The Capital City: then and now
Tue, 14 May 2013 23:40:00 GMT —
While walking through Jefferson City, it's hard not to notice the presence of the state government all around.
In fact, Jefferson City was created back in 1821 specifically to be the state capital. At that time, the area was an undeveloped wilderness, and the city needed to be built from the ground up.
"It took five years before there was enough here for the legislature to actually move here...and even then some legislators had to stay in tents, there weren't enough houses there was one hotel in town," Gary Kremer, executive director for the State Historical Society of Missouri, said.
Nineteenth-century Jefferson City's economy relied heavily on the state for revenue, most notably state government and the Missouri State Penitentiary.
"Jefferson City businessmen paid for the right to get to run the penitentiary. They had to clothe, house, feed and guard the inmates at their own expense but in exchange for that they could hire out the convict labor," Kremer said.
The presence of so few industries, along with Jefferson City's then-remote location, drew criticism from neighboring cities claiming that it should not be the capital. Fierce rivalries ensued, the toughest with nearby Sedalia.
But Jefferson City developed as a result of the criticism, industrializing and improving the infrastructure of the city.
Present-day Jefferson City has an estimated population of 43,332. Still, many people enjoy the small-town feel.
"This is kind of like a 'Cheers' environment here, in that everybody might not know your name but you're gonna
bump into somebody you know," Madison's Cafe owner Rob Agee said.
No matter what it is, there's something about the Capital City that people hold close to their hearts.
"I'm constantly amazed by the Missouri State Capitol, no matter how many times I tour there I find something new that I hadn't seen before," Ryan Burns from the Jefferson City Visitors Bureau said.
"There's a number of people that have been engaged here, probably hundreds over 31 years, and they come back and they want to sit at the same table you know, and those are nice memories," Agee said.
"It is an endlessly intriguing place, I've spent the bulk of my life trying to understand it," Kremer said.