One of the first orders of business for the first Missouri general assembly that convened in St. Louis in 1820 was to find a centrally located site for the state capital. A commission of five was sent out with a mandate to select a site on the Missouri River “within 40 miles of the mouth of the Osage.” There was only one place within that sweep of land that remotely resembled a village, Cote Sans Dessein at the confluence of the two rivers. It was assumed that Missouri’s new capital city would alight there. It was so obvious, however, that speculators drove land prices out of sight.

The commissioners kept traveling upstream and found a bluff on the south side of the Missouri River where it was dictated would grow a capital city. The city was platted in 1822 and preparations made to accommodate the government’s arrival in 1826. But settlement was slow - it seems like not too many people were buying the idea of this Jefferson City as the capital of Missouri. Other towns were making ominous noises about snatching the capital to their more developed embraces.

To help stem the discontent and give the town a sense of permanence, Governor John Miller got a state penitentiary built in the 1830s. Then the capitol burned in 1837. If there was ever a time for the government to vamoose from Jefferson City, this was it. But $175,000 was appropriated to build a new capitol building and in 1839, with 1,174 inhabitants, including 262 slaves, Jefferson City was incorporated.

Government was the main industry but there was a vibrant river trade that peaked when the first trains arrived to great fanfare in 1855. Printing was an important industry and after the 1880s Jefferson City became known for making shoes. By 1900 the population was approaching 10,000 but there were still towns picking at the legitimacy of the state capital. In 1896 an amendment was put to popular vote to move the government to Sedalia. It was defeated.

And so the little city that was chosen for the Missouri state capital so long ago that namesake Thomas Jefferson was still alive remains the seat of state government. And our walking tour of the 190-year old capital city will begin in front of one of the building tabbed by USA Today in 2008 as having the “most beautiful interior of any of the 50 state capitols”... 

Missouri State Capitol
201 West Capitol Avenue

This is the third capitol building in Jefferson City, completed in 1917, after its predecessor had burned to the ground, as had the first. A total of 69 architecture firms submitted plans for Missouri’s new capital and the winning classical design came from Evarts Tracy and Egerton Swartwout out of New York City. The central dome rises 238 feet and is surmounted by a bronze statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture. The south portico is dominated by eight fluted Corinthian columns each 48 feet high; all told there are 134 columns in the composition. The bronze entrance doors are said to have been the largest cast since Roman days. The entire exterior is dressed in a dense marble stone from Carthage, Missouri. With 500,000 square feet of floor space the Capitol is ten times larger than the 1840 building it replaced. 


Statue of Liberty Replica
southeast lawn of capitol grounds

Between 1949 and 1952 the Boy Scouts of America dedicated more than 200 copper “Little Sisters of Liberty” as part of Scouting’s 40th anniversary theme, “Strengthen the Arm of Liberty.” It was the brainchild of Jack P. Whitaker, a Kansas City businessman and commissioner for the local Boy Scout council, after seeing a replica of Lady Liberty made of chicken wire and concrete in Spirit Lake, Iowa. Whitaker had a mold made for eight-foot tall replicas at the cost of $3,500 and sold the statues for $300 to Scout troops in 39 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Canal Zone, and the Philippines who got them placed on capitol grounds, courthouse lawns, and city parks.


Highway State Office Building
southwest corner of Jefferson Street and Capitol Avenue

One of the most important things a government could do in the 1920s was build roads for the millions of new cars that were being bought every year. The Missouri Highway Department got this five-story home in a place of honor on the capitol grounds to get the job done. The Neoclassical form fit in with the government’s passion of the early 1900s for the City Beautiful Movement that urged the construction of impressive buildings rooted in ancient Rome and Greece.   

Corps of Discovery Monument
Missouri State Capitol - Northeast Grounds

This heroic bronze group was created by Sabra Tull Meyer and depicts the day June 4, 1804 when the members of the Corps of Discovery made camp on the bluff above the Missouri River where the capital city stands today. Included are life-sized figures of Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, George Drouillard, a French-Canadian-Shawnee hunter, Clark’s slave York, and Lewis’ Newfoundland dog Seaman. The sculptures, resting on slabs of limestone simulating the bluff, were unveiled June 4th 2008.


