Where to pack in western history, Civil War and Pony Express stuff? Where, oh where could we put it in St. Joseph? Let’s toss in an old-time city street, train engine and a carousel. Oh yeah, let’s not forget some antique light bulbs, cameras, telephones…
How about the Patee House Museum? Good call, because that’s where all these things – plus much more – call home.
A visit to St. Joseph isn’t complete without a stop at the Patee House.
Opened in 1858 as a luxury hotel, the 4-floor building has been a lot of things through its history. The building – which takes up an entire city block – has been a hotel, Pony Express office, Civil War trial courtroom and a museum.
The museum, which is on the Register of National Historic Landmarks, is a wonderment to tour.
It starts outside with a view of the entrance – “Patee House Hotel” and “Pony Express Office” signage above the overhang. Just off to the side are markers recognizing the significance of the Pony Express.
As soon as you enter, you are welcomed by a Civil War-era cannon. Next to it is a tent exhibit.
A stage coach is also on display at the entrance.
As you decide what to check out first, you have to decide – go left, right or straight ahead. The chosen direction takes you to an area of wonderment.
We chose to go right. It led to an exhibit featuring an old-time city street.
But, first, we stopped at the Patee House hotel’s front desk for a look-see.
Now, on to the “Streets of Old St. Joe.” The section reflects what St. Joe may have looked liked in the mid 1800s.
A Pony Express office exhibit welcomes you to the town’s scene. It’s believed the riders would actually come into the office, grab the saddle bag of mail and head on out to the western plains.
The old-time town was a series of store fronts with displays inside.
One that caught the eye right away was the dental practice of Dr. Walter Cronkite Sr. This was an exhibit featuring the dental practice of the elder Cronkite, a long-time St. Joe resident. Walter Cronkite Jr., as many people may know, was the anchor of the CBS Evening News for almost 20 years.
A soda fountain was near the dental practice. A nice set-up between the guy selling the sugared products and the dentist to fix the cavities. A never-ending cycle, eh?
The general store was an interesting stop. The store had so many items to look at.
Across the street was the local newspaper office, with its antique cameras and printing press.
The street portion of the small town featured automobiles and buggies from back in the day. Nice reminders of far we have come.
An old fire department water pump reminds you of how they fought fires back in the day. I can’t imagine the firefighters won many of those battles.
Rudolph Uhlman Photography can help you with the family portrait.
An exhibit of an old house started with a porch and its swing. The porch reminded me of one we had at one of our old houses as a kid.
The interior seemed to reflect a Victorian-era home.
Once we finished our tour of that5 section, we headed to the “Blue Room.”
It featured a ballroom with a large mirror and an old piano.
The main attraction featured the western paintings of George Warfel. More than 20 portraits are displayed along the wall.
Among the paintings are – of –course – the James brothers, Jesse and Frank.
Buffalo Bill Cody – the best known Pony Express rider – has a painting displayed.
Other significant characters include humorist Will Rogers, sharpshooter Annie Oakley, lawman Bat Masterson and the “Hanging Judge” himself, Judge Parker.
We decided to leave the middle section – featuring the famous train and carousel – until the end of our visit.
We headed upstairs. Only the first two floors are open for visitors. The building has four floors.
The second floor is a hodge podge of exhibits.
We checked out a Native American display on Missouri-related tribes.
Displays on Mizzou musician Arthur Pryor and author Eugene Field are featured.
A couple of the original hotel rooms are portrayed for visitors to get a glimpse of what a typical Patee House guest would call accommodations.
Secretary of War (now called Secretary of State) Seward stood at a spot and addressed the public while staying at the Patee.
Additional items featured in this area included: antique light bulbs, telephones and radios.
The middle section of the second floor featured several vehicles, including a model of the Red Baron’s plane with Snoopy at the controls.
Horse-drawn hearses are displayed.
Aunt Jemina pancake mix was invented in St. Joseph. The original company signage is on display.
A brief look into the Civil War around St. Joe is available for browsing.
The second floor of the hotel was used by the Union Army for war trials. The founder of the hotel was actually tried for treason because of his support for the Confederacy.
Another section of the ballroom highlights its actual purpose back in the day.
We eventually made our way back to the first floor and the famous middle section.
Aha! There she is, the 1860 steam engine. You can climb up and get an engineer’s view of the ride. A mail car is attached behind it.
A train depot is nearby. It was an interesting view. The lost and found department displayed items that could have been left behind. Though, I am confident the large ball of twine was not.
Old gas pumps are available for the view, along with some aged cars. One car, an old sports car, was apparently eyed by a young Josh Brolin when he was in town with other actors from “The Young Guns.”
The museum’s “main” draw (if any one thing can be considered that with the many attractions) is likely the full-sized carousel.
The working carousel – featuring all hand carved ride pieces – is available for children of all ages (Lisa included). Each character features a story.
She found a hummingbird character to ride. It was an interesting choice. The hummingbird featured a nest behind the saddle.
The carousel operator said his favorite was the Pegasus. It was based on a story from a German prisoner of war during World War I.
As we started making our way to the museum’s exit, we had to visit the Saloon. Visitors can usually buy root beer and popcorn here, but not this time.
We had a great time visiting the Patee House Museum. We plan a return visit, so we can see even more that may have escaped our view. We spent more than two hours at the museum. I can see how people could easily spend 4-5 hours taking in everything.
As we concluded our visit to the Patee, we decided to stop in at the Jesse James House next door. We’ve visited the house before, but it was worth the few minutes we spent there. The small house was the home of Jesse, his wife and children.
This is the place where Jesse met his fate at the hand of Robert Ford. Ford shot Jesse while his back was turned as he adjusted a frame hanging on the wall. The hole where a bullet went through the wall remains, and is framed for visitors to see. A trip through the house takes only a few minutes. It’s worth the visit.
We recommend both the Patee House Museum and the Jesse James House for a visit. We will be back to visit the Patee again, for sure.
For more information on both properties, please visit http://www.ponyexpressjessejames.com/patee/index.php.
Disclaimer: Thank you to the St. Joseph Visitors Bureau for the complimentary tickets to the Patee House Museum and the Jesse James House museum. However, all opinions and views are ours.