Historic City of Jefferson's 15th annual walking/driving tour will be extra special this year.
The self-paced tour will take place from 1-4:30 p.m. Sept. 12 and will feature several historic places of worship in the community, many of which have been practicing their faith locally for 150 years. While visiting, participants can learn about the history of the congregations and how they have impacted Jefferson City over the bicentennial.
Here's a look into the historic places that will be featured on the tour:
Central Church: 118 W. Ashley St.
The church's current building was constructed in 1891 on the footprint of the 1859 church, using some of the original foundation stones. Builder and member Fred H. Binder also built St. Peter Catholic Church in 1883. Both buildings were designed in the North German Gothic style. Organs have been an integral part of Central Church services since the instrument was purchased in 1860. Today, organist Shirley Klein continues to fill the sanctuary with music and will be playing next week as part of the tour.
First Christian Church: 327 E. Capitol Ave.
According to legend, the wife of Gov. Thomas Crittenden (1881-85) demanded the jackpot from a poker game involving her husband and other top state officials be donated to First Christian Church for the purchase of a bell for her "poor little Campbellite Church," a term which points to the church's view that people should not be excluded from fellowship in the church because they don't adhere to a creed.
First Presbyterian Church: 324 Madison St.
In 1834, the Rev. Robert L. McAfee, 32, organized the first group of Presbyterians in Jefferson City. In 1841, Adamson Work and two Presbyterian theology students, James Burr and George Thompson, all of Quincy, Illinois, crossed the Mississippi River to help enslaved individuals escape to Illinois, which was a free state. The three were captured and sentenced to the newly-built Missouri State Penitentiary. During their time in prison, Thompson and Burr conducted religious services and brought Presbyterianism into MSP. The bluegrass/gospel group Missing Pieces will be playing at First Presbyterian during the tour.
First United Methodist Church: 201 Monroe St.
Charles Opel, the architect for First United Methodist, was well known in Jefferson City. He had designed homes for prominent families, including John Tweedie (whose home is still at 601 E. High St.) and Gov. Lawrence Stephens (located at 500 Capitol Ave. and known as Ivy Terrace). Opel also designed buildings at Lincoln University and the First Baptist Church. His design for First United Methodist was published in a newspaper in June 1900 and printed in the Cole County Sketchbook, which came out later that year.
Grace Episcopal Church: 217 Adams St.
In 1876, a newspaper article reported a "ghostly phenomenon" at the old Grace Church, originally located on Madison Street facing west toward Madison House (the present-day Governor Hotel building). Two lovestruck teenagers snuck away to the sanctuary after services when people were outside. As they were getting ready to kiss, they saw a scene from outside appear on the white interior wall, projecting the street outside and the people on it walking up and down. Upon investigation, they realized a small amount of light coming through the keyhole in the door was creating a magic lantern effect with the images of the street reflecting on the opposite wall.
Immaculate Conception Church: 1206 E. McCarty St.
Shortly after Diocesan priest Msgr. Kaiser was transferred to Immaculate Conception, parishioners James and Irene Stegemen adopted a son. They wanted to give something back to the church to show their appreciation, so Kaiser mentioned a Christ of the Highway Statue similar to the one installed in 1957 at St. Patrick Church in Rolla could be nice to have at their church as Highway 50 passed by the church at the time. The Stegemens were in support of the idea, so Kaiser ordered a practically identical statue. Workers used a cherry picker to lift the statue into place, and Kaiser blessed it in May 1961. Although Highway 50 no longer passes by the church, the statue remains.
Quinn Chapel AME Church: 415 Lafayette St.
In 1838, Violet Ramsey, born enslaved, received her freedom for "motives of benevolence and humanity." Ramsey would go on to purchase her husband Elijah's freedom along with two of her sons. But her purchases didn't stop there: She is recorded as purchasing land at Madison and Miller streets and building a home where Quinn Chapel held services. Violet and Elijah continued buying property, including farmland, that they passed to their son, Harrison. Elijah Jr. deeded a portion of the property at 116 E. Miller St., including a log cabin, to the church. He later gifted more land for a parsonage. Lincoln University's Police Chief Gary Hill will be at Quinn Chapel to showcase the success of the university's police academy's first year graduates.
Temple Beth El: 318 Monroe St.
The temple was built in 1883 and is the oldest synagogue west of the Mississippi still in use. Originally built out of red brick, it was eventually painted white. In 1939 during World War II, the congregation agreed to support a Jewish family escaping Nazi persecution. This feat was especially remarkable as at the time as the Nazis had a stronghold on much of Europe, making it very difficult for any Jewish people to escape. The Emanual Ladenheim family lived in Jefferson City for several years with their young son, Harry.
HCJ Executive Director Anne Green said although typical tours are done in homes, they're excited this year participants can see area churches — places they might have never been inside apart from weddings or funerals. She added there will be experts on each location there to inform about the spaces' history. There could be a few items or traditions you've never heard of before.
"Each location has their own special stories, so we're excited to share that with the community," Green said.
Tickets are available at historiccityofjefferson.org as well as at Capital Arts, Carrie's Hallmark Shop, Click2Sell4u, HyVee, J Street Vintage, Samuel's Tuxedos and Gifts, Shaefer House, Shulte's and ShopGirl. Advance tickets are $15; day-of tickets cost $18 and are can be purchased at First Presbyterian Church. Complimentary trolley rides will be available.
The event will take place rain or shine. There are also alternate plans if it is canceled due to COVID-19: Participants will turn in their tickets for a driving tour booklet featuring the churches to take the tour on their own.
Historic City of Jefferson Executive Director Anne Green contributed the history of each place of worship for this article.