Colonial French Structures

Fort de Chartres

for de chartesFort de Chartres is the last of three eighteenth-century forts by that name erected near the Mississippi River by France’s colonial government. From 1720 to 1763 French administration of the Illinois Country was centered at the forts, built successively over a 40-year period on or near the same site. The stone fort, built in the 1750s and abandoned in 1771, has been partially reconstructed to provide a glimpse of life in Illinois under the French regime. Fort de Chartres State Historic Site, which also preserves the archaeological remains of the earlier wooden forts, is managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

The Cahokia Courthouse

cahokia courthouse
Photo by RK Lawton

The Cahokia Courthouse was built as a residence around 1740, when present-day Illinois was a colony of France. In 1793 the structure was purchased by the Common Pleas Court of the United States Northwest Territory and subsequently became a center of territorial political and legal activity. The building is historically significant as the oldest courthouse in Illinois and the only one remaining from the state’s territorial period (1787-1818). It is architecturally significant as an example of the French Colonial vertical log poteaux-sur-solle (“post-on-sill”) construction technique.

Ste. Genevieve, Missouri

bolduc-houseThe multiple historic sites of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.


Pierre Menard Home

pierre-menard-housePierre Menard (1766-1844), a successful French Canadian businessman and fur trader, was presiding officer of the Illinois Territorial Legislature and from 1818 to 1822 served as the first lieutenant governor. The two-story ca. 1815 home is an unusually fine example of French Creole-style architecture, built into gently sloping land at the bottom of a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Among the notable features are a steep double-hipped roof and a galerie, or porch, that wraps the building’s front façade and gable ends. The ground level contains a small museum and an audiovisual room. The second, or principal, floor represents living spaces used by the Menard family.

The Kaskaskia Bell State Historic Site


Called the Liberty Bell of the West, the Kaskaskia Bell is older than the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Kaskaskia was the center of French colonial administration for the Middle Mississippi River Valley during the 18th century and the 650-pound bell was a gift to The Mission of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and the town’s citizens from King Louis XV of France.

The Martin Boismenue House

martin14081Built by Canadian-born Revolutionary War veteran Pierre Martin around 1790, the Martin-Boismenue House is a surviving example of the French Creole poteaux-sur-solle (post-on-sill) architecture and one of the oldest structures of its kind in Illinois.


The Jarrot Mansion

mansion-plaque-510x382Nicholas Jarrot (1764-1820) was a French-born entrepreneur and land speculator who also served as judge and local militia officer. Construction of the Mansion began in 1807, making it one of the earliest surviving masonry buildings in Illinois. The historic home is also notable for its use of American Federal architectural design, rather than the traditional French Colonial style common in the area.


Holy Family Parish Church in Cahokia

img_5599Holy Family was founded in 1699 by Canadian missionaries. The Log Church, built in 1799, is a National Historic Landmark and is the oldest church west of the Alleghany Mountains. Constructed of black walnut timbers in the traditional French Colonial style, the Log Church is only one of five built in this style that still exists in North America
Holy Family