The interesting past of the Cole County Historical Society office and museum.

photos provided by Cole County Historical Society

circa 1946 | 2017

109 Madison St., directly across from the Governor’s Mansion, currently houses the Cole County Historical Society and Museum. Taking up two spaces in a three-space row house federal-style building, the museum houses many artifacts and information from Cole County and Missouri history. In fact, the museum is the only in the country to house the inaugural gowns from many of the state’s First Ladies.

The History

Mr. and Mrs. Calvin Gunn owned the land and built their family home in the early 1800s. This is where Mary Hansome Gunn grew up and eventually married future Missouri governor Benjamin Gratz Brown in 1858, three months after they first met.

B. Gratz Brown became governor in 1871. While in office, Calvin passed away, and the property was transferred to the Browns. At the time, Governor Brown was in the process of constructing the Governor’s Mansion across the street, so upon gaining possession of the land, he commissioned George Ingham Barnett, an architect from St. Louis who was designing and building the mansion, to create the row of houses that are now home to the CCHS Museum.

Governor Brown used the row house as a temporary home during the construction of the Governor’s Mansion and as a home for his mother- and sister-in-law. In the years since, the home has been used as a boarding house and office space. In 1946, the Cole County Historical Society purchased the building and moved in following renovations by architect John D. Paulus Jr. in 1948.

In a prime location and with a rich history, it seems like a place all residents of Jefferson City should know about. However, even as a lifelong Jefferson City girl, I only found out about the museum two years ago. Don’t waste any more time — take the beautiful walk between the Mansion and the museum at the very least, if you can’t take a tour of the building. You can tour the home as well as the displays Monday through Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. for only $3. 

Learn more about Jefferson City’s historical buildings here.