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This La Rue Bonhomme Predates U City's Old Bonhomme

Brent Jones, St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon

The first street of St. Louis wasn’t a street at all, just a towpath, according to the St. Louis-French association Les Amis, which provided the information for the duplicate street signs that are appearing downtown. Houses fronted that towpath, and three named streets ran behind the homes:

Running north and south, parallel to the Mississippi river were La Grande Rue (la Rue Principale or la Rue Royale, labeled 1 on the map above), La Rue de l’Eglise (labeled 2) and La Rue des Granges (3). The last – Barn Street, as it were – had small houses on its east and barns to the west, which made sense as the community’s common fields extended beyond this point. It is approximately where Memorial Drive is today.

Rue de l’Eglise was, of course, where the Catholic Church could be found and would have been east of the Old Cathedral (labeled F on the map).

The main street, whether royal or simply grand, is where the leading families (yes, Laclede and Chouteau) had their homes and where the main trading post could be found.

Running east and west were La Rue de la Tour (Walnut Street, 4), La Rue de la Place or la Rue Bonhomme (Market Street, 5), La Rue Missouri (Chestnut Street, 6) and La Rue Quicapou (Pine Street, 7).

The southernmost of these streets, de la Tour, was were a defensive stone tower was built in 1780. Bonhomme went to the waters’ edge of the Mississippi. It ran across the northern side of the public square, past the trading post, the church and its cemetery, ending at where Fort San Carlos would be built.

Honoring  Native Americans is the likely reason for the other two names: La Rue Missouri for the Missouria Indians and La Rue Quicapou (Kickapoo). As the material from Les Amis also says, "It is interesting to note that although the principal trading partners of the town were the Grand or Great Osage Indians, there was no street named for these significant Indians."

Some current-day features are labeled on the map to help you get your bearings: the MacArthur Bridge (A), Poplar Street Bridge (B), Eads Bridge (C) and Martin Luther King Bridge (D). The current Arch grounds are highlighted green (E). You can also find the Old Cathedral (F), Old Courthouse (G), Busch Stadium (H) and Edward Jones Dome (I).

Donna Korando started work in journalism at SIU’s Daily Egyptian in 1968. In between Carbondale and St. Louis Public Radio, she taught high school in Manitowoc, Wis., and worked at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the copy editor and letters editor for the editorial page from 1973-77. As an editorial writer from 1977-87, she covered Illinois and city politics, education, agriculture, family issues and sub-Saharan Africa. When she was editor of the Commentary Page from 1987-2003, the page won several awards from the Association of Opinion Page Editors. From 2003-07, she headed the features copy desk.