Thursday, April 08, 2004

The Signing of the Blog.

The capitol of Missouri sits on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, which is a sizable river at that point. A road goes all the way around the capitol mound, and between the building and the river, adorning a small plaza just above the slope down to the river, is a large bronze relief called, "The Signing of the Treaty," which features statues of James Monroe and Robert Livingston sitting at a table, signing some papers -- the treaty that ceded the Louisiana Territory to the United States. Odd to find a such a major monument to a real estate deal. But then again, it was one of the great real estate deals of history.

At the foot of the men and their treaty was a fountain, dry this time of year. On either side of its oval, two centaurs were frozen in mid-fight with one snake each. I looked a little closer and noticed that the centaurs had webbed feet, which may be a storied classical motif, but I think that was the first time I'd ever seen it.

From the vantage near the Signing of the Treaty, you can see the river below, and at that moment I realized how little use Jefferson City seemed to have for its river. Paralleling the river bank were a couple of rail lines with idle cars on them. There was no obvious access to the river beyond -- no walkway, no docks, no evidence that anyone used the river, except some quarries on the opposite bank. Maybe people access the river elsewhere, but you'd think there would be something near downtown.

At the end of a steep slopping street downhill from the capitol is the Jefferson Landing State Historic Site, essentially a cluster of old stone and brick buildings dating from before the Civil War -- the Lohman Building, the Union Hotel, the Christopher Maus House, which has a certain ring to it. No one was around on an early Saturday morning, so it was easy to wander around and imagine the place as an actual working landing, when boats stopped there and the steep road was a muddy track a lot of the time, navigated precariously by wagons. The Union Hotel still services at the town's Amtrak station, but according to a sign taped to a window, that railroad's chronic red ink means that the station is only open when a train is due.

Just behind the Union Hotel is a more modern stone that says: "75th Anniversary - Missouri State Parks - 1917-1992 TIME CAPSULE - placed the 9th day of April, 1992, to be opened in the year 2067 - Missouri Department of Natural Resources." About as weak an excuse for a time capsule as I've ever encountered. I hope they didn't enclose anything on any electronic medium, which certainly will be impossible to read in 2067.

A few yards away is perhaps a more lasting item from the past, the Governor's Garden. Nothing fancy, Missouri isn't a fancy place, but a nice rectangle of green grass, some emerging flowers, benches and trellises on the downside of a slope that leads to the Governor’s Mansion. It also satisfied my taste for obscure plaques honoring obscure people. A nearby plaque noted: "In Honor of Juanita McFadden Donnelly, First Lady of Missouri, 1945-49, 1953-57, whose love and care were instrumental in completing the Governor’s Garden in 1948."


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