Thursday, April 14, 2022

Visit Missouri - First Capitol


Missouri's first capitol
Missouri's First Capitol

The first Missouri capitol was in St. Charles.  Although we have lived very near for nearly 20 years, I had never been on a tour of this first capitol until recently. I was on an outing with a group that I serve as a photography mentor and our outing included a tour of the first capitol.  The outside of the building does  not look very exciting so I wasn't sure what to expect and I was very pleasantly surprised.

History of First Capitol

Missouri was granted statehood on August 10, 1821.  Before that time various locations in St. Louis had served as the place where decisions were made for the territory.  Once it looked like statehood would become a reality a search went on to find a permanent seat of government.  A location was picked in the center of the state overlooking the Missouri river.  This new location was called "The City of Jefferson" and today we call it Jefferson City.

While construction of the new capitol was taking place the first legislator needed a place to meet.  Nine different cities were competing for the honor.  One of these cities, St. Charles, pledged free meeting space for the temporary capitol.  St. Charles was located on the Missouri river and had great access to areas throughout the state by either the river or the Boonslick Road.  The first Govenor Alexander McNair signed a bill making St. Charles the first capitol of Missouri.  The legislator met in St. Charles for the first time in June of 1821.   At that time the heated discussions of the legislature centered around slavery and state's rights.

House of Representatives in Missouri's first capitol
House of Representatives

Senate in Missouri's first capitol

Tour of First Capitol

The first legislator met on the second floor of the two newly constructed adjoining buildings.  The first floor was occupied by a general store and a carpentry shop. In the photos above you can see what the senate and the house of representatives looked like.

Our tour guide gave us some fascinating insight into what the meetings would have been like back in the early 1800's.   In the photos above you see what each of the meeting rooms looked like. The senators each had tables they could use but the representatives sat on benches.  Our tour guide showed us the "Laptops" like what they would have used to in order to take their notes.  Here is a photo I took of the laptop.

style of laptop in Missouri's first capitol

It would have been like a mini desk, with compartments to hold the writing instrument, the ink and other essentials.  They could hold it on their laps to use instead of a desk.

After seeing the legislators we went to the next room upstairs which was the govenors office.
Here is a photo of that office.

Governor's office in Missouri's first capitol
Governor's Office

Four Missouri governors were in office during the time the capitol was in St. Charles.  The new capitol was ready in 1826.

Downstairs Stores and Home

The tour also included a look at a reconstructed Dry Goods store.  It included items that would have been in that type of store during the early 1800's.  Here is a photo I took in the store.

replica of a store in the 1800's

Sources for this Review

My sources for this review are the information provided for us by our docent, Mike.  He was an excellent tour guide and provided some very interesting information on what life was like during the early years of Missouri statehood.

I also used information I read on a pamphlet I picked up during the tour.  The information was published by Missouri Department of Natural Resources.  Their website is

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  1. Having lived in Columbia, Missouri, I am quite familiar with Jefferson City as the Capitol of Missouri just 30 miles away. But I did not know that St. Charles was the FIRST Capitol of Missouri. It's obvious from your photos that things were very basic and simple back then - plain benches and tables.

    Today's politicians might think twice about running for governor and the House and Senate, be it State or Federal, if they had to go back to these basic beginnings in style and comfort. And perhaps that's a good thing. Give everyone perspective. LOL. Thanks for the tour, Mary Beth. You do find interesting places to visit and photograph.

  2. Thanks Pat. It was really an interesting tour.

  3. It is truly awesome that the buildings have been preserved and you can still take a tour of the first Missouri capitol in St. Charles. One of my favorite antiques are the lap desks. I am fascinated by the different designs and individual craftsmanship of the time. I love all of the little compartments for organization, as well as securing items within when traveling.

    We cannot see into the hearts of another, especially someone from the past, but I would like to believe that those dedicated politicians who would often travel long distances on horseback or in less than comfortable conveyances, were actually mostly concerned about America's survival and prosperity. I have no doubt touring this first capital, stepping on the planks our forefathers trod, would evoke reverence, respect and gratitude and hopefully a greater understanding of the debt we cannot possibly repay.

    Another fabulous destination I need to add to our list of places to visit in Missouri.

  4. Oh this is one of those interesting facts that will show up on Jeopardy one of these days. Unfortunately for me I probably won't remember it when it comes up, but this is an interesting place to visit. How simple the "government" house is. We could do a lot to remember our humble beginnings. I love this and when I get to your neck of the woods, I will try to put this on my to see list!

  5. What a wonderful preservation/re-creation of the first Missouri capitol building! Your photos and historical information were excellent and made this vicarious tour most enjoyable. I have always loved vintage and antique lap desks (the original “laptops!”), so thank you for including the one in your photos. Mike sounds like a wonderful docent! I’m so glad you enjoyed your visit.

  6. This sounds a wonderful and very interesting visit. I love how your photos and descriptions brought this experience to life for me. Thank you for sharing with us.

  7. Thank you for sharing the tour with us. What a wonderful peek at historical items. I would love to look at every single thing in the dry goods store.

  8. Thanks for the tour. I would never have known that the first Capitol of the state was St. Charles. Visiting historical buildings and areas when I travel is one of my favorite things to do. I can imagine walking back in time touring this location - picturing the discussions, and the struggles.

  9. Thank you for the tour! Love the "laptop" back in the day... !

  10. Thanks so much for the tour and always you amazing photos Mary Beth. I love history and this was very interesting for me. I can just imagine all of the meetings and conversations going on in those rooms.


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