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Fenton Historical Society Open House Dec. 2

Festive annual event to take place at historic Swantner House

Fenton's Swantner House is decorated for the holidays and its Dec. 2 open house. The building, which is home to the Fenton Historical Society Museum, houses several exhibits about local history. photo by Diana Linsley. (click for larger version)

December 01, 2017

Sashay into a nostalgic seasonal spirit by attending the Fenton Historical Society Museum's Open House Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1 Church St. in Olde Towne Fenton. Free homemade cookies, history tidbits, activities and holiday gifts to purchase will be on hand.

Examples of items offered there include: 2018 Fenton History Calendar for $5 each; the "History of Fenton" book for $29.95; greeting cards and postcards. One novel book, written by historical society member George Luebbers about the Hessoun Bohemian Catholic Orphanage that operated in Fenton from 1908 to 1954, sells for $25. The orphanage was formed from pooled resources of four Catholic churches whose many parishioners were among Bohemian-Czech immigrants who settled in St. Louis' Soulard neighborhood.

Proceeds from all museum sales support the work of the society's volunteers in preserving local history.

Allen Casey, the museum's manager, said the museum building is one of the city's oldest remaining structures. It's a century-plus-old house that ended up inspiring the creation of the society due to interesting turn-of-events.

Allen Casey, manager of the Swantner House, and George Luebbers with the Fenton Historical Society, at the museum. photo by Diana Linsley.

The charming museum was erected inside of what's affectionately called the "Swantner House," which was built between 1904 to 1906. It's now filled with the museum's collection of local artifacts and photographs, including some aerial pictures of the area from decades ago.

Casey said the two-story house was condemned by Fenton city officials in 1992. It sat vacant for more than a decade prior to that decision.

"But the community rallied around the building, and we began rehabbing it during 1993, with the help of many local volunteers and companies providing materials and their skills," he said.

The home originally was built by Frank Swantner, half owner of Swantner & Young, a sprawling commercial enterprise that, at the time, consisted of a mercantile store, hotel, saloon, dining room and livery stable. Casey said Swantner built the home so he and his family could live across the street from the store. Many of the Swantner & Young business buildings were torn down in 1959.

Due to the area's proximity to fertile land and the Meramec River, the region attracted many groups over time. The Fenton territory was occupied by Native Americans, as evidenced by two conical, earthen burial mounds previously located near the city's southwestern border.

In 1779, settlers from the Eastern United States arrived in the area that became Fenton, back when the land was owned by the Spanish government. William Lindsay Long founded the city of Fenton on March 23, 1818, as an eight-square-block area.

The Fenton Historical Society was established in 1993 as a nonprofit organization to preserve the community's past and details about its pioneering families. The museum opened during October 1997, and is operated by volunteer members. There is no admission charge during the museum's typical hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Appointments for private tours are possible. For more information about the open house or the museum, call 636-326-0808.

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