Social visionary N.O. Nelson founded the village of Leclaire in 1890, naming it after Edme Jean Leclaire, who inaugurated profit sharing in France. In contrast to unsanitary urban tenement districts, Leclaire was a model cooperative village offering affordable homes, a healthful environment, free education, many opportunities for recreation and self improvement, and pleasant working conditions at the N. O. Nelson Manufacturing Company. Leclaire was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
Save the Edwardsville Children's Museum
The Children’s Museum will be forced to close its doors in less than three months due to lack of funding. Since 2003 the Children's Museum has become a cornerstone of the Leclaire neighborhood, providing both recreational and educational opportunities to the community. Its restoration was one of the first improvements undertaken along Leclaire's Northend. Its transformation helped beautify an area of the neighborhood that had seen decades of disinvestment. The Museum has begun a campaign called “#SaveOurMuseum" to raise funds to cover current expenses and maintain and update their exhibits. They were recently highlighted in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. If you would like to learn more about their campaign, visit their Vimeo page at Save Our Museum.
Thank you for Another Great Year
Everyone here at Friends of Leclaire would like to thank all of our dedicated volunteers and vendors who came out again this year to make Parkfest the great neighborhood celebration it is. We also want to give a special thanks to our new and renewing members who continue to support the mission of FOL. Without your contributions, events like Parkfest or park improvements wouldn't be possible. We hope that everyone enjoyed themselves with the good food, music, and great weather and we hope to see you all again next year.
The Distancers: An Edwardsville Family Memoir
In a memoir released last month by Random House, author Lee Sandlin tells the story of his Edwardsville family from the late 1880’s until the first years of this century. The story of the Sehnert family will awaken old memories for many readers of a certain age as they are reminded of people, places and events in Edwardsville’s past. But you don’t need to be from Edwardsville to appreciate this book. In The Distancers: An American Memoir, Sandlin offers a rich American family saga that is receiving favorable reviews on the national stage. It just happens to be set in our hometown.
Edwardsville is first introduced in The Distancers when John Lewis Sehnert moves here in 1888 and builds a hotel at the corner of Wolf and Fillmore streets near the Clover Leaf Depot. The Sehnert Hotel later became the Liebler Hotel, and in its final years (before the building was destroyed by fire in 1988) many Edwardsville “boomers” lifted a glass or played a game of euchre at the Corner Tavern. The Sehnerts picked their location be-cause of the railroad depot, but their success was guaranteed when Nelson built his village less than a block away.
The book focuses on the family of John Louis Sehnert’s son, John Sebastian Sehnert (known as “Bosh”), his wife Agnes, and their children. Bosh was a foreman in the Brass Shop of the N. O. Nelson Manufacturing Company. With a steady income, Bosh and Agnes built a home on Second Avenue shortly after Mahler Heights was subdivided. The location was near family, since two of his brothers had homes in Leclaire, William at 837 Troy Road and Erwin at 716 Hale Avenue. Their parents lived nearby on Brown Avenue, next to the Leclaire factories and not far from the old Sehnert Hotel and Tavern.
Three of Bosh and Agnes’ children, Helen, Hilda and Eugene were born in the Second Avenue house and would make it their home for nearly their entire lives. Their oldest son, Clarence, moved to Chicago, but always sent his children to Edwardsville for the summer where a houseful of aunts and uncles greeted the children each year. When Clarence’s children became adults and started families, they also sent their children to Edwardsville for the summer. The author, Lee Sandlin, was one of those children. Although the house is now gone, it will be long remembered in the pages of Sandlin’s excellent book.
Sandlin is a more than credible writer. With skill and sensitivity he paints a picture that makes this a book that will be enjoyed by readers everywhere. He has captured the essence of Edwardsville during those years through recollection, family interviews, personal documents and local research. Historically, there are a few inaccuracies, but they are not consequential in the long run. If you appreciate good writing, and enjoy history, this is a book you will appreciate. If you live in Edwardsville, it’s even sweeter.
The Distancers: An American Memoir (Vintage Books by Random House) is available in paperback AfterWords Bookstore in Edwardsville.
October Newsletter Now Online
The October issue of the Friends of Leclaire newsletter is now online for viewing. You can find it under the About Us section from the homepage. New in this issue is the winner of October's House History contest, Drake Kaase. Also a featured story by Ashley Mattingly and Leclaire's connection to the murder of Nelson Voss.
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