NOTE: This is the article that appeared in the Discover St Joseph travel insert for the Kansas City Star newspaper. We were honored to be invited to participate in the project with the St. Joseph Visitors Bureau. For the newspaper version (only photos used differ) please visit www.kansascity.com.
The Pony Express may be the pride and joy of St Joseph, but the city has much more to offer visitors. We found this out during our weekend getaway. St. Joseph offers several museums for the taking.
Interested in classic art? Check out the Albrecht-Kemper Museum on the eastern edge of downtown. The museum has a variety of art pieces, from sculpture to oil and pencil works. One of our favorites was a painting that appeared to be in 3-D. It resembled an actual window. Another set of pencil art pieces resembled actual photographs. The Albrecht-Kemper offers visiting exhibits. The two current displays feature quilt art and a modern African-American art collection.
A memorial to “The most trusted man in America” calls the campus of Missouri Western State University home. Walter Cronkite, the long-time “CBS Evening News” anchor, was a native of St. Joseph. His father had a dental practice here. The memorial is well done and highlights some of the major moments in history that Cronkite had the honor of covering, including the moon landing. Cronkite may be best known for the way he handled delivering the news that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The memorial is free and open to the public. I recommend visiting it.
If you’re looking for something a little more unique, I suggest checking out the Glore Psychiatric Museum. Located inside the St Joseph Museum Complex, it’s a converted mental institution. The museum takes a look at the history of mental illness treatment. The exhibits are tastefully done, and show the consequences of past treatment, such as lobotomies and electric shock therapy.
Also in the museum complex are exhibits on African-American history, Civil War, Native Americans and dolls. The Native American collection features photos of historical tribal leaders, as well as clothing, jewelry, pottery and weapons exhibits. The collection is presented in a respectful manner and offered history on the tribes of Missouri, including the Iowa and Sauk. The Civil War collection was truly impressive. The exhibit features medicine during the war. Surgeons are portrayed operating on an injured soldier. We learned that the Civil War resulted in the most medical advancements than at any other time in our history.
In addition to the Glore and St. Joseph Museum, the Black Archives Museum, located in the same building, tracks the history of African-Americans from slavery to today. One exhibit displays historical events during “The March to Freedom”- from separate water fountains to the right to vote.
And then there is the doll exhibit, which features a variety of doll types and sizes. There are special exhibits, including the dolls of “Gone with the Wind” – featuring a doll wearing the dress made from curtains – and “Wizard of Oz.”
If the Pony Express does draw you to St. Joe, ensure you check out the Pony Express National Museum. Its exhibits allow for close viewing. You can stand next to the rider and his horse, as he prepares to leave the stable with his saddlebag of mail.
A must-see is the Patee House Museum. The Patee House has served as a hotel, Pony Express office and a courtroom for Civil War-related trials. But, the museum offers so much more. It was named to True West magazine’s “Top 10 museums in the west.” It offers a look at a variety of items, including light bulbs, telephones, radios, and cameras. Just about anything that can be displayed is on display.
The Blue Room offers paintings featuring western figures, including the James boys (of course) –Jesse and Frank, Bat Masterson, Annie Oakley, Judge Parker – AKA the “Hanging Judge,” and, of course, the most famous Pony Express alum, Buffalo Bill Cody.
A steam engine and mail car stand on display on the first floor. You can step up into the engine and get an engineer’s view. Or, you can go back into the car and sort mail. I like the engineer’s view better.
The museum also has a working carousel. Children of all ages (including my wife) can take a ride. Each character on the ride was hand carved and has its own story. Two that stood out were a Pegasus, with its beautiful art work, and a hummingbird, with a nest under the saddle.
Jesse James remains quite possibly the best-known bank robber of the 1800s, so we had to check out the house where he was shot and killed by Robert Ford. The hole in the wall where the bullet allegedly went through is framed for visitors to see.
Nothing goes better with culture and history, than a good meal. We found a great Neapolitan-style pizzeria. The Il Lazzarone opened a couple of months ago downtown. A restaurant has to meet specific requirements to be considered Neapolitan-style. The owner imported the oven from Naples, Italy. The chef traveled to Italy for additional training. The restaurant imports its flour and tomatoes from Italy.
Pizzas are baked for about 90 seconds. The oven reaches a temperature of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.
We had an appetizer of bruschetta. Talk about mouthwatering. The tomatoes were so sweet and delicious. The sausage pizza we each had was very tasty.
Our weekend getaway continued with dinner at the JC Wyatt House. The Victorian-style home has been converted into a fine dining restaurant. The owners and chef offer a freshly made three-course dinner.
We sampled the menu. I feel the word “delicious” is an understatement. We overheard a diner at another table express her love of their food when her meal was delivered, “I have missed you so much,” she exclaimed with a smile on her face.
The former New York City residents and owners of the JC Wyatt House, said they fulfilled their dreams of owning a restaurant in their adopted hometown. They sing the praises of St. Joseph every chance they get. We topped our night off with a visit to Foster’s Martini bar downtown. The menu has several options for drinks, including non-alcoholic.
If you like statues and scavenger hunts, St. Joe offers a unique Downtown Sculpture Walk. Grab a map from the Visitors Bureau and enjoy a nice walk while you seek out the different sculptures. Each of the 14 sculptures vary in design – from blue waves to an eagle.
When we travel, I’ve always been a proponent of hotels. However, in the past year, I’ve become more open to bed and breakfasts. St. Joe marked the third time we’ve stayed at a B&B. The Shakespeare Chateau was a wonderful experience. The owner offers guests a tour of the house, built in 1885. Located on the famed “Millionaires’ Row,” Shakespeare was a great place to stay. Each room has a theme. Ours was “Twelfth Night.” The Shakespeare has 47 stained glass windows. The stained glass at the top of the stairs landing is beautiful.
Breakfast at Shakespeare was amazing – baked French toast and fruit. We met three couples during the meal. They were all from the Kansas City area and each were on a weekend getaway. While we had some of the same interests to visit, such as the Glore Museum, we learned about other places to check out, such as Lucky Tiger vintage merchandise store, and lunch at Boudreaux’s or Geneo’s Pizza downtown.
We’ve come up with a list of other places we want to check out in the future, including downtown architecture, Fort Smith Civil War Park, Remington Nature Center, and Mount Mora Cemetery, which includes memorials related to the Civil War and many different mausoleums.)
St. Joe has much to offer visitors. You can find so many things to do over a weekend or a few days. Have fun during your stay!
Check out the entire Fall 2014 Discover St. Joseph insert as seen in the Kansas City Star –
Disclaimer: Thank you to the St. Joseph Visitors Bureau for the complimentary tickets, meals and lodging used during this project. However, all opinions and views are ours.