shop was located at Main and Wave streets. A new blacksmith shop that was built around 1918 across the street, closed in 1942.

Old Fenton Methodist Church, located at 212 Main St., was built in 1861. The building is now owned by the Fenton Church of Christ, which still holds regular services there.

Seidel Lumber Company is decribed by the Society as a "very interesting Tudor-style building, once described as 'a monument to the lumber industry.' It was constructed in 1927 and is now occupied by . 

Old St. Paul Catholic Church possibly is the most visible landmark in Olde Towne Fenton. Situated at Main and Ferry streets, the old church was the site of services for a congregation that was founded in 1978. The old church building was used for worship until 1959 when moved to a new location. The church building now houses a pipe organ business owned by Marlin Mackley. 

If you're still up for more walking after soaking up Fenton's history, it's just a short block from Old St. Paul's Catholic Church back to the river, where the Meramec Greenway provides a paved walking trail along the river, complete with a few historical markers along the way.




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