This is an insider’s look at what to experience during a weekend in my hometown of St. Joe is written in response to Abbe Miller’s “A Weekend in St. Joseph, Missouri” published January 9, 2006.
St. Joseph, Missouri is a small city on the banks of the mighty Missouri River. Jesse James is only a small part of this town’s rich and varied history. Visitors who want to delve deeper into the real St. Joe should make a list of these must-see sites after visiting the Jesse James Home on the grounds of the Pattee House Musuem (housed in the oldest hotel west of the Missisippi River) and the Pony Express Stables. After you’ve seen the Pony Express Rider statue, forget the tour guide books and visit some of these sites, each rich in local history. This contemporary city has plenty to offer in the 21st century with a history that dates back more than 150 years.
You might remember Eugene Field’s poetry from childhood with classics like “Little Boy Blue” or “The Duel” but Field’s best known surviving poem is “Lover’s Lane, St. Joe”. The once wooded, tree lined throughfare was once on the very edge of the growing city and it attracted lovers who idled away the hours in the remote, quiet spot. Today, Lover’s Lane is a major throughfare lined with some of the city’s lovliest homes but a marker dedicated to Field’s poem preserves the history of the place. Lover’s Lane runs from 18th Street and Grand Avenue to Ashland Avenue. Ashland Avenue is just one of many districts filled with beautiful Victorian homes.
Don’t stop with just visiting the house where outlaw Jesse James died – tour the large and extensive collections of local history in the adjacent Pattee House Museum. Known as both the Pattee House and World Hotel, this musuem was restored from ruins to house one of the city’s finest collections of artifacts. Look for house fronts that once graced some of St. Joseph’s oldest residential districts, firearms donated by the city police force, Victorian era memorbilia and much, much more.
The St. Joseph Museum at 1100 Charles Street near the city’s downtown is another history rich stop on the local tour. Housed in the former Tootle mansion (home to one of the city’s leading families), the musuem is flled with natural and historic exhibits that will delight anyone. And no trip to St. Joseph can be complete without a visit to the Albrecht Kemper Museum of Art on Frederick Avenue.
Other local museums in this city of history include the Doll Museum, an Armed Forces Museum, and the Glore Psychiatric Museum, devoted to old fashioned mental health care on the grounds of what was once State Mental Hospital Number Two. There is also a museum devoted to the city’s African-American heritage as well. Twin Spires, formerly the Catholic Immaculate Conception Church, also offers insight into local church history. Several local cemeteries are rich in history – Mount Mora Cemetery and Ashland. Both are of interest with some of the city’s noteworthy historical figures. A Pony Express Rider, two former governers, and other dignaries are buried at Mount Mora. Visit Robidoux Row, a restored brick building that dates back to the time of founder Joseph Robidoux and is the oldest apartment building west of the Mississippi.
Two of the city’s public parks provide a stunning scenic overlook to the waters of the Missouri River. Wyeth Hill faces west and provides a view that takes in both the river and the state of Kansas. Wyeth Hill is located near the 229 loop that circles the city and provided easy access to almost any area of town. King Hill in the city’s south side is rumored to have been an ancient Native American holy site. From its’ tall top, visitors can look out over much of St. Joseph including the rail yards, what remains of the local stockyards, and much of the city as well as the Missouri River.
Krug Park is the crown jewel in the local park system; located on north St. Joseph Avenue on the city’s north side, Krug offers a large lagoon, natural amphitheatre, multiple playgrounds, native animal exhibits, and much more. Krug encompasses 162 acres. Other parks include Hyde Park in the city’s south edge and the city’s extensive parkway that provides a green belt that winds more than twenty miles through almost every neighborhood of the city. Look for the bronze statuary that line the parkway.Bartlett Park is another premier park in the city.
When it comes to dining out during a weekend in St. Joseph, shun the chain restaurants and enjoy a true local flavor. One of the city’s oldest restaurants is the Hoof And Horn, at 429 Illinois Avenue located near the city’s famed stockyards. Dating back to the turn of the century, the Hoof and Horn was once a brothel before it became a restaurant that still serves the city’s best steaks.
On Frederick Avenue, another local major throughfare, the D & G has been serving up a full menu since 1945. The restaurant and bar dates back to the speakeasy days but the operation went legitmate after World War II. Daily plate lunch specials are available along with some of the best burgers ever eaten anywhere. For a true St. Joe taste, try one of the several scrappy beef sandwiches available. The walls of the D & G are covered with local memorbilia, everything from a portrait of famed madam Lizzie King to ads for Stevens Hats and I Buys sign.
Just up Frederick, look for Maid Rite, a long-time local tradition that still serves their signature loose meat sandwiches along with other choices.
For Mexican Food, try Barbosa’s with two local locations. Part of the local dining scene since 1960’s, Barbosa’s began when Mama Barbosa began selling her tamales and enchiladas from her kitchen. Barbosa’s Castillo near downtown St. Joseph is housed in the former Knights of Columbus, a large mansion that resembles a castle. Barbosa’s West, far out on Frederick, lacks the ambiance but serves the same great food.
Fried chicken lovers will find Galvin’s Dinner House a must-visit location. Their pan fried chicken has been delighting diners for decades.
Other locally owned eateries include Manchester’s Pub & Restaurant, a new place to dine that has become a fast favorite. Located on the Belt Highway, Manchester’s serves up food in a trendy atmosphere that is also a sports bar. Dating just to 1980, a blink of the eye in a city so rich in history, The Frederick Inn Steakhouse at 1627 Frederick is another local favorite.
Riverboat gambling has arrived in St. Joseph at Terrible’s St. Jo Frontier Casino on the banks of the Missouri River. The all new Bougainvillea Cafe, Buffet, and Bar is another option for dining.
A local transit system allows visitors to hop aboard a state of the art bus to ride throughout the city and see the sights.
A weekend is long enough to just scratch the surface of St. Joseph, Missouri and many visitors will return again and again to experience the delights of this history rich city.