Missourians are familiar with Hermann’s long-standing love of the vine. When they settled the area along the Missouri River in 1836, German immigrants brought a slice of the Old World to the Midwest, along with their passion for winemaking. The area became the nation’s first designated wine appellation, but Prohibition shut down the wineries.
Most of Hermann’s 114 buildings listed on the National Historic Register are 100 years old or older, and all have been beautifully restored. Main Street is lined with structures that now house antique and specialty shops. Many are red brick because a brick factory operated here in the late 1800s.
“Step-on tours can be customized to highlight the town’s history and architecture,” said group tour coordinator Kay Schwinke. “We also offer musical step-on tours conducted by a local accordionist dressed in German costume. They play German folk songs, and people love to sing along.”
Downtown, next to the train station, the Inn at Hermannhof offer luxurious suites, plus another 20 suites in six Haus Wineries, perched on a flower-filled hillside. They once operated as house wineries in Gasconade County. Dismantled stone by stone from the surrounding hills and rebuilt on-site, all are reminiscent of the 1800s and restored down to the last detail. Breakfast is served adjoining the inn’s Festhalle, fashioned after a German hunting lodge. The Hermannhof Winery’s tasting room still has its original 1852 cellars.
Award-winning Stone Hill Winery sits on a hilltop overlooking the town. Its labyrinth of underground cellars, some of the nation’s largest, has been used to store wine for more than 160 years. The winery’s Vintage Restaurant, located in the restored horse barn and carriage house, is one more reason to visit Stone Hill. Converted horse stalls serve as booths, and former hay chutes are backlit for ambiance. Accompanied by a glass of gold medal Vignoles, nothing beats the German sampler platter featuring sauerbraten, German-style schnitzel and knackwurst.
A crown jewel in William Fox’s motion picture empire, St. Louis’ Fox Theatre opened in 1929. Costing $6 million, it contained more than 5,000 seats and ranked second in size after New York’s Roxy Theatre. Fox’s wife filled the theater with paintings, sculptures and furnishings gathered from her global travels.
The theater eventually closed and fell into disrepair until 1981, when it was privately purchased. During restoration, thousands of square feet of ornate plaster was re-created, long-lost art glass was beautifully duplicated, 4,500 seats were reupholstered in red velvet, and 7,300 yards of carpet were woven in the original elephant pattern. The 12-foot-diameter, 5,280-pound chandelier that hangs from the theater’s dome was renovated. And the 2,700-pipe Wurlitzer organ, one of only five of its type ever made, was rebuilt.
Tours highlight the architecture and history, and the Saturday tour includes a Wurlitzer organ demonstration. The Broadway season includes 10 to 14 shows and numerous concerts. Groups can opt for a buffet meal, a plated dinner or a cocktail hour before the show. Show themes are incorporated into most meals.
“If there’s not a performance that day, tours go backstage,” said group services coordinator John Hildebrant. “Each production creates a themed mural backstage commemorating their show, and cast members sign it. Visitors can see signatures from all the artists who have performed here since 1982.”