Carthage, Missouri: A Delightful Slice of Small Town America
Arriving in Carthage is like stepping back in time to a more peaceful era when life was simple, and people were in no hurry. From the town square to Route 66 attractions to restaurants, I felt like checking texts was out of place and living in the moment was expected. Carthage has a history that includes ragtime musicians, women’s activists and Wild West outlaws, and it’s now a town that welcomes travellers with open arms and gives you a taste of small-town America that is hard to find these days.
Courthouse Square Brings History to Life
The Jasper County Courthouse and Square is where Carthage really comes to life. The architecture of the courthouse is stunning, with turrets and towers that have a medieval look to them. This is where people gather to meet and the town hosts open markets and events. There is a fabulous coffee shop called Mother Road Coffee where people will tell you stories of times gone by, and the owners couldn’t be any nicer. You’ll also find a small but very interesting Civil War Museum located in the square, where the staff are great and extremely knowledgeable.
Precious Moments Park and Chapel
After enjoying the Courthouse and Square, we drove to the Precious Moments Chapel & Gardens. Inspired by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Rome, the peaceful and serene chapel is like nothing you have ever seen. It tells biblical stories using the childlike, angelic Precious Moments figures to depict the characters in the Bible. There are murals and stained glass along with beautiful landscaping, and a lovely gift shop and café. It is hard to explain the uniqueness of the chapel – you will have to go and see for yourself.
“Ghost Town” With New Life
A place called Red Oak II is next on the list and it also has a unique story. An artist by the name of Lowell Davis had grown up in a small town close by, but after World War II, Red Oak had become a ghost town. So, the artist literally moved many of the buildings from the ghost town to a new location (Red Oak II) and restored them. The place is very cool to wander around, and again, I had never seen anything like it. Lowell Davis still lives there and has some eccentric sculptures outside his house that are fabulous!
You’ll find Route 66 attractions throughout Missouri, but a fairly famous one in Carthage is the Boots Court Motel. The motel has radios in every room playing music from the 1940s and ’50s and no TVs, just like it would’ve been in the heyday of Route 66. Back in the day, people like Clark Gable and Mickey Mantle stayed at the motel, and I love that there is no room No. 13 – for superstitious reasons!
When in Carthage, you also have to drive around the historic district with its lovely Victorian homes. There’s a gorgeous B&B called the Grand Avenue Bed and Breakfast, and the nearby Historic Phelps House offers wonderful seasonal events and tours. The folks at the Historic Phelps House are delightful and will arrange special events, lunch or high tea for groups. Our brunch was delicious and the homemade lemonade superb. Whilst we sat on the veranda overlooking the grounds, an impromptu parade came by full of classic cars – what a lovely way to kill a couple of hours!
At the end of a great day touring Carthage, we headed to the Lucky J Steakhouse for a classic American feast. On one side of the restaurant is the dining room, and on the other, you can watch a traditional live rodeo – how cool is that!
When You Go:
Precious Moments Chapel & Gardens
Red Oak II
Jasper County Courthouse and Square
Boots Court Motel
Grand Avenue Bed & Breakfast
Lucky J’s Steakhouse
Mother Road Coffee
For More Information
Carthage Convention and Visitors Bureau