Cobblestone Street Interpretive Park

Project Abstract

As the Missouri Department of Transportation was planning the construction of a new bridge over the Missouri River, a cobblestone street, believed to be the first paved street west of St. Louis, was re-discovered in the town of Boonville. The approach illustrated in this study combined active discussions among the stakeholders involving field investigations, negotiations, and the development of a plan to not only preserve, but enhance the historic resource. Stakeholders agreed upon a plan wherein preservation of the street would be accomplished through development of an interpretative park.

480 cobble opening:
Setting Boonville, Missouri lies along the south bank of the Missouri River about 90 miles east of Kansas City. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) was planning the construction of a new bridge over the Missouri River to carry traffic using U.S. Route 40. As part of the site investigations and planning, a cobblestone street in Boonville was re-discovered. The street was believed to be the first paved street west of St. Louis. Its construction consisted of cut limestone curbs set about 50 feet apart with unmortared limestone cobbles of various sizes, Cobblestone drainage ditches extended the length of the street. The cobblestone street represented a precious link to the days of steamboat traffic. From the 1830s to early 1860s, hundreds of steamboats docked at the Boonville wharf each year. Mule-carts and horse-drawn wagons carried freight up the steep slope of the river bank to the businesses at the top of the wharf. Boonville was a regional center of trade; with farmers and merchants shipping pork, flour, tobacco, and other products down river to St. Louis. After the Civil War, railroads began to replace steamboats. The first railroad reached Boonville in 1869; busy steamboat traffic ended shortly thereafter. Through the intervening years, the cobblestone street entered into disuse. Three to 4 feet of soil accumulated gradually over the northern block of the street. The southern block remained untouched until construction of the 1924 Old Trails National Highway Bridge. In 1989, as MnDOT began planning efforts for the new bridge, the Director of Friends of Historic Boonville called MoDOT's attention to the wharf area and street. Wharf Hill had recently been placed in the National Register of Historic Places, and the Director wanted assurances that the historic property would be preserved and/or protected during bridge construction. Problem to be Solved The problem was essentially to investigate the site and determine what measures would be needed to preserve the cobblestone street and other elements of the historic site.
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