Historic Florissant Inc. is a non-profit organization started in 1969 by five women who sought to rescue endangered buildings in the city of Florissant in St. Louis County. It is different in that it is not a membership organization, but instead is open to anyone who shares its values and is willing to work. Rosemary Davison, who wrote a book on Florissant Missouri, was among the founders.
The office and resource center for Historic Florissant Inc. is located at 1067 Dunn Road which was the home of farmer Franz Gittemeier. Since the organization's founding, it has saved many buildings including the Narrow Gauge Rail Station, the Meyers House and barn, the Wiese House, the Delisle Building, the Peters House and Albers House among others. At the Gittemeier house, several Florissant newspapers in need of digitizing can be found stored in the attic.
When service to Florissant ended in 1931, the Station became an ice cream and soda store with living quarters. Later, the Westend Narrow Gauge Railroad Station was rescued from demolition by Historic Florissant Inc. in 1967 when St. Ferdinand Street had to be widened. It was moved to St. Catherine Street and restored to its nineteenth-century appearance. Today it is the Visitors’ Center and office of the Florissant Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Among the things found in the attic is this 1968 photo album showing the city's oldest tradition of the Valley of the Flowers. It began in 1963 when community leaders were looking for a way for the city to retain some of its heritage and identity. A committee of representatives from different facets of the community are involved in its supervision and proceeds are shared with participating organizations. One of the major events of the Valley of Flowers Festival is the crowning of the queen.
In it's first year, the Flowering Crab was made the official tree of Florissant. Thousands of these trees were planted and they continue to bloom with the festivities each year. Originally celebrated the last Sunday in April, the first full weekend in May sees festival days filled with all sorts of events, including vendors, displays, antique cars and rides. Mayor James Eagan, (pictured below) who served as Florissant mayor for 37 years until his death in November of 2000, would crown the queen each year.
Newcomers to the City of Florissant had a way of identifying with their subdivision rather than the city so the Valley of Flowers Festival was a perfect way to build more of a sense of community. Above is a booklet of "Florissant Songs" from the 1978 Valley of Flowers Festival featuring such songs as "Florissant the Beautiful" sung to the tune of America the Beautiful. The committee also posted a booklet called "Recipes For Celebration in the Valley of Flowers." It reminded residents of German heritage to eat "Hoppin' John" on New Year's day and something green on Holy Thursdays. Both dishes are thought to bring good luck.