Most visitors to Elsah first notice its unusual knack for historic preservation. The small, storybook-like village of 670 residents lies a short 40-minute drive from St. Louis, but a world away from the hurry of big city life.
Historic homes grace Elsah’s narrow streets, giving the village a strong sense of 19th century life. In fact, the National Register of Historic Places recognized the entire town in 1973. No wonder people refer to Elsah as “the town that time forgot.”
Elsah’s convenient location along the 20-mile paved Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail makes it a favorite stop for bikers enjoying the Great River Road.
Elsah’s Historic Landmarks
Make your first stop the Elsah Civic Center, a stone building that served as Elsah’s original schoolhouse, operating from 1857 until 1970. For many years, the schoolhouse served as the center of activity in the community, hosting drama and musical productions put on by students.
Elsah Civic Center (Old Schoolhouse)
Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail
1874 Methodist Church
1877 Buggy Shop
Today, it houses village offices, meeting rooms and public restrooms, and on the south side, visitors can see the high water mark of the Mississippi River’s 1993 flood.
Discover more about Elsah’s past at the Village of Elsah Museum located in the 1887 Village Hall. It covers the town’s history from its founding in 1853, and houses exhibits on architectural styles found in Elsah, Principia College and tools used by past residents. It opens on weekends April through October with free admission.
Next, soak up Elsah’s architectural beauty by taking a walking tour of the village. Tour maps can be found online (elsah.org) and include more than 50 historic places, including the 1874 Methodist Church and more than a dozen 1800s-dated homes.
More than 500 students attend Principia, a private college for Christian Scientists, and they represent most of the U.S. and 30 countries. The school received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1993 for its 11 structures designed by renowned architect Bernard Maybeck.
The College Chapel built by Maybeck between 1931 and 1934 in the American Colonial style remains a central feature of the campus. An observation platform near the chapel gives visitors a spectacular view of the Mississippi River.
Elsah Bed & Breakfasts
Visitors who choose to stay awhile can book a room at one of two Elsah bed-and-breakfasts. Maple Leaf Cottage Inn satisfies hungry guests with a full hot breakfast each morning, and its enchanting guestrooms include the Attic Room, which conjures up childhood memories of grandmother’s attic. You can read more about the peaceful Green Tree Inn in the heart of historic Elsah here.
Find resources for planning your trip to the village at elsah.org.