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Road Trippin' - Boonville

Thespian Hall, opened in 1857

Until the 1960s when I-70 was extended, the only way to get between St. Louis and Kansas City was through Boonville. The town thrived off the business of travelers on Highway 5

â??Some towns may just fold up, but we were just able to build on the history that we have and keep it going,â?? said Melissa Strawhun, Executive Director of the Friends of Historic Boonville.

And that history is still alive today.

Built in 1848, the old Cooper County Jail is the oldest continuously used county jail in Missouri. It operated for 130 years and was the site of Missouriâ??s last public hanging.

â??Some people might not think thatâ??s a great part of history, but itâ??s still a part of history,â?? said Strawhun.

The jail held up to 28 prisoners who served their time in small, cramped cells with no air conditioning, heat or light.

â??I think the most interesting part is that it operated until 1978,â?? said Strawhun. â??Most people that come through here (on tours) were alive then.â??

Just a few blocks away from the jail sits historic Thespian Hall. Opened in 1857, Thespian Hall is the oldest theater still in use west of the Allegheny Mountains.

â??It was threatened to be torn down, luckily it was saved,â?? said Boonville Tourism Director Katie Gibson. â??It was used as an opera house in the early 1900s and then a lot of people remember being able to come here and watch movies when it was the Lyric Theater. The Friends of Historic Boonville got it in the 70s and got it restored.â??

Another building restored by the Friends of Historic Boonville is the Hain House â?? the oldest dwelling in town. Built by George Hain in 1836, the home remained in the family until 1985 when it was donated to the organization.

â??We have a lot of first and oldest in a lot of things, which I think makes Boonville very unique,â?? said Strawhun. â??A lot of places, if they get old, they just tear them down.â??

Full of small-town charm and pride in preserving Missouriâ??s past, Boonville is a historic stop that connects the stateâ??s largest cities.

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