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A lot of people assume that St. Louis, the largest city in Missouri, is the state capital – wrong, it’s Jefferson City, founded as a settlement in the late 18th century. In 1822 the state government chose Jefferson City as the capital because its location on the banks of the Missouri River made it ideal for trading, shipping, importing and exporting goods. With the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Lewis & Clark Expedition (1804-1806), which went through Jefferson City when it was a small frontier town. The Missouri State Capitol building is the first thing that travelers see when entering the city. ...

A lot of people assume that St. Louis, the largest city in Missouri, is the state capital – wrong, it’s Jefferson City, founded as a settlement in the late 18th century. In 1822 the state government chose Jefferson City as the capital because its location on the banks of the Missouri River made it ideal for trading, shipping, importing and exporting goods. With the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Lewis & Clark Expedition (1804-1806), which went through Jefferson City when it was a small frontier town. The Missouri State Capitol building is the first thing that travelers see when entering the city. This architecturally important site was built in 1917 by the New York firm of Tracy and Swartout. Notable are the statuary and artwork on the inside walls. Two important pieces are the statue of Thomas Jefferson and a bronze relief depicting the signing of the Louisiana Purchase. On the inside walls is a series of murals by Thomas Hart Benton. Opened in 1836, the Missouri State Penitentiary was decommissioned in 2004. Currently the buildings are open to the public for viewing. The 1920’s gangster Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd did time here. James Earl Ray was an escapee from the prison when he assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968.

Frances Folsom
About the Expert

Frances Folsom is the author of CitySpot Palermo, a contributor to the Reiskits guides to Milan and Italy's Lakes Region, and Thomas Cook's Independent Traveller USA.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Capital city of Missouri, Jefferson City is located on the northern edge of the Ozark Plateau near the center of the state.
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall
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Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    The best time to visit is spring, autumn and late summer.