MISSOURI TOURIST INFORMATION: (800) 877-1234
Although Lewis and Clark visited Jefferson City in 1804, it wasn't settled until Missouri became a state in 1821, when the city was laid out by Daniel Morgan Boone, son of the famous frontiersman. Today the main street of this small capital city (population 35,000) is a shady avenue of broad sidewalks and old buildings featuring cafes, shops and small businesses. (For some reason it reminds us of Montmartre in Paris.)
Statehouse (573) 751-4127
The State Capitol has a commanding position, sitting as it does on a high bluff overlooking the Missouri River. Beautiful fountains and flowers adorn the grounds both in the front and in the rear of the building. At the front are two pedestal water fountains, one depicting art, the other science. A 13 -foot statue of Thomas Jefferson stands at the front entrance and two heroic bronze figures behind him symbolize Missouri's two great rivers, the female figure on the left represents the Missouri River, the male figure on the right represents the Mississippi River. Just beyond these statues is the main entryway: the large bronze doors (13 x 18 feet) -- the largest cast since the Roman era. Enter through the doors to a marble hall with a grand staircase leading to the second floor rotunda, beautiful enough itself, yet it's surrounded by glorious paintings by the famous British muralist Frank Brangwyn. Famous paintings are a prominent feature of this Capitol. For example, every wall in the House Lounge is covered with a Thomas Hart Benton mural of significant Missouri events -- absolutely beautiful. Every person in the scenes was painted in the likeness of some Missourian that Benton knew, some still alive today. Near the Secretary of State's office are N.C.Wyeth paintings. The rear of the building, overlooking the Missouri River, has the "Fountain of the Centaurs," of huge, captivating Greek-like scultpures. Behind the fountain is a bronze relief of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase, featuring Livingston, Monroe, and Marbois. East of the relief is an elegant colonnade leading to the "Garden of Liberty," a cascading waterfall descending upon a tiered garden of colorful annuals. (Unfortunately all of these magnificent fountains were turned off. So we had to imagine the beauty of the rushing water.)
Check it out . . . This capital city conveniently places its State Museum right in the Capitol on the first floor.The museum is divided into two rooms: History Hall and Resources Hall. History Hall highlights themes illustrates the lifestyles of Missourian settlers while the Resources Hall shows Missouri's natural resources and man's interaction and use of them.
Check it out . . . The Capitol dome is topped with the statue of Ceres, goddess of agriculture, the same goddess Kansas had planned on putting on their capitol before they found out how "immoral" she was.
Jefferson Landing State Historic Site (573) 634-3616
The next block from the statehouse is Jefferson Landing, a vital commercial wharf during the early and mid-19th century.Three of the buildings have been restored: the Lohman Building, a massive stone structure that served as freight transfer depot; the Union Hotel, and the red brick Maus house, owned by the brother of a ship captain. Beside Jefferson Landing are the Governor's Gardens and the three-story, brick "Executive Mansion" where the current Missouri Governor and his family reside. This is the second-oldest continuously-occupied Governor's home in the country. The gardens are open to the public.
St Louis is truly a multi-faceted city. It's situated in the middle of America on the mighty Mississippi river that separates East and West. Remnants of its French history is evident in some of its churches, architecture and customs. And it's glorious "Gateway Arch" that appears like great open arms shows its wide acceptance for all cultures. There's just too much do and see. On the Mississippi shores are riverfront activities, such as riverboat casinos and cruises, while St. Louis streets and parks are full of interesting museums, lavish homes, grand boulevards, open-air markets, gas-lit historic districts and abundant university life. It's a city where New & Old/East &West/North & South/French & English customs blend evenly, neither one overpowering the other.
Gateway Arch (314) 425-4465
Plan to spend a lot of time here. In addition to touring the magnificent arch -- and it's "deceptively simple" design -- by going all the way to the top for an unusual view, you'll also be able to view two documentary films, one about westward expansion and other about the designs, dangers and near-death experiences in building the Arch. The Museum of Westward Expansion on the first floor completes the picture with stories, photos and artifacts. It's built like a big wagon wheel, with each "spoke" showing different aspects of the move west: the Explorers, the Pioneers, the American Indians, and the Mountainmen. Animated, talking mannequins tell tales of their experiences.
Tip: The elevator to the top of the Arch is half the fun. How does an elevator go up a curved wall? Well, they sit you in a little enclosed pod, like some kind of carnival ride, that bends and follows the curve in the arch smoothly.
Check it Out . . . The Arch faces the riverfront on one side and a beautiful, peaceful park on the other. Across the street is the Old Courthouse, a 150-year old Greek Revival public building, where the famous Dred Scott case was tried. Visitors can tour the gorgeous architecture inside and learn more about the Scott case and the heroism of the Scott family.