Lohman Building
100 Jefferson Street on west side at Water Street

With the arrival of the government the foot of Jefferson Street soon hummed with activity as the new commercial hub of the Missouri River. James A. Crump constructed this substantial Greek Revival stone building into the hillside in 1839 to do duty as a warehouse, tavern and telegraph office. He leased the upper floors for use as the Missouri House hotel. When the tracks for the Pacific Railroad arrived in the 1850s the hotel was the place to be for rivermen as they unloaded shipments off the railroad from the east and loaded them back onto boats headed up the Missouri River. German immigrant Charles Lohman bought the east end of the Crump building with his brother-in-law, Charles Maus, in 1852 and launched a general store. The business would grew into the town’s leading mercantile concern and Lohman acquired the entire property. The 1900s saw the building converted into a factory to make shoes for John Tweedie and, later, his son Charles. The state acquired “the landing” in the 1960s with eyes for a parking lot but a grass roots preservation movement led instead to the rehabilitation of the properties. 


Union Hotel
101 Jefferson Street on east side of the road

Charles Maus, who spent his early days in Jefferson City as a carpenter and stone mason, built this boarding house in 1855 for travelers arriving on the Pacific Railroad, which he called the Missouri Hotel. A few years later he dissolved his partnership with Charles Lohman and went off to fight in the Civil War on the federal side. He joined as a private and advanced to the rank of captain. Maus served three years mostly guarding wagon trains carrying supplies from Rolla, the end of the railroad, to Sand Springs before being captured on November 1, 1864 and being mustered out as a paroled prisoner. So fervently did he believe in the Union cause that he changed his hotel’s name when he returned. The railroads kept expanding in the 1870s, siphoning trade from the river and both Lohman and Maus moved their businesses away from “the landing.” Until its re-birth as a state historic site the Union Hotel spent most of its days as storage space. Now it houses the Elizabeth Rozier Gallery, named after the leading advocate for saving the buildings at Jefferson Landing, and serves as an Amtrak station.     


Christopher Maus House
east side of Jefferson Street at Jefferson Landing

The Maus family left Germany for the United States in 1830, arriving in Baltimore and moving to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a common destination for new Germans, where the father found work in an iron furnace. After the father died in 1833 the family migrated westward. John Christopher Maus was a younger brother of Charles and he built this Federal-style brick house in the 1850s. 

Governors’ Garden/Carnahan Memorial Gardens
northeast corner of Jefferson Street and Capitol Avenue

These landscaped grounds had their start as a make-work project during the Great Depression. The money ran out and the project lay fallow until Juanita McFadden Donnelly, wife of two-time governor Phillip M. Donnelly, picked up the work in 1945. Doing a good chunk of the work herself, a sunken garden, reflecting pool and terraces were installed in the open space. After former governor Mel Carnahan was killed in a plane crash in 2000 the garden was re-named in his honor.


Jefferson State Office Building
205 Jefferson Street at southeast corner of Capitol Avenue 

This 14-story curtain-wall office tower came online in 1952. While it is worth little more than a glance, out front one’s attention is drawn to the statue of a grizzly bear, an animal that has appeared on the Missouri State Seal since 1822. It is the work of artist Bernard Frazier, a Kansas native who picked up the nickname “Poco” while running on the University of Kansas track team. Noted for his massive public works of art, Frazier sculpted the bear on site from a 15-ton slab of gray limestone. On a break from his position as artist in residence at the University of Kansas, Frazier worked through the winter, erecting a wooden shed around the statue for warmth. Grizzlies have long been gone from Missouri and black bears, which were common through the 19th century, had been virtually eradicated from their last stronghold in the Ozarks by the 1890s. In recent decades, however, black bears have recolonized southern Missouri.    

Hotel Governor/Governor Office Building
200 Madison Street at southwest corner of Capitol Avenue

The eight-story Hotel Governor was built in 1942, providing meeting space and residences for Missouri lawmakers until it closed in 1988. Its underground bar, the Rathskeller, was frequented by so many power brokers it came to be known as the “Third Chamber.” The State of Missouri acquired the building in 1993 and after a multi-million dollar facelift it became office space.


Missouri Governor’s Mansion
100 Madison Street at northwest corner of Capitol Street

Prior to its burning in 1837 this was the site of the original Missouri state capitol building, which also included space for the governor’s residence. An executive mansion had been constructed next door in 1834 and it was spared during the fire when wet blankets were hastily spread across the roof. That house suffered fire damage in the 1840s and was becoming tired and outdated quickly. In 1871 when Benjamin Gratz Brown, who sported a limp from a bullet wound received in 1856 in a duel over slavery, assumed office he got the Assembly to allocate $50,000 for a new governor’s home. Englishman George Ingham Barnett, who was considered the dean of St. Louis architecture, drew up the French Second Empire plans. Brown chipped in with the four pink granite columns from his quarry in Iron County. The mansion has been home to every Missouri governor since.


