by Michael R. Allen
Early Sunday morning, cyclists on this year’s Moonlight Ramble made a north turn to ride by the historic Mullanphy Emigrant Home in Old North St. Louis. The Ramble, organized each year since 1964 by the Gateway Council of Hostelling International USA, is a midnight bike ride held on the Saturday night nearest the full moon in August. Over 15,000 riders participated this year, and each one got to see first-hand what could be an exciting new home for Hostelling International’s local chapter.
While the route of the ride was a secret, word had already spread that this year’s ride proceeds would benefit the Mullanphy Emigrant Home, envisioned as a world-class hostel by the Gateway Council. Hostelling International hopes to continue rehabilitation of the Emigrant Home, hit by devastating storms in 2006 and 2007 and now largely stabilized through the efforts of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group.
The hostel plan would both restore the historic architecture of a building built in 1867 from plans by renowned architects George Barnett and Alfred Piquenard and also rededicate the building to housing the itinerant. The Emigrant Home originally housed immigrants headed westward through St. Louis from New York and other eastern ports. Hosteling International would provide lodging for a different sort of migrant — travelers exploring the United States. If the hostel opens it would be a serendipitous revival of the building’s original purpose.
Meanwhile, residents of Old North are enthusiastic about the prospects for the building’s future, and the legions of travelers who might come through their neighborhood as they travel this country. That enthusiasm was on display in full force last night, and a throng of neighbors (including people from the block facing the Emigrant home) welcomed thousands of riders for well over an hour. To learn more about the Mullanphy Emigrant Home, visit SaveMullanphy.org.
All photographs by Lynn Josse.