Abby Hoover
Managing Editor

Join our Northeast News staff this summer as we hit the road and share with our readers a new weekly feature on where to go and what to do, just a few miles or hours away from home.

For our next adventure, Managing Editor Abby Hoover and her husband Tucker visited Carthage, Mo..
Carthage, Mo., is a small, historic town two hours south of Northeast Kansas City boasting gorgeous architecture, Civil War history and activities for the whole family.

Carthage is along Route 66, which runs through Chicago, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Route 66 rambles on for 2,451 miles, opening on November 11, 1926.

The scenic drive down 71 Highway allows travelers the opportunity to spot native Missouri wildlife like turkeys, turtles, hawks, deer, great blue heron, mules, armadillos and butterflies, along with cattle and goats, native plants and a variety of crops.

This road trip started a few miles south of Carthage in Tipton Ford, Mo., at the Undercliff Grill. The roadside restaurant began as a general store for those fording Shoal Creek in carriages or on horseback, becoming a restaurant in 1961. Inside, diners can sit beneath a cliff and enjoy a variety of options for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We ate a burger and chicken and waffles, keeping it under $30.

The next stop was the George Washington Carver National Monument and Museum near Diamond, Mo., on the 19th century farm where he grew up. The child of slaves, Carver overcame many hurdles to seek an education and became an agricultural scientist and inventor who developed hundreds of products using peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans. He revolutionized the way crops are grown – and rotated – across the American South.

Every day, rangers give guided tours of the Carver Trail at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The 3/4 mile tour interprets his childhood, life, and accomplishments. The tour takes about one hour and 15 minutes and begins at the visitor center, which is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

From there our road trip took us to JR’s Western Store in Diamond, which provides western and workwear for residents of the area. Next door, visitors can find “The World’s Largest Small Electrical Appliance Museum,” which no doubt would be an interesting stop for fans of the evolution of kitchen appliances with over 4000 unique, rare electrical appliances from toasters to percolators and razors to waffle irons.

As owner Richard Larrison explains, “There are pinchers and perchers, droppers and floppers, tippers and flippers, not to mention the swingers, walk-throughs, flatbeds and of course, the ever-popular pop-ups.”

Carthage, which is along old Route 66, a popular American road trip, is often recognized as being home to the Precious Moments Chapel. With over 9,000 square feet of hand-painted murals, 30 meticulously designed stained glass windows, 4 hand-carved wooden doors, this is where the legacy of artist Samuel Butcher, creator of the popular porcelain figurines. It is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
However, Carthage has much to offer in terms of historic architecture. The historic square surrounds the Romanesque Revival Jasper County Courthouse. Built in 1894-95 of Carthage stone, its turrets, towers and arches evoke a feel of a medieval castle looming over small town America. The Jasper County Courthouse is said to be the second-most-photographed building in the state of Missouri, after the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

On the square, visitors can find the Civil War Museum, which shares the history of the Battle of Carthage, the first battle of the war on July 5, 1861. The museum offers a 10-minute video on the battle and subsequent war, artifacts and models from the time period and a detailed model of the battlefield.
We spent some time in antique stores on the square, and there were plenty of restaurants and a few cafes, but being there on a Sunday, most were closed. The historic square offers electric vehicle charging for those who find themselves in need and free parking.

The historic Victorian era Phelps House on Grand Avenue and the surrounding properties, which may look like some found on Gladstone Boulevard in Historic Northeast, have been preserved, offering insight into a different time in Carthage. Private tours are available by appointment.

Probably the most interesting stop on our tour was Red Oak II, a ghost town of sorts, that is home to historic buildings from bygone eras, including an old filling station, church, log cabin, general store, town hall and others.

Red Oak II was created by artist Lowell Davis, who grew up in the original Red Oak, Mo., about 20 miles northwest of Red Oak II. The original Red Oak, like many other rural agricultural towns across the country, started to fade sometime after World War II, when people began to move to the cities in earnest. Davis saved the town by moving it to his property and restoring the buildings to their former glory.

It’s an interesting stroll, and we wish we could’ve stayed for Saturday night pickin’ and singin’ at the Salem County Church, which happens every Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

For those looking for a place to stay, consider the classic Route 66 motel experience at the Boots Court. One of the oldest and few remaining in operation on Route 66, Boots Court was constructed in 1939 by Arthur Boots and initially offered four rooms. Boots later expanded to eight when the first proved successful. A second building to the west, added in 1946 by the Neeley family, brought the total guest rooms to 13.

After many decades of catering to travelers, this iconic and unique Streamline Moderne motel fell into disrepair. Over the last decade, flat roof restoration was completed and partial room renovations begun by previous owners. The nonprofit Boots Court Foundation saved the motel from possible demolition and is currently overseeing a full restoration. In 1947, actor Clark Gable was driving Route 66 and stopped for a night at the iconic motel. Today, guests can sleep in the same room he did.

We ended the day with milkshakes at Iggy’s Diner, a retro chrome diner in town, before heading back to Kansas City. All in all, we filled up with gas, bought lunch for around $30, and purchased a few trinkets in the antique shops. For those interested in Missouri history, architecture or small town America, this is the perfect day trip from Kansas City.


Undercliff Grill & Bar
6385 Old Hwy 71
Joplin, MO

George Washington Carver National Monument & Museum
5646 Carver Rd
Diamond, MO

JR’s Western Store
51 MO-59
Diamond, MO

Battle of Carthage
Civil War Museum
205 Grant St
Carthage, MO

Goad’s Antique Mall
111 E 3rd St
Carthage, MO

Red Oak II
12275 Kafir Rd
Carthage, MO

Precious Moments Chapel
4321 S Chapel Rd
Carthage, MO

66 Drive-In Theatre
17231 Old 66 Blvd
Carthage, MO

Kellogg Lake Park
1215 Esterly Dr
Carthage, MO