It Happened In Lemay

He visited America at the expense of the United States Government in 1824 and toured the eastern half of the country and visited the river towns on the western shore of the Mississippi River.  He wanted to visit with some of his former soldiers who had come under his command from France and who after their service in our Revolutionary War, had taken up land grants from the United States Government in the new pioneer territories of Illinois and Missouri.

     The steamer Natchez was engaged to bring the famous French General down the Ohio and up the Mississippi Rivers on his tour.  Several of his former soldiers were living in the neighborhood of St. Louis, the Village of Carondelet, and the "Vide Poche" settlement, which we call Lemay today.

     The Village of Carondelet had no suitable building in which to entertain the distinguished guest, so the citizens formed a procession led by fiddlers and harpists and escorted their famous visitor across the River Des Peres south to the "Old Inn" on "The Grapevine Road."  There he was toasted in native wild grape wine and dined in a matter "fit for a king" with French cakes, wild turkey, and Buffalo steaks. He partook too freely of the spirits and food offered and became ill, making it necessary for him to accept lodging in the Inn rather than risk a worsening condition by making the tedious journey back to the Steamer.

Another famous guest who has partaken of the hospitality of the old 8-MIle House was Washington Irving, one of America's most famous authors.  He visited these parts in 1824 and again in 1831.  President William Howard Taft stopped for a refreshment when he visited Jefferson Barracks in 1909, and one of the most regular customers in his day before the Civil War was a cordwood peddler who still owes a small Bar bill.  His name was Ulysses Simpson Grant.  The former owner of the famous old establishment still has the I.O.U memento of this man who later became the great general and President of the United States.

     Probably another famous man identified with the early history of Missouri frequently visited in the old Inn with other famous pioneer gentleman of that time.  His name was William Clark; he was fourth territorial Governor of the State.  His home was at the corner of Bayless and Union Roads, neighboring less than a half-mile from the Inn.

One of the most remarkable stories connected with the old building is the origin of its name.  When it was surveyed at the time the State of Missouri made a state road of the Lemay Ferry Road, it was found that the Inn was exactly eight miles to the inch from the Old Courthouse at the Broadway and Market Streets in St. Louis.  That was way back in 1839....  The name 8-Mile House still sticks with it today.


Unquote and reprint from NABORHOOD LINK NEWS, July 8, 1959


     There is an old building in Lemay which has built its reputation from coast-to-coast in the United States as a house of hospitality as fine foods for over two hundred years.  It is remembered fondly by the old-timers living today as the Old Risch's 8-Mile House (now Cusanelli's Restaurant) located near the corner of Lemay Ferry Road and Bayless Avenue.

     It is hard to believe that this stately white brick structure as we see it today was built so long ago to serve the public as an Inn and stopping place for the weary travelers who have been crossing its warm threshold since the days before the United States was born of its Revolution from England.  Actually it dates back to the days of the Spanish occupation of the country west of the Mississippi and it has seen the flags of three nations from its rooftop during its glamorous history.

     The original structure stood in a wooded section of country on the newly-built road which ran from Carondelet to the Meramec River.  The road was completed in 1749 by Jean Baptistee D' Gamache in an effort to connect the tiny village about 65 miles down the river known as Set. Genevieve.  It was probably built by one of the sons of Clemente DeLore DeTreget.  The Delor family for many generations were pioneer Innkeepers in this vicinity.

     The old building in its original form would hardly be recognized as a part of the huge two story house that it is today, but upon close examination of its exterior, one is able to discern that the northeast section of the famous restaurant is made of handmade sound dried brick while the rest of the building has had additions from time to time of brick from a later vintage than those used by the early French settlers who inhabited this area.  Underneath the northeast part of the building is an old storage cellar made of native limestone with its walls almost three feet in thickness.  The ancient joists of the flooring above are adze hewn oaken timbers which through the years have maintained an excellent state of preservation.

     The interior of the ground floor has been completely remodeled in a modern design, and the ancient walls have been smooth-finished with mural paintings depicting street scenes from Naples, in Mr Cusanelli's native Italy.  As we further explore the old building, however, we find that the upstairs rooms still retain the design and aspect of long ago.  The door facings, and wood-work trim, and window frames, are breathtakingly beautiful pieces of wood working art.  They are all meticulously matched hand-carvings in design of WILD GRAPEVINES!

     This author discovered a coincidence in this woodwork design, which identifies the old building in age relative to the road upon which it was built.  When Gamache laid out the road in 1749, he used a WILD GRAPEVINE as his instrument of measurement.  It is the oldest known method of measurement because a full grown grapevine is exactly one rod in length from its top root to its lowest branch.  The grapevine is the ancestor of the modern surveyor's RODPOLE.  Lemay Ferry Road was, at one time, nicknamed "The Grapevine Road".

     Among the famous people who have visited this ancient hostelry of Lemay would have been a Frenchman to whom all America shall forever be indebted for his much-needed help to our starving Continental army during the Revolution.  His name was the Marquis Jean Paul Roche Yves DeLafayette.