I took to the road this week on a one-day adventure, that included Mary Jo, Wilma, Anne and Cyndy. We piled into my car and headed to Kimmswick, the little river town snuggled amongst tall trees and rolling hills about 30 miles southwest of St. Louis.
Old and restored buildings dot the idyllic, laid-back town just outside of Imperial. To put the place in perspective, it measures a quarter mile square, has 56 households, and a population of 157.
We lunched at the Blue Owl and walked off the effects of their decadent desserts with a stroll through the town’s many shops. (More on that Levee High Pie late.) But first let me give you a bird’s eye view of the diminutive town on the Mississippi.
Kimmswick: It’s a Feeling
Kimmswick is more of a Norman Rockwell scene than a pristine Walt Disney theme park village. It’s a work in progress and that’s a good thing. The tiny town reflects a bygone era so well, that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Opie walking along a path with a fishing pole over his shoulder.
Quaint, Quiet and Historic
Kimmswick came into being in 1859, when Theodore Kimm, a German dry goods merchant bought the acreage and gave it his name. The population skyrocketed to 1,500, including mostly wealthy St. Louis families and immigrant stonecutters, who benefited from the nearby rock quarries.
At one time, there were four schools, two train stations, flour mill, lumber mill and brewery. Success was largely due to the town’s location near the railroad and river. But with the arrival of the automobile and highways, Kimmswick lost its advantage and its population.
In 1969, St. Louis heiress Lucianna Gladney Ross moved to restore the town and it has since become a thriving slice of yesteryear for its many visitor.
Mary Hostetter: An Incredible Success Story
“Some day people will be standing in line to eat at my restaurant,” Mary Hostetter beamed confidently to Lucianna Gladney Ross, who spurred the restoration of Kimmswick. Mary, a divorcee with two young daughters, had a thriving home baking business. But she had no experience running a restaurant busines, when she acquired the old building in Kimmswick, where several others restaurants had failed. Lucianna smiled, patted Mary on the hand, and wished her luck.
Fast forward 33 years this week. After starting with 5 employees and the goal of serving 30 a day, Mary now has 75 employees and serves 300 a day and more on weekends. One of her daughters, Kim, is now vice president and general manager and a grandson works in the business as well. All work alongside their employees each day.
The Blue Owl Menu
The Levee High Pecan Apple Pie
Now getting back to that pie I mentioned earlier. The Blue Owl is home of the Levee High Pecan Apple Pie featured on the Today show, Oprah, the Travel Channel and Food Network. And no wonder it gets such grand kudos! The culinary masterpiece contains 18 Golden Delicious apples and weighs ten pounds!
Take a Steamboat to Kimmswick
Blue Owl. Corner of Second and Mill St., Kimmswick, 32 miles SW of St. Louis off Hwy 55. Open: Tue-Fri 10a-3p. Sat-Sun 10a-5p. Closed: Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Owner/Operator: Mary Hostetter.
Kimmswick Festivals and Events: Apple Butter Festival; Strawberry Festival; Halloween Witches’ Night Out, and an annual 5K run. Christmas Parade and Open House, Christmas Festival & Cookie Walk.