Old Bonhomme Church is one of those pleasant surprises tucked away on one of the oldest roads in St. Louis County, Conway Road. Conway, and others, came together to construct a truly unique, vernacular structure, whose format was almost completely unique in the area. The upstairs is the church, and the downstairs is the school. In many ways, it is the best type of architecture: the result of ingenuity and personal dedication that built a beautiful structure outside the realm of professional architecture or design. An early recipient of National Register Status, it has certainly come a long way since the 1960’s when it was described to be in severe disrepair and the target of vandalism. It is kept safe by the nearby congregation that still flourishes along Highway 40.
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Looks like a great spot for a U-Gas, don’t you think?
Luckily it’s located in a fiscally solvent suburb.
I lived near there in the late ’60s-early ’80s. That congregation was very dedicated in its restoration. I used to take my young daughters there as sort of a history lesson; we’d pack some sammywiches and tea and have a quiet little picnic and talk about “olden times.”
Sometimes (OK-many times) Daddy’s desires and intentions, while laudable, were not well-received by young ‘uns…
Whoops – I forgot to include this link from the congregation’s site: http://www.bonhomme.tv/who_we_are/past/index.php
Also, the MO DNR form which has very interesting architectural drawings, pre-restoration photos, and descriptions: http://www.dnr.mo.gov/shpo/nps-nr/73002274.pdf
When we first moved out to the suburbs from the south side of the city, my elementary school (Sorrento Springs) was not yet finished. So, they bused us to a vacant school that was not too far from the Old Bonhomme Church. I think the school back then was referred to as “Barrett Station” or something like that. This must have been around 1972 or so. In any case, our Third Grade teacher took us on a field trip to the church. At that time, there seemed to be mostly fields and countryside around the church. I don’t remember there being much by way of development in that area. In fact, I don’t remember any development along Conway Road at all. The school to me seemed “way out in the country” after living in the city beforehand. I think we went on our field trip to the church sometime in the autumn as I remember the leaves on the trees were beginning to turn. A lady gave us a tour and told us that an old oak tree growing in front of the church was from the grave site of a young boy who, when he passed away, had an acorn put in his hand when he was buried. I have no idea if that story is true but I remember it to this day. The field trip made quite an impression on me because I believe it was near Halloween and the old church seemed to me like something out of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” by Washington Irving. I believe some of the windows on the church had an uneven or beveled quality to them from the way they were made when the church was constructed. Sometime in the spring, our new school was ready and we quit being bused to Barrack Station elementary.
Great story! You’re thinking of Barretts Elementary: