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"Historic Missouri Roadsides" | Reviewed by Bill Schwab

Who has not felt the urge to jump in the car, hit the open road, and discover what is out there in the Missouri countryside? Author Bill Hart takes the driver’s seat as he leads readers on six fascinating tours within the Show-Me State.

This second edition of his popular 2015 book includes new information and ideas for viewing sites in the 24th state. He guides the reader, mostly along two-lane roads, to many curious places. Hart provides facts about each place and richly illustrates the pages with photographs, postcards and personal mementos. He reminds the reader that such trips are meant to be leisurely rather than fast-paced: “Chill. You are not traveling on two lanes to win any races....”

The rural tours usually begin in St. Louis or Kansas City. Places to eat, drink, visit, shop and spend the night are listed with each town. Only small Missouri-owned businesses are listed for shopping and thus serve as a counterweight to what Hart calls “Generica,” meaning the book omits the fast-food chains and big box stores found in many towns and along interstates, all of which have a generic look regardless of location.

Of Hart’s several proposed drives, the “Route 100 Gottfried Duden” and the “Lewis and Clark Trail Tour” especially piqued my interest. The images of Gray Summit and Villa Ridge are familiar. A picture of The Old Dutch Hotel in Washington is on the cover of this edition in addition to the listing of other amenities unique to Washington that are found on the inside pages.

A brief history of Dundee/Newport, the former seat of Franklin County, also is edifying and the list of all the places to eat, stay and visit in New Haven covers a couple of pages. Next on the route comes Berger with its unique history. Then readers can discover the many highlights of Hermann. The Gasconade tour story includes the infamous bridge collapse and train wreck of 1855 which killed 31 people. There are brief stops in Morrison, Chamois, Luystown, Frankenstein and Bonnots Mill.

Hart also refers readers to the prehistory of Missouri, when he mentions tribal locations and places that take their names from Native Americans. He also notes historic and natural conservation areas, National Register listings and districts, state parks, historic sites and the hometowns of famous people.

“Historic Missouri Roadsides” is an entertaining, educational ride through Missouri's heritage. As stated in the forward, this book is “a travel book, history book, a photography book, and more.” Even though the book is designed for a broad audience, those attracted by history and historic preservation will find it particularly interesting.

About the Author:

Bill Hart is a seventh-generation Missouri native, having grown up in Perry County. He serves as executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation and was one of the founders of the Missouri Barn Alliance and Rural Network which advocates for the preservation of Missouri's historic barns and farmsteads. Reedy Press is the publisher of this 246-page coffee table book.

Bill Hart will make a presentation about “Historic Missouri Roadsides” at the Washington Public Library, February 13th at 2:00 PM. Neighborhood Reads Bookstore and the Friends of the Washington Public Library are sponsoring this free appearance which is open to all.

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