A Trip Through Meramec Highlands
As you drive toward Interstate 270 on Big Bend Road, you will enter the 500-acre Meramec Highlands tract of land, formerly an exclusive 1890's summer resort and health spa. Turn south onto picturesque Ponca Trail and you can find charming stone and wood-frame guest cottages built near the now-absent Meramec Highlands Inn. Turn right onto Barberry Lane and you'll see the resort's stone train station, "sold" to the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad in 1891 for $1 including rail service. West of the station, remains the 1883 railroad tunnel. In 1894 the resort's dance hall, named the Pagoda, was built on Sunset Hill over the tunnel. An observation deck atop the Pagoda provided visitors with a scenic view of the Meramec River Valley. Up the street from the station, you can find the resort's general store where "Pretty Boy" Floyd hid out in 1925 during the resort's seedy honky-tonk days.
While always providing living quarters on its second floor, the store also housed a post office, restaurant, barber shop, and a primary school at various times in its history. At Barberry and Glenwood you can observe the handsome stone home which used to be the Meramec Highlands District #51 Elementary School. You can imagine all its students trooping to Quinnette Road (modern-day Big Bend) to board the chartered streetcars for the annual school picnic in Forest Park. On Big Bend, west of Greenbriar Country Club, you can find the former Groth Bar and livery. It opened in 1905 to serve local residents and visitors who rode the streetcars to and from the nearby Meramec Highlands loop. On hot summer weekends, up to 10,000 visitors flocked to the resort on streetcars. East of Interstate 270, you can visit the Meramec Highlands quarry in Kirkwood's Dee Koestering Park. It provided stone for the train station, foundations for resort buildings, and ballast for the steetcar track bed. Traveling down Marshall Road you'll come to Greentree Park, site of the resort's river amusements which included swimming, boating, and picnicking at the Highlands Canoe Club and on the beaches named Guyols, Stites, and Kieffers.
Though certain resort features no longer exist (The Highlands Inn, mineral bathhouse, ice houses, exotic animal enclosure, dairies, a farm, steam merry-go-round, dance halls, picnic pavilions, the streetcar loop), the remaining buildings are a testament to the vision of resort developer Marcus Bernheimer. After a brief tour, it becomes evident why the Highlands was named as Kirkwood's first historic district in 1989.
Frisco exiting tunnel to pick up resort guests. Highlands Inn to the right; Pagoda Dance Hall atop tunnel.
I am currently collecting photos and information for a second volume on Meramec Highlands, tentatively titled, "Meramec Highlands, Missouri: A Second Look." This volume will delve into aspects of the resort and the lives of residents and visitors to the Meramec Highlands area. Please see the info page to submit any information.