History of Jefferson City
Long before the arrival of the first Europeans, the area of present-day Jefferson City was inhabited by pre-Columbian cultures of Mound Builders. The area was later inhabited by the Osage Indians.
When the Missouri Territory was first established in 1812, the territorial capital was first in St. Louis and then in St. Charles. It was clear that the territory required a more stable capital, and a more central one, so Jefferson City was chosen in 1821, while Thomas Jefferson was still alive. Prior to this, the town was called Lohman’s Landing. Originally, the name was supposed to be changed to Missouriopolis, but soon everyone agreed that Jefferson City is a much better name. For a long time, Jefferson City was nothing more than a tiny trading post located halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis.
The state legislature first met there in 1836 and the city was incorporated in 1839. The Missouri State Penitentiary was opened in 1836 and it held some of the America’s most infamous robbers, bandits and murderers, including James Earl Ray and Charles “Pretty Boy” Lloyd. The State Capitol burned to the ground in 1837 and the new one, which is still in use, was built in 1842. At the time, steamboats and stage coaches regularly arrived to Jefferson City, encouraging the growth of local economy, which was based largely on grist mills, flour mills, distilleries and tanneries. The Pacific Railroad line between Jefferson City and St. Louis was completed in 1855 but the first trip ended in an accident that killed 28 people.
Soon after the American Civil War started, Jefferson City was occupied by the Union. At the time, most of the state supported the Union, although there was a significant number of Confederate supporters in an area along the Mississippi called “Little Dixie.” After the war, it took a while for the city to recover. Still, a period of economic expansion came after 1875, with new industries such as shoe making and printing. By the beginning of the 20th century the city got some of its most important structures, such as the Supreme Court Building, new State House and new State Capitol. The population also grew as the residents of the surrounding rural areas started gravitating towards the city. In the 1960s Jefferson City established itself as a major regional manufacturing center. The city suffered extensive damage from a flood in 1993 but it managed to recover by the end of the decade. Today, Jefferson City prides itself on high per capita income, relatively low cost of living and good general livability.
Geography and Climate
Jefferson City is located in the center of Missouri, on a bluff on the Missouri River. It spreads away from the river across parallel ridges and valleys. The city sits at 702 feet above sea level, occupying an area of 28.3 square miles. Like the rest of Missouri, the weather in Jefferson City is conditioned by cold air from Canada, dry air from southwest and warm and moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. Springs are usually rainy and summers are generally hot. The average snowfall is 23.5 inches per year.
As of 2010 US Census, the racial makeup in Jefferson City was 81.50% White, 14.7% Black or African American, 1.55% Hispanic or Latino, 1.23% Asian, 0.38% Native American, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.52% two or more races and 0.62% some other race. The median household income in 2010 was $39.628 and the per capita income for the city was $21.268.
Economy and Business
As it is the case with most state capitals in the United States, state government is the largest employer in Jefferson City, with more than 28.000 local jobs. Another important part of the city economy is distribution of agricultural products from the larger city area. The main products are wheat, corn and soybeans. Other significant industries in the city include electric appliances, book binding, steel and shoemaking. In addition to the government, other large employers in Jefferson City are Scholastic, Capital Region Medical Center, St. Mary’s Health Center, Jefferson City Public School District, WalMart, Central Bank, ABB Power T&D Solutions, Jefferson City Medical Group and RR Donnelley.
Attractions and Culture
The State Capitol, which houses the Missouri State Museum, is one of the top attractions in Jefferson City, along with the Governor’s Mansion, built in the Renaissance Revival style. The Jefferson Landing State Historic Site is a complex of three important structures: the Christopher Maus House, the Lohman Building and the Union Hotel. The Runge Conservation Nature Center is another favorite of both the locals and the visitors.
As for the theatre, Jefferson City has the Little Theatre of Jefferson City, the Stained Glass Theatre Mid-Missouri and the Capital City Players. The Richardson Auditorium hosts performances by the Jefferson City Symphony.
Some of the popular annual events in Jefferson City include the Annual Ice Show, Antique Fair, Salute to America (celebration of Independence Day), Jefferson City Multicultural Fall Festival, Cole County Fall Festival, Annual JazzFest, Art inside the Park and the Annual Christmas Parade.
The top university in Jefferson City is the historically black Lincoln University. Other institutions of higher education in the city include Columbia College, Linn State Technical College, William Woods University, Metro Business College and Merrell University.
Jefferson City is one of the five US state capitals without interstate highways. The closest one is I-70, passing 30 miles north of the city. Major highways include U.S. Route 50, U.S. Route 54 and U.S. Route 63. The commuter air carrier service is provided by Columbia Regional Airport twelve miles north of Jefferson City. Amtrak provides passenger train service and bus lines are provided by Sho-Me Coach Lines.