Are you drawn in when you see a sign saying Historic Town along the highway? I sure am! When I saw the sign for historic Blackwater, and later Arrow Rock, I was hooked! On my way to Kansas City, Kansas for a hosted trip, I had a bit of extra time and my curiosity got the better of me. It is amazing how beautiful the countryside can be almost immediately after leaving the freeway. It wasn’t too long before the twisting road led me into a quiet town with a neat windmill with a big sign on it for an upcoming BBQ. The downtown was really just one long block, but it was quite picturesque. I stepped into one business where they shared a brochure with me that tells the history of the town.
I learned that Blackwater was founded in 1886 near the recently completed Missouri Pacific Railroad. The town was used as a coal refueling station for the railroad’s River Route. Besides the railroad, there was also a quarry and jobs were plentiful. During the 1920’s, the town boasted 600 residents, but already by the 40’s, the population had begun to decline. Today, the town is small, but quite lovely. There is local hotel called the Iron Horse Hotel and Restaurant. The hotel is open year round and boasts 10 lovely rooms and they serve up dinner on Friday nights and have lunch and dinner on Saturdays according to a phone call I made. I just spied this from the outside, but I would love to stay in this gem! There was also a very cool picture of a train next to the doorway.
Many of the stores were not open on the weekday when I stopped, but the woman that provided me with the brochure was kind enough to open up the Mid-Missouri Museum of Independent Telephone Pioneers for me. This fun museum had an array of telephone equipment.
Perhaps though, my favorite thing in downtown Blackwater was this little alcove where a building had once been. They took this and created a little oasis.
There was a mural and a fountain, it was just a lovely little place to stop.
There was more to do in town, (check out the Replica Railroad Depot Community Center, the West End Theater and more) but I was on the road and headed out. However, there was a another couple doing the same thing I was in Blackwater, walking around and playing tourist. They said they had come from the Village of Arrow Rock and that it should not be missed. What was I to do? You guessed it, head to Arrow Rock,
The entire village of Arrow Rock has been designated a National Historic Landmark. I was shocked. This wasn’t just a small community. This is a state-run historic site and it is famous for a number of reasons.
Arrow Rock is a State Historic Site. On their website, they state, “Stroll through the history of a once-bustling river town that’s now the serene village of Arrow Rock. You’ll walk streets lined with the architecture of the historic “Boone’s Lick Country.” At Arrow Rock State Historic Site, you may wander into the historic J. Huston Tavern, which dates back to 1834 and provides a dining experience in the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River. View displays of historic furnishings in the old kitchen and upstairs bedrooms. You can visit other historic buildings, such as the Old Courthouse and George Caleb Bingham’s house. You can learn about the history of Arrow Rock and the “Boone’s Lick Country” through exhibits and audio-visual presentations in the visitor center. The historic site is part of the larger Village of Arrow Rock, which features quaint stores and several antique shops.”
I didn’t know who Caleb Bingham was but I learned that he was one of America’s great 19th century artists, Bingham is famous for his portraits and scenes of river life and politics. He built aFederal style house in Arrow Rock and lived here intermittently through the 1840s.
When I arrived, in Arrow Rock, I parked, and stopped and began my tour at the Visitors Center. After the visitors center, I walked ng learning some of the basic history of the town.
The nicest part of this stop was leaving the car behind after a long drive. I just headed out for a nice brisk walk and played tourist in this lovely historic stop. Early on, this area had some very early plantation history in the Boone’s Lick days prior to the Civil War. Arrow Rock was part of the Western expansion and more. In town, there are also fun little shops to visit as well and the brochure I picked up listed several bed and breakfast stops.
This would be a great place to spend a weekend. There was the walking tour I took, and there is a driving tour as well.
Since I was on a time schedule I just got a quick glimpse of these magical places that have events and theatre and a quaint beauty that will likely pull me back.
Kansas City was my destination, but Blackwater and Arrow Rock were two wonderful wayside stops that I would do all over again!