The Jefferson Landing State Historic Site in Missouri’s capital city, Jefferson City, takes visitors back to the early days when steamboats were common sights on the river. Sandwiched in between limestone bluffs that outline the winding Missouri River, was a small, flat area along the riverbank that was an ideal place for boats to dock. As river traffic increased, “the landing” became an important transfer point for people and goods, mostly for those going out west. In 1839, a three-story, stone building was built on the riverfront and served as a general store, tavern, warehouse, and hotel.
Passengers could stock up on provisions in the general store or spend the night in the hotel. The building’s double doors faced the river, making it easy to load freight on and off the boats. On the upper floors, the Missouri House Hotel was known for being the largest and had the best accommodations for legislators and social events. Since the capitol building stood on top of the nearest bluff, it was very convenient to have a hotel at the bottom of the hill.
When the Pacific Railroad came through in the mid-1850s, business boomed for the landing. Goods arrived by train from the east and were transferred to steamboat to continue west. The hotel wasn’t big enough to accommodate the amount of visitors so one of the owners built a second hotel across from the first one. That hotel opened in 1855, but wasn’t given its final name of the Union Hotel until after the owner returned from the Civil War.
The two men, who were brothers-in-law, ended their business partnership in the late 1850s. One of them had the new Union Hotel, the other had the general store known as the Lohman Building, named after the owner, Charles Lohman. Both of these buildings are original and have been restored.
The Lohman Building is one of the oldest buildings in Jefferson City and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. It had been used, in the past, as a museum about transportation from keel boats, through the steamboat era, to the railroad. That was changed this past winter and the interior is now a 19th-century general store. Bolts of material, pulleys for loading and unloading barrels and crates of supplies, a potbelly stove, and colorful glass bottles are some of the items on display. Items will be available for purchase beginning in 2014.
Jefferson Landing Historic Site, along with the Missouri State Museum on the first floor of the Capitol, is part of the Missouri State Parks division of the Department of Natural Resources.
Cynthia Collins, Senior Museum Correspondent