Melrose

The Historic Community of Melrose



As the name implies, this “sweet rose” village had a very roseate setting in 1851, when Charles H. Haven acquired 1,000 acres of Federal Land Claims and platted the place as a nucleus for a great “Park of Fruits of a Thousand Acres.” It contained fruit trees and flowers of every description as well as orchards and vineyards, reportedly costing $15,000, a vast sum at the time. Herman Kreienkamp, as a fifteen year old youth, remembered planting the hills in grapevines and trees. This huge undertaking provided employment for many area residents.  

Irene Gaehle Hairston provided an oral history to the Wildwood Historical Society, sharing her childhood memories of befriending an Indian family who traveled each year from Wisconsin to a wooded area off Melrose Road to collect herbs, roots, berries and bark. They told her they could only find these specific items at that location. They used them for medicines and salves. One can only wonder if these were relics of Haven’s majestic garden.  

The home dwelling was named “Woodlawn” and the grounds also included a three story building which served as a day and boarding school for young girls. The building later served as a Catholic chapel.  

Most thought Mr. Haven was sincere in his efforts, although many thought he was “ahead of the times.” This feeling was perhaps a result of efforts to publically auction lots to wealthy St. Louis residents as places to build summer homes. He even brought interested parties from the Glencoe train station as well as a brass band to generate interest in his enterprise. He then sold stock in the Vine & Fruit Growers Association of St. Louis County. Investors included Prince Alexander of Russia, who visited St. Louis in 1872. But the enterprise fell into debt and the sheriff sold the property.  

Herman Kreienkamp later became a merchant in Melrose, and built a large frame store and post office. This structure was sometimes referred to as Melrose Hall, as the building could be rented out for events during the 1880s. It still stands today, known as the Kreienkamp Store, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of Wildwood’s historic treasures.

Sources:

Thomas, William L.
1911  History of St. Louis County – A Story That Attracts

 1920  History of St. Louis County

1883  History of St. Louis City & County

Images of the Historic Community of Melrose

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