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  • Writer's pictureJoe

The Show Me State.

Hope it’s been a good summer, friends. It’s time for another travel tale from our quest for 50 Crapitols!

I returned to Iowa in early August for a family reunion and decided to stick around to attend a Springsteen concert in Chicago the following weekend. I had nothing but free time for a whole week. As you well know I have already hit every one of Iowa's neighboring states except for Missouri, so I floated the idea of taking a weekday trip down to Jefferson City to my family. Luckily, my dear daddy has plenty of time on his hands these days, and enthusiastically offered to join me on my mission. We set off on a Tuesday morning for the 4 ½ hour drive.

Show Me State

Now the last time dad drove me to Missouri we were all piled into the Pontiac Parisienne (three-up-front, three-in-the-back, of course) for a family vacation in Branson way back in the 90s (RIP Shoji). The Honda Pilot is definitely an upgrade.

Target Acquired

We crossed the Des Moines river at the southern tip of Iowa into Missouri, the land of fireworks superstores. Shortly thereafter the four-lane highway turned into two-lane, then back to four, and then our route took us onto some winding middle-of-nowhere country highways. Jefferson City is not exactly easy to get to. When we crossed I-70 and I was reminded that it's one of the four state capitals that is not served by an interstate highway. Remember what the other three are?

Smell that fresh asphalt!

We rolled into town a little after noon, found a parking spot, and proceeded to walk 2/3 of the way around the capitol as fresh asphalt was being laid that day. Once we got passed the caution tape we passed through security and found ourselves with 15 minutes to kill before the next guided tour began. Just enough time to find the men’s room and do my thing. Mission accomplished right off the bat.

Show me the restroom.

Well-appointed facilities.

Now, the Missouri State Capitol website recommends visitors make an appointment for guided tours at least 24 hours in advance. We had neglected to do so, but the attendant at the visitors desk was kind enough to let us join the tour anyway as it was not too crowded. We met our adorable elderly tour guide at the rendezvous point where she proceeded to ask each and every person where they were visiting from, and then responded to each and every person with some sort of anecdotal connection she had with a relative/friend/acquaintance from there (or thereabouts). For example: “Denver? Oh, I have a neighbor whose nephew is a CPA in Pueblo.” She was definitely reaching for a few of them, but she would not be stumped.

Our tour guide.


Missouri had a succession of temporary capitols in St. Louis and then St. Charles, which were followed by a relocation to Jefferson City overlooking the Missouri River (remember which two other state capitals sit along the Missouri River?). Twice did the people of the Show Me State suffer the destruction of their capitol by fire, once in 1837 and again in 1911. Voters approved a bond issuance of $3.5 million in 1911 for the building of the Missouri State Capitol. Ground was broken in May of 1913 and construction was completed in 1917.

The dome.

The interior of the building is elaborately festooned with murals that give off a cathedral-ish vibe. In fact, the dome design is loosely based on St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Interestingly, there have been no major interior renovations in over 100 years. There are makeshift offices stuffed into old vaults, presumably for the most junior representatives of the minority party.




The highest of highlights at the Missouri State capitol is the House Lounge, where Thomas Hart Benton’s “Social History of Missouri” mural covers all four wall from floor to ceiling. The native Missourian was commissioned to paint the mural in 1935. He spent a year traveling the state making sketches of the faces and places he saw, incorporating them into the sprawling piece. Controversy surrounded the mural for its various scenes depicting lynchings, outlaws, Socialist themes, corrupt politicians, and a even mother changing a baby’s diaper. It’s the most stunning mural I’ve yet seen on my quest. A masterpiece of the American Regionalism movement. Pictures do it no justice.

Just one panel of Americana.


Our penultimate stop on the tour was the House of Representatives chamber, which we viewed from the public gallery.

House chamber.

And finally the tour brought us to the Hall of Famous Missourians, where we saw bronze busts of the likes of President Harry S. Truman, Dred Scott, Sacagawea, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Give 'em hell, Harry.

And of course, the most famous Missourian of all…

Mr. Clemens.

There is also a very cool scale model of the USS Missouri made out of brass.

USS Missouri.

We exited the capitol to complete our survey of the exterior of the building. Standing atop the main steps is, of course, the namesake of the city, Thomas Jefferson.


The two wings of the building are guarded by Robert Aitken’s classically-inspired statues representing the Mississippi River and the Missouri River. The top of the dome is crowned with Sherry Fry’s statue of Ceres, the goddess of grain and agriculture.

Of course.

The north side of the building is home to the Missouri Veterans Memorial and the Fountain of the Centaurs.

Veterans Memorial.

Fountain of the Centaurs.

There’s also an obligatory monument to Lewis and Clark. Not the first we've seen on our Crapitols quest.

The lads.

We wandered over to the nearby governor’s mansion, where Dad couldn’t resist pricing out the cost to replace all those custom windows after his two-plus decades at Pella.

Definitely don't go with Andersen.

And just like that we found ourselves headed back North to the Hawkeye State.


It was a wonderful week seeing long-lost family members, visiting old haunts, climbing a mountain made of trash, hanging out with my goofball nephews and baby cutie, playing zippy with Maeve, catching up with old friends, seeing Bruce one more time at the friendly confines, and cruising on Lake Michigan with my gal, Rita.

Cool men.

That’s all she wrote for Jefferson City, Missouri. The 23rd stop on my tour of the 50 states. Where to next, you wonder? Stay tuned.

Proud father of an American Hero.

And the answers to our trivia questions: The four state capitals not located on interstate highways are Juneau, Alaska, Jefferson City, Missouri, Pierre, South Dakota, and Dover, Delaware.

The two other state capitols on the Missouri River are Bismarck, North Dakota and Pierre, South Dakota.

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