Shopkeepers & offices still do business in the same buildings where the early citizens of Lexington worked and shopped. Visit the shops and enjoy the period renovation that showcases each building.
With steamboats stopping frequently at Lexington in the 1840s and ‘50s, many brick churches, businesses and homes were built near the river. Just before the 1861 Civil War Battle of Lexington, it was written of Main Street that, “The street was lined with ladies, sobbing and waving handkerchiefs, and one old gentleman climbed a gate post and exhorted our marching column in a true and camping style.” Despite their more modern fronts, many downtown buildings were standing at the time of the battle.
Our 1847 Greek Revival Courthouse is the oldest Courthouse in continuous use west of the Mississippi River. A cannonball hit the left column of the portico during the Battle of Lexington. It immediately fell out, but was picked up by a man who later swore it was the original ball. In the early 1900s, he brought the ball to the County Commissioners, who had the it attached to the column with an iron rod. The “Cannonball in the Courthouse” has since become the symbol of Lexington. Note the historical markers near the Courthouse.
Continue east on Main St., walking on the right (south) side of the street.
1101 Main, with its unique single cast-iron column, was originally a silent movie theater. 1114 Main, across the street, is a yellow brick Beaux-Arts structure built as a Masonic Temple in 1930. A few doors east, the building across the street that now houses Pat’s Army & Sporting Goods store was built in the 1860’s as the First Baptist Church, and originally had a large bell tower. The church at the corner of 12th Street was built in 1839 as the Christian Church; in the 1870’s, it became the Second Baptist Church. The cast-iron fence around the bank building next to the church was fabricated in the mid-1800s by the Morrison Foundry, which was located down by the Missouri river. Federal troops burned the foundry since it had produced cannonballs for the Missouri State Guard.
Turn Right and walk South on 13th Street.
At the corner of 13th & Main is the former post office, a 1912 example of Beaux-Arts architecture. Next door is the 1846 Cumberland Presbyterian Church, later a boys’ school and library. Now the Lexington Historical Museum, it features exhibits on the Osage Indians, Pony Express and Battle of Lexington. Next to it is the 1848 Christ Church Episcopal, a fine example of Gothic Revival. It still has the original walnut pews, stained glass windows and an organ that came by steamboat from St. Louis in 1867. At the northwest corner of 13th & Franklin is Heritage Park. It commemorates the steamboat Saluda, which blew up at Lexington’s Upper Landing in 1852 in the worst disaster ever on the Missouri River. In an attempt to make headway up the river when it was muddy, icy, and running fast, the ship’s captain ordered an increase in steam power that caused the boilers to explode. About 75 people were killed, including many Mormon immigrants from England and Wales going to Salt Lake City. A funeral ceremony was held at the Episcopal Church across the street. The bell in the memorial tower is very similar to the one used on the Saluda. We invite you to rest on the stone bench in this beautiful little pocket park, then continue walking West on Franklin Avenue.
During the Civil War, Lexington was known as a center for Quantrill’s raiders and other Southern guerrillas. Two months after the war ended, several decided to turn themselves in for pardon. While riding into town, reportedly under a white flag, they skirmished with Federal soldiers. Jesse James was severely wounded but escaped, which may have led to his outlaw career. In December 1866, Archie Clement, another notorious guerrilla, terrorized the town before being shot dead from his horse on Franklin Ave. by a Federal soldier stationed on the second floor of the courthouse.
On the opposite side of Franklin Street, next door to the theater, is a red brick building (now housing a restaurant) that was part of a complex used as an illegal still and was raided by Federal agents during Prohibition. On our same side of the street, at the northwest corner of 11th & Franklin is the 1939 Art Deco Lexington Auditorium built by the WPA during the Depression. Next to it is the 1905 City Hall, with a floating dome used for civil defense watches during World War II. It is now called Lafayette Hall and houses county offices.
Across 10th Street is the 1844 Presbyterian Disciples Church, with a unique cast-iron tower. It was built on land donated by merchant James Aull, who went to Mexico on the Santa Fe Trail in 1846. After being caught up in the Mexican War, he opened a general store in Chihuahua, where bandits later killed him. Across Franklin Street from the church is an 1847 Greek Revival house that was later “Victorianized”. Next door is an 1860s building known as the Monument Shop. It was a German-American stone working business, which may account for its unique Jacobean features. The tombstones in front advertised the products available.
Turn Right and walk North on 9th Street back to Main Street.
On the corner 9th & Main is an Italianate building that was the Alexander Mitchell Bank, which the James Gang robbed in 1866. They took about $2,000 and a small gold watch. From the inscription, they discovered that the watch belonged to a little girl. They returned the watch, and her descendants in California still have it to this day. West of this building and two doors down is another Italianate commercial building that originally housed the Limrick Bank. Mr. Limrick made his fortune outfitting settlers and traders on the Santa Fe Trail and built the grand house just southeast of Lexington that is now called Linwood Lawn. Two more doors down is a large brick Greek Revival building at the corner 8th St & Main that was the Farmers Bank of Missouri. In 1861 during the Civil War Battle of Lexington, Federal troops confiscated nearly a million dollars from this bank. Today it is the Elks Lodge.
Turn right, cross Main Street, and continue by also crossing Broadway Street. Turn left and walk north on Broadway.
Just before Broadway bends out of sight to begin its scenic run along the bluffs of the Missouri River, stands the Madonna of the Trail Monument which was dedicated in 1928 by then-Jackson County Judge Harry S. Truman. Twelve of these statues were placed by the DAR in each state with trails going west to honor the role of women and children in the Westward Movement. Nearby, markers note the Potawatomi “Trail of Death,” commemorating the ferry crossing at Lexington of 850 Native Americans forced to march from Indiana to Kansas.
Lexington Tourism Bureau | 1110 Main St. | Lexington, MO 64067 | 660-259-4711 | tourism@VisitLexingtonMo.com
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