We’re encouraged by a plan that could prevent Missouri from losing a part of its history — by bringing it to Jefferson City.
Last week, we reported Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, and Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, are introducing bills that would increase casino “boat” fees from $2 to $3. The extra $1 would go toward building a museum to exhibit Missouri’s steamboat history on the hill east of the old Missouri State Penitentiary.
It also would provide money for construction of a new home for the State Museum currently housed in the east and west wings of the Capitol’s first floor.
In 2026, Kansas City’s lease with the Arabia Steamboat Museum expires. That museum houses the Arabia, which sank in the Missouri River near downtown Kansas City in 1856.
The steamboat was built in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — and officials there have said they want to move the museum’s contents to Pittsburgh when it closes in Kansas City in 2026.
In 1988, David Hawley and four others found the steamboat buried about 45 feet under a farm field, excavated it and formed a foundation to own the discovery and display its contents.
The Arabia museum has grown beyond a regional attraction, bringing people from across the nation. It now attracts about 80,000 visitors a year, Hawley said.
Another chief supporter of the project is retired MissouriNet News Director Bob Priddy, a historian who has written several books about the Capitol and the state’s history.
Priddy is a man who respects the time constraints of deadlines, and he realizes that time is of the essence. He’s working hard to convince lawmakers to support the plan. He’s also met with Gov. Mike Parson, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, Mayor Carrie Tergin, Cole County Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman, Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce President Randy Allen and others.
The steamboat museum would be a great addition to Jefferson City. Our city is increasingly showcasing its history for residents and tourists alike through projects ranging from renovations on Capitol Avenue to planned MSP redevelopment.
We also like that the project could be completed with no general tax increase and no effect on the state’s general revenue.
Supporters have developed a solid plan that could benefit both Jefferson City and the state as a whole. We hope lawmakers give it serious consideration.