Approximately 40 miles west of downtown St Louis is the small town of Wentzville, Missouri. Situated in the north-west corner of St Charles County, Wentzville began as a depot on the Northern Missouri Railroad in 1855. The town is named after Erasmus Livingston Wentz, a railroad engineer of the time. In mid-July, 1861, Wentzville saw some minor skirmishes in the American Civil War as Union troops defended the railroad from Confederate attack. Wentzville was incorporated as a city in 1871.
Today Wentzville is one of the fastest-growing communities in the United States, and the fastest-growing in Missouri. The 2000 census recorded 13,931 residents, nearly half of which are families with children.
Wentzville bills itself as the 'Crossroads of the Nation', due to its location at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 64 and US 40. Located in the glaciated plains region of the state, north of the Missouri River and the Ozark Mountains, Wentzville spans a few gently rolling, unremarkable hills, but is mostly flat. What used to be primarily a farming region is quickly being given over to residential and commercial development.
The Norfolk Western railroad still comes through Wentzville, the tracks running alongside Main Street before veering off over Interstate 70 and through the rest of the state. No passenger trains pass through, only freight, mostly to and from the General Motors manufacturing facility on the east end of town.
The city of Wentzville itself covers approximately 14.5 square miles (37.3 square kilometres), but the surrounding area extends far beyond. The local school district serves an area of approximately 125 square miles, including unincorporated parts of the county as well as parts of neighbouring cities Lake Saint Louis and O'Fallon.
A Small Claim to Fame
Legendary rock 'n' roll pioneer Chuck Berry has an estate in Wentzville. The St Louis native is responsible for such hits as 'Johnny B Good' and 'Rock 'n' Roll Music'1. For a time he owned a restaurant in town, 'The Southern Air', right at the intersection of the highways, but the property is now an annex of Lindenwood University in St Charles. George Thorogood wrote the song 'Back to Wentzville' as a tribute to Mr Berry; the track appears on Thorogood's 1982 album Bad to the Bone.
What to do in Wentzville?
On Sunday mornings there is a flea market at the west end of Main Street. The market is open year-round, but is larger on nice days when the outdoor stalls can be used. There is a branch of the St Charles County Library in town, and two 18-hole golf courses. Within five or six miles are two movie theatres, one in O'Fallon and one in Lake Saint Louis (although the theatres themselves are only about a mile apart).
Wentzville has a handful of small parks, which are good for picnicking or dog-walking. Rotary Park is Wentzville's largest park and includes a playground, a hiking trail, an exhibit hall, an amphitheatre, and a small lake that is stocked for fishing. At Halloween there are 'haunted trails' for thrill-seekers, and during the Christmas season there is a holiday light display.
The St Charles County Fair is held at Rotary Park in late July. The fair hosts 4-H projects, tractor pulls, rodeos, a baby contest, an ugly truck contest and a demolition derby, amongst other things. The Greater St Louis Renaissance Faire also takes place at Rotary Park on weekends in late May and early June. The Faire recreates a 16th-Century country fair in Lyon, France, with period costumes, merchants and entertainment - including a jousting competition.
Progress Park is the second-largest park in Wentzville and features a recreation centre, athletic fields, a playground, a banquet centre and a public swimming pool. On Independence Day, there is a morning parade down Pierce Boulevard (the main avenue through town), after which activities continue in Progress Park with an afternoon of free swimming and an evening fireworks display.
More Area Attractions
Even though it is a 45-minute drive (and at times an hour or more by Highway 40), Wentzville is considered part of the St Louis Metropolitan Area, and so is within easy distance of major attractions such as the zoo2, the Missouri Botanical Gardens or the Science Center.
Approximately 25 miles east of Wentzville on I-70 at the Missouri River is the city of St Charles, site of Missouri's first state capital, with a historic Main Street shopping and entertainment area and a casino. Twenty miles in the opposite direction the bargain shopper will find the Warrenton Outlet Center, which has dozens of factory outlet shops.
Just ten miles south of Wentzville is frontiersman Daniel Boone's last homestead. The house is restored and furnished in period style with many of the original Boone possessions, and the grounds include several other rescued 19th-Century buildings. The property is located on county Highway F between Highway 94 and Highway D.
If nature is more your thing, the Busch Wildlife Area is practically next door to Wentzville, east on US-40. The Missouri Department of Conservation property includes fishing lakes and numerous hiking and biking trails. Information for self-guided walking or driving tours is available at the headquarters building. The area is open daily, year-round, except on state holidays.