The newest acquisition to Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park’s historic buildings happens to be the oldest structure in the community. While the Green Tree Tavern has played numerous roles in the small Missouri town, it now serves as a reminder of the complex history of this unique European settlement.
The Green Tree Tavern in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, is a rare surviving example of French Colonial architecture known as poteaux sur sole (post on sill). Its unusual construction featured walls made of hand-hewn white oak logs arranged vertically rather than the more traditional horizontal log structure used elsewhere. Recent studies of the building’s timbers confirmed a construction date of 1790, making it the oldest home in the town and possibly the oldest home west of the Mississippi.
The tavern has filled many different roles for many different people. It was originally built as a home for French Canadian Nicolas Janis and his family. When they migrated to the area, they brought with them at least 10 enslaved people, many of whose ownership transferred to the original owners’ descendants.
When Nicolas’ son, Francois, inherited the property, he opened it as an inn. The tavern offered lodging, entertainment, socializing, and news to the many travelers pouring into the new Louisiana Purchase territory. Guests could enjoy food and drink in the public room, then sleep in rooms heated by an unusual triangular fireplace. In later years the building served as a tobacco store and as the first Masonic Lodge in Missouri.
The grounds of Green Tree Tavern are open year-round. National Park Service rangers offer free interior tours daily, but registration is required either in person at the park’s Welcome Center (66 Main Street) or by phone at (573) 880-7189.