Clinton, Missouri is one of those towns I have been going to for many years, but never took the
to see it. I was always in a hurry to get from here to there that I never went downtown to
see the treasures it has. That was my lost until this last trip when we were returning from Omaha,
Nebraska and we decided to spend the night and see what was off the main highway the next morning.
Clinton, Missouri was established as a village in 1836. In the same year, it also became the county seat of Rives County, which is now known as Henry County. Clinton was named in honor of DeWitt Clinton, the governor of New York. The first tavern and hotel of the area was opened in 1837 by John Nave. It was named as Pollard's Tavern. The courthouse was constructed in 1839. The Missouri - Kansas - Texas Railroad first entered the city in 1865. The first city hall was established in 1891.
Henry County prospered in the late 1800s. In 1891, after many unsuccessful attempts, the residents of Henry County passed a $50,000 bond issue for construction of a new courthouse. In 1892, the court accepted architectural plans and the cornerstone was laid on June 24, 1892.
The three-story building was constructed of Warrensburg sandstone and measures 96 x 71 feet. The now-defunct tower, originally 127 feet tall, was constructed of impermanent material. Its steel framework was covered with copper and a stucco shell. The tower began leaking a few months after completion of the courthouse.
Tower repairs plagued 20th century courts. In 1969, the court sought the county's opinion in a straw vote regarding removal of the tower. Of 20,000 residents, 532 ballots were casts. The court was 425 votes in favor of removal of the tower and 107 votes favoring restoration. Judges voted unanimously to remove the tower. Removal took place on February 21, 1969, despite the protests of historic preservationists.
The historic landmark remains today as the heart of Henry County. Many of the buildings of the 1800s stand today reminding us of the Victorian heritage of Clinton.
Today, the Clinton square streetscape is dotted with buildings representing many eras in its history. Some of the original storefronts are still apparent today, such as the; Kell's Jewelry, Livingston Building, Glasscock Building, State Farm Insurance, and the western building of the Mike Keith Insurance agency, formally Ebertings.
The Henry County Museum and Cultural Arts Center, located just off the Clinton Square, preserves many of the memories dear to residents of Henry County. The main Museum building was originally owned by Anheuser-Bush and served as a distribution center. The front room was originally the office area and the original woodwork and floor is still in place. The next room back was the bottling room and behind that was the cooling room where the unpasteurized beer was kept cool.
The brewery stables are in the rear, and although the stalls are gone, it is apparent that this was where the horses were kept for the horse-drawn wagons for delivery. Upstairs was the hayloft and is now the Military Room that houses artifacts from the Civil War through Desert Storm.
You can step back in time as you stroll through the late-1800's village and its exhibits. The genealogy library is an invaluable community resource. Across the street, you can visit the 1865 Dogtrot House and Homestead.
The Delozier Building, just to the east of the Museum, was built in 1887 as the Henry County Bank. It was the first bank in the county and also housed the first post office. It now serves as the Children's Corner Theater, a home for the arts and a hall for community events.
In 1986, the North West corner of the square suffered a tragic fire in what was then a Western Auto Store. The lost stood empty for a few years, but is now home to a new Rotary Building built in 1999.