Sunday July 14, 2013
Bastille Day 2013 was a success thanks to all of our wonderful volunteers! I can’t say thanks enough to everyone who helped; all of our costumed guests, the French Marines, Dance Discovery and everyone who came out to celebrate with us! I’d also like to add that everyone has posted and sent in some great pictures from the event. Thanks so much!
Check back here for updates about the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion’s next Bastille Day Celebration scheduled for Sunday July 13th, 2014.
Bastille Day and the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion
Three generations of the DeMenil family helped make Bastille Day one of St. Louis’s most popular summer events during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Dr. Nicolas DeMenil (1812-1882), a resident of St. Louis since 1836, served as president of the group of French émigrés that organized St. Louis’s first Bastille Day, celebrated 14 July 1880. (This was the same day that France officially inaugurated its national fete on the other side of the Atlantic.) The history of the DeMenil family in France reveals a record of distinguished service defending ideals of liberty. French nobility since the seventh century, the family renounced title to support the Republican cause during the French Revolution. Earlier, family members fought for American independence as officers at the side of General Washington.
Nicolas’s son, Alexander DeMenil (1849-1928), greatly expanded family leadership in the Bastille Day event, playing a prominent role over a period of four decades. In 1896, he organized “Societe du 14 Juillet,” a group from the local French colony dedicated to preparing for the annual celebration often held at Lemp’s Park (now Cherokee Park) located a block north of the DeMenil House. In the early twentieth century, both of Alexander’s sons, Henry (1879-1924) and George (1890-1957), joined their father on planning committees for Bastille Day. Other committee members came from all walks of life: mechanics, artisans, and shopkeepers, along with professionals. Former members of Etienne Cabet’s Icarian society who lived in the DeMenil’s Benton Park neighborhood were also among the active planners for ‘le jour de la Bastille’. Over the years, Societe du 14 Juillet welcomed new émigrés, including French wives of World War I veterans.