By Trish Muyco-Tobin
It’s difficult to imagine Kirkwood without thinking about the historical landmarks—the Train Station, City Hall, the downtown business district and even a few residential homes—that dot the approximately 9 square miles of suburbia recognized as being the first municipality established outside of St. Louis City boundaries.
Kirkwood’s growth through the years can be tied directly to the railroad. Founded in 1853, it was an early commuter train suburb, named after Missouri Pacific Railroad engineer James P. Kirkwood, who was in charge of locating, surveying and building the railroad. The Kirkwood Train Station, built in 1893 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is in the heart of the downtown area. Since 2003, the city of Kirkwood has owned and operated the site, which currently serves as a stop for Amtrak passenger train service. The city negotiated the purchase of the station from Amtrak in 2002, after the company announced plans to close the facility as part of a cost-cutting move. These days, the station is staffed by volunteer Kirkwood residents who answer questions, help passengers embark, issue parking passes, you name it—everything but sell tickets.
From the station, walk toward Kirkwood Road and the heart of downtown, and you’ll agree it could have been a prototype for Main Street, U.S.A. à la Norman Rockwell. From the storefront signs (Spencer’s Grill’s neon sign contains the oldest working clock west of the Mississippi) to the street lamps and the imposing Georgian Revival structure of Kirkwood’s City Hall, there are hints of a bygone era, holding their own against the newer landmarks: Station Plaza, which—with its delightful fountain and popular concert series—has assumed the role of town center, as well as the always popular Farmers’ Market.
The Farmers’ Market is a bustling place every weekend, especially this time of year, for finding all sorts of holiday cheer. It was founded in 1976 as a bicentennial project by the city, and is owned by the City of Kirkwood.
Kirkwood Farmers’ Market
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (November and December)
The Gingerbread Shoppe (mid-November to December)
A 2,000-square foot space where you’ll find locally grown poinsettias in different varieties, hand-tied bows, ornaments and other Christmas and holiday décor. It’s also a fun stop for old-fashioned molasses puff, peppermint bark, Christmas tree pretzels and more.
Fresh Christmas Tree Lot (Nov. 18 to Dec. 22)
Fresh trees, wreaths and other greenery
IN AND AROUND KIRKWOOD
Global Foods Market
Ready for a grocery-store adventure? Every trip to Global can guarantee it! The produce aisle alone introduces you to such exotic greens as bitter melon, bottle gourd, malunggay leaves, and at least four kinds of eggplant. There are enough spices from southeast Asia to do a sand sculpture of the Taj Mahal, an expansive selection of teas from across continents, a cornucopia of sausages from Eastern Europe, and packed aisles displaying delicacies and other curiosities from more than two dozen countries. globalfoodsmarket.com
Every little decision counts when it comes to making a difference. This local enterprise, a ministry of the St. Louis Mennonite Fellowship and mostly staffed by volunteers, provides meaningful income to skilled artisans all over the world by selling only fair-trade products, many of them made with sustainable or recycled materials. This is where you’ll find handcrafted jewelry from the far reaches of Asia, home décor from South America, sandals from Uganda, holiday ornaments from around the world and more. This is our kind of store! plowsharing.org
Andy’s Frozen Custard
We realize this may be construed as sacrilege, but hear us out: Andy’s is a top-notch treat! We recall the days when the only place to get Andy’s was in Osage Beach, Missouri, where it was founded in 1986. And while the brand has expanded to other parts of the country, the quality has remained consistent, with ingredients like real fruit (no syrups or sauces), fresh roasted nuts, and shortcake, brownies, cookies and pie for concretes baked fresh each day You have to try the Blackberry concrete in the summertime. Made with Ozark blackberries, this is the menu item that keeps us coming back for more. eatandys.com
Walkers, joggers, hikers, bird-watchers, nature lovers, rejoice! These 112 acres of oak hickory forest in the middle of the suburbs is a great escape from the daily grind. Three paved trails of varying difficulty offer glimpses of wildlife, as well as hilltops, valleys, a pond and creek. Binoculars are available to borrow at the Nature Center to maximize your bird-watching enjoyment. 11715 Cragwold Road, Kirkwood, MO 63122; (314) 301-1500