History Comes Alive at Missouri’s First State Capitol

Saint Charles has the distinction of being one of the oldest cities on the Missouri River. Yep, and we’re the third oldest city in the state! But did you know the City of Saint Charles served as Missouri’s first state capitol from 1821 to 1826?

First MO State Capitol -- St. Charles, MO
Missouri’s first Capitol building in St. Charles on Historic Main Street.

If you’ve ever been to Jefferson City to see the state legislature in action, then you’ll enjoy envisioning what it must have been like nearly two hundred years ago when our state legislators were housed on the second floor of the Peck brothers’ residence and general store.

Located just a stone’s throw from the Missouri River and Katy Trail State Park, the First Missouri State Capitol State Historic Site is located in the heart of Saint Charles on Historic Main Street.

Missouri’s first legislators – some of them frontiersmen and others of the gentry – met at this historic site to undertake the task of reorganizing Missouri’s territorial government into a progressive state system.

Today, the facility with its rough hewn timbers and dark wood floors is fully restored by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

First State Capitol State Historic Site, St. Charles

But would you believe at one point in the mid-1950s, the building was actually used as a bus depot? In fact, the building was in constant use from 1818 until the state purchased the property in 1960.

In addition to a bus station, other former uses for the first state capitol building included subdivided apartments, retail shops and miscellaneous businesses.

The state’s involvement represented the launching point for what was a 10-year restoration project, and today the property is showcased as a prototype for Main Street revitalization at colleges and universities across the country.

First MO State Capitol -- St. Charles, MO (2)When you visit Saint Charles, you can take a guided tour. Interpretive programs highlight how the state’s government was formed, and what life was like in the early 1800s.

Admission is free to the historic site’s interpretive center that offers two floors of exhibits and an orientation show.

For a nominal fee, you can also tour the actual rooms where Missouri state government was created and first practiced…complete with candles for lighting, feather quill pens and spittoons!

Antique furnishings are the type used during the 1820 occupation. The Peck Brothers Dry Goods Store – originally owned by Charles and Ruluff Peck — contains examples of merchandise needed in 1820s-era St. Charles, with furs on display to showcase the importance of the once-thriving fur trade in this region of the state.

A vibrant historic district surrounds the First Missouri State Capitol in Saint Charles. More than 100 shops, restaurants and other historic attractions, many housed in original 18th and 19th century buildings, provide a true flavor of Missouri’s past, bringing history to life.

Written by Carol Felzien, director of communication, Greater Saint Charles Convention & Visitors Bureau (800-366-2427 – www.historicstcharles.com).

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