St. Louis marks 250th birthday this weekend

Friday, February 14, 2014 | 6:43 p.m. CST

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis is celebrating a big birthday, but its exact date isn't quite clear.

The Gateway City turns 250 either Friday or Saturday. The confusion stems from the penmanship of Auguste Chouteau, who was 14 when he stepped onto what became St. Louis in February 1764, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Four decades later, Chouteau, by then the city's wealthiest resident, wrote a brief memoir about the big event. His handwriting indicated the date was Feb. 14 or 15 — the last digit couldn't be discerned as 4' or 5.

At the first known founders-day party in 1847, celebrants went with Feb. 15. But Chouteau's son, Gabriel, later said that his father told him the date was Feb. 14.

When the city celebrated its bicentennial in 1964, organizers opted for Feb. 14. President Lyndon Johnson took part in that celebration.

Since then, scholars who examined the original document and sided with Feb. 15. The stl250 organization, which is sponsoring seminars and commemorative events this weekend, is willing to celebrate both days.

"We have people who argue about it," said Erin Budde, stl250's director. "So it gives us two days to celebrate, and we'll keep it up all weekend."

Several weekend events are planned. The outdoor "Burnin' Love" festival was planned for Friday night on Art Hill in Forest Park, featuring about 250 couples becoming engaged or re-engaged. The Missouri History Museum was hosting "The Biggest Birthday Bash" through Monday, featuring 250 St. Louis exhibits.

An historical re-enactment of the city's founding was planned for 10:30 a.m. Saturday at City Hall. The History Museum is hosting an event featuring the city's culinary favorites on Sunday.

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