B. Gratz Brown House/Cole County Historical Society
109 Madison Street

This property was inherited by Elizabeth Gunn in 1871, who happened to be the sister-in-law of then governor, B. Gratz Brown. Since Elizabeth was unmarried at the time it was the convention of the day for a male relative to look after her financial affairs. Brown got the call and tore down the existing building to create a four-story brick row house that was almost unheard of in small 19th century Missouri towns. The property was sold away in 1881 and after that the three attached Federal-style townhouses were owned by separate buyers. The Cole County Historical Society, that had formed in 1941, bought the derelict unit at #109 in 1946 for $7,000, ending its run as a boarding house. In 1999 the Society also picked up the unit next door which was renovated for exhibit space.


Missouri Pacific Railroad Depot
foot of Monroe Street at State Street

The Missouri-Pacific was one of the first railroads west of the Mississippi River and the first line to reach Kansas City, in 1865. By 1898, when this Romanesque Revival styled passenger station was constructed of brick with stone trim, Missouri had 146 railroads controlled by 58 companies. The depot’s biggest moment before passenger service ended in the 1960s came in March of 1946 when President Harry S. Truman and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill disembarked here to join a motorcade en route to Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri where Churchill would deliver one of the most famous orations of the Cold War, chiding the Soviet Union for its “iron curtain” across the continent of Europe. 


First United Methodist Church
201 Monroe Street at southeast corner of Capitol Avenue

The first Methodist services in Jefferson City took place with a congregation of four. In 1841 the Missouri Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church appointed a full-time pastor, Jesse Bennet, and a church building was ready by 1843. The momentum was slowed by the Civil War but after the Confederacy put down its arms Methodism surged to the point that a new meetinghouse was raised next to the original in 1874. The present Romanesque Revival sanctuary, crafted with locally quarried limestone, has served the congregation since 1901. The architect was Charles Opel, a son of Jefferson City who began as a carpenter in his father’s shop; the Opels were responsible for many of the town’s finest homes. 


First Christian Church
327 East Capitol Avenue at northwest corner of Adams Street 

With nine worshipers in a house four blocks away from here, the congregation began in 1879. By 1883 the expanding flock was able to move into a 30 foot-by-50 foot Frank B. Miller-designed church building. In 1908 that brick sanctuary was torn down and replaced with this Gothic-flavored house of worship. The congregation that began with nine members thirty years earlier was over 500 strong. 


Carnegie Library Building
210 Adams Street atnorthwest corner of Commercial Avenue

After Scottish-born industrialist Andrew Carnegie sold his U.S. Steel Company for $400 million to become the world’s richest man at the beginning of the 20th century he set out to give away all his money and one of his pet projects was public libraries. He funded over 2,500 of them around the world, including 33 from 26 grants in Missouri, most of which were in communities that had no existing public library. That was the case in Jefferson City which received $25,000 - with the provision that the town provide a suitable location and $3,000 of annual upkeep - in 1900. Go-to local architect Frank B. Miller drew up plans for a Beaux Arts building and the library was dedicated on December 23, 1902. Jefferson City came here for its books until 1975 when a larger regional library was constructed across Commercial Avenue. The Carnegie Library, however, dodge the wrecking ball to live on as government offices.

Grace Episcopal Church
217 Adams Street at northeast corner of High Street 

Grace Church traces its roots to a mission served by circuit-riding preachers back in 1836. There was a small meetinghouse ready by 1842 but the congregation bumped unsteadily along through outbreaks of cholera and the Civil War. By the end of the 19th century, however, Grace Church had fortified its place in the Jefferson City ecclesiastical landscape and began work in 1898 on this brick house of worship that blends Gothic Revival and Romanesque elements. Work was completed in 1901.


Burch-Berendzen Brothers Grocery Company
304 East High Street

The street level of this 1890s brick building has been compromised but you can look up to see one of Jefferson City’s most exuberant Romanesque facades from the pen of Frank Miller. The molded brick columns of the third story rest on carved stone heads. The original tenant was the Burch-Berendzen Brothers Grocery Company. Oscar E. Burch was a native of Jefferson City, born in 1868 after his father came to town as assistant State Librarian. Burch organized the grocery concern in 1894.

Cole County Courthouse and Jail
northeast corner of Monroe and 301 East High streets

This is the third county courthouse to stand on this site after Jefferson City wrested the county seat from Marion in 1829. The first was a functional log structure that was replaced by a permanent courthouse in 1838. This eclectic government house was begun in 1896 on plans drawn by local architect Frank B. Miller. It is constructed with three courses of stone - cream-colored, fine-grained local cotton rock, Carthage stone in alternating bands of smooth-cut and quarry-edged blocks and Warrensburg stone on the third story. The corners have double pilasters topped with carved faces looking at those across the street, perhaps at Miller’s stone heads on the grocery. The entire confection is covered with red slate and terra cotta. Frank B. Miller was the man most responsible for the face of Jefferson City, designing many of the community’s most prominent buildings. Born in St. Joseph, Miller was brought to Jefferson City as a boy in 1866 to be raised by his aunt after the death of his mother. The town’s most prolific architect did not finish out his career as a builder, however. At the age of 65 he invented a new type of school locker and went off to Kansas City to supervise its manufacture.   

Cole County Democrat Building
southeast corner of High Street and Monroe Street

Joseph Richard Edwards, a native of Jefferson City, wandered into politics at an early age and eventually served as alderman, county prosecutor and mayor for one term in 1883. He spearheaded the creation of the Cole County Democrat, a weekly paper, in 1884 and outfitted this 1873 building for its offices. The Victorian structure is immediately recognized by its corner turret slathered in slate tiles that is supported above the entrance by iron braces. The Democrat became a daily publication in 1902 and was gone by 1910.     

Monroe House
235 East High Street at northwest corner of Monroe Street 

Despite its harmonious appearance this corner building required a century to complete. The Italianate-style building originally went up in 1884 as the Monroe House hotel which became the place to see and be seen among Missouri Republicans. But it wasn’t until 1984 that the top floor that had been originally planned was added to the structure. Cast iron enjoyed a brief flurry of popularity among America’s builders after the Civil War. It was easy to create ornate designs, fast to erect and cheaper than stone. Several storefronts in downtown Jefferson City still sport their cast iron fronts (you can tell by looking down to the sidewalk for the stamp of the manufacturer) and the Monroe Building also used cast iron for its window decorations and cornice. Some of the window lintels are original and some have been replicated with a plastic resin. 


Temple Beth El
318 Monroe Street

This smallish brick synagogue, another Frank Miller creation, is the oldest temple west of the Mississippi River in continuous use. In fact, there are only a dozen or so longer-serving synagogues east of the Mississippi River. Members of the local Hebrew Ladies Sewing Society raised the money to build Miller’s Gothic-styled temple in 1883. 


Tyler’s Key Shop
333 Madison Street at northeast corner of McCarty Street

This building has served many masters since its construction in the 1860s. It stands as a souvenir of the early days of Jefferson City when simple two-story buildings would be erected that provided commercial space on the ground floor and living quarters for the shop owners upstairs.    

First United Presbyterian Church
324 Madison Street at northwest corner of McCarty Street

Presbyterians have been congregating in this classically flavored house of worship since 1927. The church goes back almost another 100 years when Scottish missionary Robert McAffee gathered together a dozen congregants on June 15, 1834. This has been the Presbyterian corner in town since the Civil War.  

Hope Building
201 East High Street at northeast corner of Madison Street

This corner building composed of red clay bricks is the oldest original structure on High Street. It was raised in 1841 with tall Federal-style parapets on either end and conventional six-over-six windows decorated with stone lintels. The windows were as large as could be made in the days before the plate glass display windows for retail shops that became common in the next era of High Street. The property was completely restored in the 1980s.


Central Trust Building
238 Madison Street at northwest corner of High Street

The Central Missouri Trust Company, that had formed in 1902, brought Jefferson City its first “skyscraper” with this new seven-story headquarters in 1916. Frank Miller designed the building according to the conventions of the day to craft high-rise towers in the image of a classical three-part column with a defined base (the oversized ground floors), a shaft, the relatively unadorned central stories) and a capital (the decorated upper floor and cornice). To emphasize the importance of the bank, which was a stronghold of the Missouri Democratic machine, the upper and lower stories were wrapped in the same Cathage stone that graces the State Capitol. Central Missouri Trust was one of only two Jefferson City banks (out of six) to survive the Great Depression and has operated here (as the Central Bank since 1987) for over 90 years.   

Exchange National Bank
132 East High Street at southwest corner of Madison Street

The Exchange National Bank took its first deposits in 1865 and moved into this classically flavored building in 1926. The building was the handiwork of St. Louis architectural firm of Mauran, Russell, and Crowell that made their reputation designing Carnegie libraries in Missouri, Wisconsin and Kansas. John Lawrence Mauran began his career with the celebrated Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge working on the shop’s midwestern commissions. When they closed the St. Louis office in 1900, Mauran hung out his own shingle. The gilded clock out front has been a town landmark for nearly a century. Crafted by the O.B. McClintock Company, the clock was first installed by the Exchange Bank in 1916 in front of its previous location in the 200 block of High Street; it was moved here in 1932. The building is still functioning as a bank, now called Hawthorn, and so is the clock, despite a run-in with a truck.   

124 East High Street

The evolution of the Jefferson City storefront can be seen in this early 20th century building. Victorian era ornamentation has given way to clean, crisp lines and the bricks are glazed to promote easy cleaning. The shop entrance is recessed and the tile floor is laid in a popular octagonal pattern. 

122 East High Street

This High Victorian survivor from the 1880s is dressed in an ornamental copper sheathing and sports leaded glass across its facade. A pair of bay windows squeezed every bit of light from its mid-block location. 

Tennessee House
114 East High Street

Early hotels in Jefferson City were often the offices of stage lines. In 1857 Tennessee Matthews opened a 47-room guest house here. The three-story brick building welcomed visitors for many years and since its run as a hotel ended it has, among other things, functioned as a school and a men’s furnishing store. It picked up the Romanesque arched windows in 1899. 

Lohman’s Opera House
102 East High Street

Louis C. Lohman was a Jefferson City native born on October 31, 1850 as the son of pioneer merchant Charles Lohman. The elder Lohman was born in Prussia in 1818 and sailed to America after his mandatory stint in the Regular Army of Germany was concluded. He built several fine brick buildings in town for his merchandise and commission businesses before losing his fortune in a series of steamboat disasters. Louis worked in his father’s businesses and took over the merchandise store in 1874. He also dabbled in banking as president of the Merchant’s Bank and mining properties and in the 1880s built and operated the town’s opera house. Like many small towns the opera house was the most exuberant building on the streetscape. A packed crowd of 600 paid between 25 cents and a dollar to attend the grand opening on October 5, 1886 to see diminutive stage actress Patti Rosa who was touring with her comic sketches “Bob” and “Zip.” Converted to a movie house, the show went on here until 1935. The building has recently been restored to its original Italianate splendor under an ornate cornice.  

Albert E. Schoenbeck Building
100 East High Street at southeast corner of Jefferson Street

This was the store building Charles Lohman erected in the 1860s. Typical of commercial buildings of the day it adopted the Italianate commercial style with a bracketed cornice and elaborate window hoods. 

Merchant’s Bank
101 West High Street at southwest corner of Jefferson Street

This three-story building began life in the 1880s as Merchant’s Bank, formed by a posse of the town’s businessmen headed by Louis Lohman. The Masons, the world’s oldest fraternal organization, used the upstairs as a lodge for a time. You can still look up above the compromised street level to see the lively High Victorian facade.  

United States Post Office and Courthouse
131 West High Street at southeast corner of Washington Street

The federal government announced its presence in Jefferson City in 1889 with an impressive Romanesque stone post office and courthouse designed by Frank Miller. That building was located across the street and was torn down to be replaced with this Neoclassical version in 1934. The office of Supervising Architect of the Treasury James Wetmore oversaw the monumental design that is highlighted by full height fluted Doric columns that march around the exterior. The courts have moved on but the post office is still handling mail here. 

Supreme Court of Missouri
207 West High Street at southwest corner of Washington Street

The Supreme Court of Missouri heard its first cases in 1820, the year before Missouri officially became a state. At the time the state’s highest court consisted of just three members; it was increased to five in 1872 and the current seven in 1890. The Court did not come to Jefferson City until 1877 and after a time in a building where the Highway Department Building now stands the justices moved to a new home here in 1907. Flush with money from the just completed 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, the general assembly appropriated $400,000 for the construction of the three-story red brick building trimmed in stone to create a French Renaissance Revival appearance.

Broadway State Office Building
221 West High Street at southeast corner of Broadway

This government office building was constructed in 1938 with federal stimulus funds from the Works Progress Administration. Like most such buildings raised during the Great Depression it features the stripped down classicism of the Art Deco style, fashioned in white Carthage stone like its prestigious neighbors. Versatile Kansas City architects Arthur Samuel Keene and Leslie B. Simpson provided the plans.   


St. Peter Catholic Church
216 Broadway

This church in the name of St. Peter, the Apostle, was founded in 1846. Its current sanctuary, created in a German Gothic Revival style, was the handiwork of German-born architect Adolphus Druiding who designed dozens of buildings for the Catholic Church between the Civil War and his death at the age of 61 in 1900, including five in Missouri. Some 800,000 bricks were donated to the cause by the G.H. Dulle Milling Company; son Henry was the Treasurer of St. Peter’s for many years. The first mass here was celebrated on February 2, 1883. The brick rectory was added in 1885 and in 1888 a clock was installed in the 170-foot tower.