Local author helps would-be wanderers navigate Missouri’s historic roadways
If the open road is calling you to explore quaint towns on two-lane highways with the Mayberry vibe – either in person or from your armchair – let “Historic Missouri Roadsides” be your guide.
Author Bill Hart, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation, was inspired to pass on 11 years of knowledge – gained by traveling through more than half of Missouri’s 114 counties and capturing their essence in photos – with the writing of his book.
“You’ll notice rusted cars and dilapidated old buildings pictured throughout the book. I never knew if an older building I photographed would still be standing when I returned at a later time,” Hart said. “It might be the only time it was documented and I wanted to capture it. We need to consider that some of these buildings are historic and should be preserved.”
Part travel, part history and part photography, the 244-page, full-color book encourages travelers to see all the beauty small towns have to offer. Organized like a travel planner, the book suggests several routes for day trips, weekend visits and week-long stays. Those routes feature history, local attractions, eateries and lodging suggestions. But don’t expect big box stores or chain hotels and restaurants to be included. Hart’s ultimate goal is to celebrate the richness of mom-and-pop businesses.
Beautiful sites and scenery along two-lane highways set the criteria for the towns Hart selected for inclusion in his book. With some maps and general driving directions provided, the routes are along contiguous roadways making for easy navigation.
His favorite towns? “Every time I go out, I have a new favorite,” he joked. “There are some sweet towns in here like Bonnots Mill and Louisiana. Brunswick is another cute little town. Ste. Genevieve has some French colonial architecture. The stretches of road along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers are beautiful.”
If visiting a town with a unique name inspires a road trip, be sure to visit Missouri’s own Tightwad, Lupus, Cooter, Peculiar and Frankenstein townships. Whether you want to take a drive down iconic Route 66 or along the Lewis & Clark Trail, Hart shared this advice: “Explore, discover and appreciate all that Missouri has to offer.”
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Hart will be signing copies of his book at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10 at the Daniel Boone Branch of the St. Louis County Library, 300 Clarkson Road in Ellisville.