Forest Park (314) 746-4599
Forest Park was the site of the 1904 World's Fair/Louisiana Purchase Exposition, marking the 100th anniversary of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. It was here, 95 years ago that the ice cream cone and hot dog were first introduced to the American diet. Today, Forest Park is America's largest urban park. It contains public gardens, golf courses, tennis courts, walking/biking/jogging/rollerblading paths, as well as such fine institutions as the St. Louis Zoo, History Museum, Science Center and Art Museum. The Saint Louis Art Museum, with its hallmark statue of the city's patron saint, "St. Louis the Crusader" astride his horse, is the only building remaining from the 1904 World's Fair.
This nine-block historic district is the site of the city's original settlement of active fur trading at one of the busiest ports. Today, turn-of-the century buildings house restaurants, shops, and offices that spill onto the charming cobblestone streets and gaslight lanterns. Nearby is the Eads Bridge. The world's first steel truss bridge and the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi.
When it was founded by the French Canadians in 1769, it was named "Les Petites Cotes," meaning "the little hills," because of the low bluffs along the Missouri River running along the length of the town. During the rule of the Spanish Government the town came under the district of San Carlos which extended west from the shores of the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean. Daniel Boone came here in 1790, acting as a sheriff/judge for the Spanish government. When the area was transferred to United States, under the Louisiana Purchase, the name was changed from San Carlos to St. Charles. In 1804 the Lewis and Clark Expedition established a camp here before launching off to explore the newly obtained land. Today, nine blocks of Main Street in St. Charles is designated as the historic district of the town. It has beautiful old stone and brick buildings, some retaining a distinct, French/Spanish charm, with tea shops, gift stores, outdoor cafes, and shady mini-parks for rest and restoration. A large green following the river below is full of uniformed students from the nearby Sacred Heart Academy, established in 1818 by Rose Philippine Duchesne, who was canonized in 1988.
Tip: All visitors were well-dressed. No one was wearing the typical tourist garb of sneakers, tee-shirt and jeans. Was relieved to have chosen dress pants and nice blouse to wear today.
First State Capitol Building, St. Charles (573) 634-3616
The First State Capitol building in St. Charles is just a small brick building, very easy to miss among all the other brick buildings in the historic district. It served as the temporary State Capitol from 1821 to 1826 when the new Capitol was completed in Jefferson City. It had always been intended to serve as a temporary meeting place.
Lewis & Clark Center, St. Charles (573) 634-3616
A funky little dollar-museum displays artifacts and dioramas from Lewis and Clark's Expedition, while wintering here before embarking on their long exploratory journey. Plant, animal and vegetable displays -- that you can touch and feel -- make it fun for kids, or for adults who read books about the Expedition, but never really get a tactile sense of the hardships. One may read in books about the cold, and how desperately the men in the Expedition tried to keep warm, but actually putting your hand in a replica of the old gloves they wore, is a different thing entirely.
Daniel Boone Home, Defiance (573) 634-3616
Had no idea Daniel Boone ever lived in Missouri, never mind spending his last 17 years here. And the house? The four-story stone house looks more like the home of an English squire than it does the home of a rough-and-tumble frontiersman. And the elegant, lustrous furniture is so contrary to the buckskin-clad hero. This homestead is full of surprises about Daniel Boone. A film tells about his life and a tour guide escorts visitors through the house and the "Boone village." The village hadn't existed while Boone was alive, but the buildings were transported here to show, in one central location, how contemporaries of Boone may have lived. The Boone house is full of some of Daniel and Rebecca's private belongings, with stories attached to each piece.
Tip: Tours are every hour on the half hour, and don't be late. Late arrivals -- even one minute late -- must wait an hour for the next tour.
OUR CAMPSITE FOR THE WEEK
St.Louis RV Park, (314) 241-3330 or (800) 878-3330
Basically this RV Park looks like am empty drive-in theatre all tar and cement, with hookup posts poking out.. BUT . . . the hosts are extremely friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, and they spruce-up the place a bit with planters and old-fashioned lampposts. The showers and bathrooms are sparkling clean -- and the soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers are always full (a rarity in most other campgrounds). The modem hook-up is in a private, quiet, very clean meeting room, so you're not interrupting their business by infringing on their Fax line, or squashed behind some corner of their store counter. The setup makes a modem user feel legitimate. Like having your own private office. Speaking of offices, the Park Office is open from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.and they actually adhere to these hours. (Sometimes we go to places that post office hours but frequently have notes on the door "office is closed" for a couple of hours. But the best thing about this campground is that you're just minutes from all the attractions in St. Louis. The location is central to everything. We loved it here -- including the the pavement which means no grass or dirt or dead bugs being tracked in on the kitchen floor.