Tucked in the corner of Southwest Missouri, positioned at the crossroads of U.S. Interstate 44, Interstate 49, Highway 71, and Historic Route 66, is a big little town that even locals don’t quite agree on how to describe. A true tale of two cities, the product of a mining boom, born from neighboring communities, uniting as one town in the Tri-State Mining District, Joplin has maintained a duality ever since. The town’s history is a quirky quilt of mining, outlaws, Route 66, boom town prosperity, and sports history. As Joplin commemorates its Sesquicentennial, or, in simpler terms, 150th anniversary, find that colorful history on display when you visit Joplin.
Unearth the history of the “Town that Jack Built” at the Joplin History & Mineral Museum. Experience the feeling of walking underground and back in time as you enter the mineral museum by way of a replica mine shaft. Glimpse into the culture that created this town as you explore mining tools and the Smithsonian-level mineral collection. Cross the lobby to discover the history of the community that grew from a lead strike. