Celebrating over 20 years
of preservation and interpretation of Missouri's French Creole heritage and culture.
- History of Les Amis
Founded in 1993, Les Amis ("The Friends") has dedicated itself to the preservation and interpretation of Missouri's French Creole heritage and culture through a remarkable series of historic preservation projects, events, publications, programs and seminars. The organization has tirelessly provided financial support and thousands of volunteer hours to assure the unparalleled French colonial resources of this region are preserved for future generations.
Fundraising efforts by the French Heritage Relief Committee following the disastrous Flood of 1993 provided for the purchase and donation of the 1792 Bauvais-Amoureux House in Ste. Genevieve to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Les Amis was organized in 1994 as part of the donation process to provide on-going support for the French colonial, vertical-log Bauvais-Amoureux House, one of five "poteaux-en-terre" structures surviving in the United States. Under the direction of Elizabeth Gentry Sayad, now Chairman Emeritus of Les Amis, the organization has continuously made the preservation and interpretation of this architectural gem their first and most important priority.
Most recently, significant restoration work at the Bauvais-Amoureux House was funded by Les Amis, totaling over $120,000 with an additional $30,000 in projects scheduled for 2010. These crucial restoration projects will ensure the preservation of the structure and include historically accurate roofing and siding, restoration of the original stone chimney and porch structure, as well as an updated and secure electrical system. Without Les Amis funding, this work may have been significantly delayed due to limited State capital improvement funding.
Previously, Les Amis commissioned the creation of the "Ste. Genevieve Diorama" depicting the village in 1832, containing over 100 miniature-scale buildings. This 9' by 11' diorama was installed in the Bauvais-Amoureux House in June, 2000, and has drawn rave reviews from visitors and school children alike who have been fascinated to see a glimpse of Ste. Genevieve during its transition from a colonial village to an American town.
Les Amis broadened its horizons to support the interpretation of French Creole resources throughout the region with its publication and distribution of a self-guided tour brochure of the "Creole Colonial District". The brochure joins together historic sites in the Creole Corridor along the mid-Mississippi River valley, encouraging visitors to experience the structures, culture, and history preserved throughout this remarkable region from St. Louis to Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher, Fort de Chartres, and Ste. Genevieve.
In addition to literally scores of programs offered on all aspects of the French cultural history of the region, Les Amis has sponsored and funded additional outreach programming and events. Les Amis conceived and originally sponsored the "French Heritage Festival", now an annual event in Ste. Genevieve. In addition, Les Amis provided the original financial support to assist in the creation of the Ste. Genevieve Historic Preservation Field School, now jointly sponsored by Southeast Missouri State University and the Felix Vallé House State Historic Site.
Most recently, Les Amis has spearheaded the efforts to nominate the Creole Colonial District as a World Heritage Site through UNESCO. This enormous undertaking seeks to bring world attention to the outstanding French colonial cultural and historic resources of the region and will require years of commitment on the part of Les Amis. As part of this process, Les Amis just co-sponsored the very successful "Creole Corridor Symposium" attracting national scholars to speak on the significance of the area's architectural and historic resources. The symposium, co-sponsored by Washington University, was extremely well attended and brought wide attention to the development of the UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination.
Les Amis has created a legacy of dedication to the preservation and interpretation of the French Creole history of Missouri and indeed, the entire region. Their financial support for restoration and operation of the Bauvais-Amoureux House has secured the building for the future, and has allowed them to support additional restoration projects at Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion in St. Louis. Their leadership has brought the French cultural identity of the region into sharp public focus through scores of programs, projects, exhibits, and publications. Les Amis is certainly deserving of Missouri Preservation's highest honor.