For More Details
For more information, call the Washington area chamber of commerce at 1-888-792-7466 or visit their web site at Call 1-800-392-WINE for information on Missouri’s Wine Road.

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Land along the river

Visitors take in weekend pleasures at Montelle Winery.
Story and photos
by Rosemarie Colombraro

Published: Mar/Apr 2001

Centuries ago, glaciers moved like giant tortoises over Missouri, grinding out valleys and depositing rich dust behind them. Today, the Missouri River Valley, located southwest of St. Louis, reaps the benefits. The town of Washington is tucked between the sculpted slopes of Osage Ridge, and is flanked by award-winning vineyards, interesting attractions and charming shops.

Boats and bricks

French trappers, settlers and American Indians inhabited the Washington area, which served as a landing spot for boats using the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark moved through the valley during their travels to the West, and Daniel Boone eventually moved his wife and family here, building a mansion that mirrored his boyhood home.

Several brick-making companies were established in Washington in the early 1800s, defining the city’s architecture and creating the nickname "Bricktown". A walk through Washington’s historic area offers a close-up look at some of the original brick structures. The buildings now house antique shops, lodging and restaurants. Visit Snookie Dog at the gallery of river painter Gary Lucy, or chat with steel abstract artist Larry Pogue. Both are located downtown.

Missouri Meerschaum corncob pipe factory is the only working factory of its kind in the country.
Downtown Washington

In 1869, a woodworker named Henry Tibbe devised a system of applying plaster to a corncob pipe and sanding the bowl smooth. Tibbe likened his pipes to the more expensive meerschaum pipes. He patented his process and called his factory the Missouri Meerschaum Company. The company is still in operation, and is the only working corncob pipe factory in the United States. A nostalgia room, containing pipes and other memorabilia, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Within walking distance of the pipe factory, the Washington Historical Museum is worth a stop. Relics from Washington’s past, including information on the original Busch Brewery and the town’s extensive history of zither making, can be found here.

Bed and breakfast accomodations can be found in the Washington area. Built in 1861, the Schwegmann House is located on the riverfront and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The inn offers eight rooms and one suite, all with private baths. Rooms are elegant and uncluttered, reflecting the period of the late 1800s.

Walk along the riverfront to the American Bounty Restaurant, housed in a historic 1858 brick home. The American Bounty offers a seasonal menu incorporating local foods whenever possible, such as wild game, fresh asparagus and local wines. The American Bounty is a study in elegant simplicity, and is fine Midwestern dining at its best.

A colony of Germans settled in Washington around 1892, and the strong presence of the Roman Catholic faith, as well as the wine-growing tradition, shows the German influence even today.

The Weinstrasse

The Weinstrasse, German for wine road, was the first federally designated viticultural area in the United States, and the valley’s superb growing medium produces high quality award-winning wines. Four family-owned wineries dominate the area, offering more than 100 selections of wines that span every need. These fantastic four–Augusta, Sugar Creek, Blumenhoff, and Montelle-all conduct tastings and family entertainment on weekends. Their access to the KATY Trail State Park makes it easy to hike or bike from one winery to another, taking advantage of musical entertainment and outstanding scenery.

The Katy Trail

Just cross the Missouri River to start your tour on Katy Trail State Park. Formerly the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (known as the Katy), the railroad ceased its operation in 1986. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources obtained right-of-way through the National Trails System Act. Tracks were dismantled and a trail was constructed, creating over 200 miles of hiking and biking trail. It is currently the longest rails-to-trails project in the United States. Also a part of the Discovery Trails System, Katy’s flat surface offers a relaxing way to enjoy the valley’s rolling woodlands and sandstone bluffs. Bikes can be rented in nearby Marthasville or Augusta–some shops even provide special bikes for disabled riders.

A costumed tour guide waits in front of Daniel Boone’s home.
Daniel Boone’s Home

In the early 1800s, the lieutenant governor of the Spanish Territory offered Daniel Boone 850 acres of prime land if he would relocate to the Femme Osage district in Missouri. Boone complied, and together with his son Nathan, built the four-story, blue limestone mansion on his property. Boone was appointed District Judge, and under the famed Judgement Tree (the remains of which reclines next to the mansion), he settled disputes using common sense instead of law. There is a long-standing dispute over where Boone’s remains are buried. Some say the Kentuckians took the bones back home. Others say they were bamboozled and given another man’s remains, and the real Boone lies not too far from the resting place of his wife, Rebecca. The Boone Home is open to visitors as well as the six buildings of Boonesville Village. A project in progress, the village reflects Missouri during the time of early statehood. Along with a schoolhouse, cabinetmaker’s shop, and milliner’s shop, the Village’s Peace Chapel is a popular place for weddings. Take Highway 47 across the river, turning east on Highway 94 through Defiance. Follow Highway F to reach the Historic Daniel Boone Home and Boonesville Village. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $4 for children 4-11, and free for children under 4. Open daily 11 to 4 pm March through November.

Shaw Nature Reserve

Take Highway 100 east to Interstate 44, following it north to Gray Summit at Exit 253. The Shaw Nature Reserve is 2,400 acres of native habitat. Established by the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1925, the nature reserve is dedicated to restoration and education. There are 13 miles of hiking trails and 550 acres of pine forest, Whitmire Wildflower garden and the Joseph H. Bascom House is a restored brick mansion built in 1879 , and is filled with exhibits showing the effects of man on the natural landscape. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for senior citizens and free for children 12 and under. The nature reserve is open daily 7 a.m. to one half hour past dark.

Purina Farms

Purina Farms exemplifies the importance of pets in our lives. Built by Ralston-Purina, the complex features a 28-foot-high Victorian style cat house, and offers animal shows throughout the day. This is the site of many televised national dog agility competitions. A hay maze, tractor-pulled wagon rides and displays explaining the production of Purina Foods give visitors a variety of activities. From Washington, take Highway 100 east to Highway MM, south to Purina farms entrance.

Washington and the surrounding area blends American history with Midwestern hospitality. It is a winning combination at any season.

Rosemarie Colombraro is a new contributor from Tucson, AZ.

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