BY JANET STEINBERG
may never have been there. In fact, you may never have even heard of it.
But according to map publisher Rand McNally, Jefferson, Missouri is
their 2013 choice for “America’s Most Beautiful Small Town”. This
hidden gem in Missouri’s crown is approximately midway between St. Louis and
The Lake of the Ozarks.
DOWNTOWN JEFFERSON CITY-credit
Jefferson City CVB
A tranquil small river town, on the southern side of the Missouri River,
Jefferson City also happens to be the capital of the State of Missouri.
The Missouri State Capitol complex, in itself, warrants a visit to
Jefferson City. It is literally an art museum, a history museum, and
a sculpture park. Resting on a limestone bluff on the south bank of
the Missouri River, the current Capitol is the third to stand in Jefferson
The first, built in 1826, served as a home for Missouri’s governors.
Flames engulfed that building in 1837. The second, and much
larger, Capitol building also burned in 1911. It was deemed one of the
most spectacular fires in Missouri’s history. The present Capitol
was officially dedicated on October 6, 1924. It was ruled that a
$1-million surplus had to be used on the building. The result is a splendid
collection of stained-glass, murals, carvings, and statuary portraying
Missouri’s history, legends, and cultural achievements
|STATE CAPITOL BUILDING|
Perched atop the majestic dome of the Capitol building, 262-feet above ground
level, is a statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of grain and agriculture.
Ceres, holding a sheaf of grain in her left hand, was selected
as the patron goddess of Missouri because Missouri is a strong
In 1935, the Missouri House of Representatives commissioned Missouri native
Thomas Hart Benton to paint a mural on the four walls of the House Lounge,
a large meeting room on the third floor in the Capitol’s west wing.
With its bold and vivid scenes of every day Missouri life, the mural originally
sparked controversy among the legislators. Surviving attempts to whitewash
it, Benton’s “Social History of the State of Missouri” is now a source of
pride and a popular stop for visitors touring the capital.
The 13 panels of the mural function as a narrative, beginning on the north wall
and finishing on the south wall. Six of the panels deal with
Missouri’s history, two panels are social scenes, and three panels deal
with legends associated with the state. Thomas Hart Benton, a man
with a deep sense of the history of the American people, and one of the
20th century’s pre-eminent artists, left behind a legacy that will inform
and inspire far beyond our times.
The Missouri State Museum, on the ground floor of the capitol building, houses
an impressive collection of exhibits and dioramas that portray Missouri’s
history, legends, and cultural achievements.
|MISSOURI STATE MUSEUM|
could spend hours strolling the Capitol grounds and admiring the sculptures
surrounding the building.
A 13-foot statue of Thomas Jefferson, for whom the capital city was named,
rightfully stands upon the front steps of the Capitol. Jefferson was an
accomplished writer, architect, scholar, and as the third President of the
United States he was primarily responsible for the Louisiana Purchase.
|THOMAS JEFFERSON ON FRONT STEPS OF CAPITOL BUILDING-Credit Jefferson City CVB|
The “Mississippi River Statue”, a male figure representing the Mississippi
River, is often called the “Father of the Waters”. He holds in his
left hand the rudder of commerce and the anchor of a
steamboat representing the significance of river trade. The caduceus
in his right hand was the magic wand of Hermes, the God Travelers and
Commerce. He rests upon a cornucopia, which symbolizes agriculture. The
alligator by his knee is a reminder of what life is like on the southern
portion of the river. The dolphin behind him is a symbol of good luck to
travelers of the river, and the three smaller fish represent the river as a
source of fishing and recreation.
MISSISSIPPI RIVER STATUE
The Fountains of the Arts and Sciences, designed by Robert Aitken, are
characterized by their dignity and simplicity. The fountain on the
southeast side of the Capitol is the Fountain of the Sciences; to
the southwest is the Fountain of the Arts. Aitken believed that the Arts
and Sciences were the guardians of the welfare of the state, so these two
fountains stand as sentinels on either side of the entrance to the Capitol.
OF TWO FOUNTAINS OF THE ARTS AND SCIENCES
The Ten Commandments monument is located on the Capitol grounds to the north of
the Capitol building near the Fountain of the Centaurs This stone marker
was presented to the State of Missouri by The Missouri State Aerie
Fraternal Order of the Eagles June 28, 1958.
A block away from the Missouri State Capitol building is the Jefferson Landing
State Historic Site, a significant rare surviving Missouri River Landing.
The Lohman Building, built in 1839, is a sturdy stone structure that
served as a tavern and a hotel. In its heyday, it also housed one of the
city’s largest warehouse and mercantile businesses. Today, the main floor
contains a visitor center with exhibits on transportation.
Jefferson City CVB
the street from the Lohman Building is the Union Hotel, built in 1855.
The hotel now houses the Elizaabeth Rozier Gallery with rotating
exhibits that emphasize Missouri art and culture.
| UNION HOTEL-Credit
Jefferson City CVB
first lady Mrs. John Dalton once called the 134-year-old Governor’s Mansion a
“handclasp with history”. From its windows in 1911, Mrs. Hadley
and her children watched the State Capitol go up in flames. Within its
walls have been such notables as the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, General
George Custer, British Prime Minister Edward Heath, Secretary of State
Henry Kissinger, Harry Truman, William Jennings Bryan, Jefferson Davis,
Vice-President Al Gore and President Bill Clinton. For more
From St. Louis, to The Lake of the Ozarks, to Jefferson City, the “Show Me”
state has certainly shown me! All I had hoped for…and more!
JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer and Travel Consultant.