Midwest Living Review
When Missouri became a state in 1821, officials knew they wanted to locate the capitol in the center of the large state. Just one problem: no cities in the middle. So while Jefferson City was being built, legislators met at a temporary capitol in St. Charles. Today, visitors can tour a beautifully restored site that looks just as it did in the early 1800s. (To clarify, the interpretive center is free and has a fine little gift shop and some historical displays, but the only way to see inside is by paying $4 for an hour-long guided tour. It's worth it.) Tours start on the building's first floor, which housed a general store and small residence. The guides encourage questions and use the various artifacts as windows onto daily life in the early 1800s. You'll learn that animal-fat candles were cheaper but dirtier, and that translucent pieces of horn lined pioneer lanterns. The actual capitol was on the second floor, and again, the tour focuses more on colorful detail than dry history. Guides evocatively describe how the first legislators, many of whom were illiterate, sat shoulder-to-shoulder under drippy candelabras on wooden benches, scratching out the state's first constitution with quill pens.At Christmastime, the site hosts living history programs and a candlelit carol concert. In summer, the staff cultivates a heritage garden with Colonial-Era cooking and medicinal herbs.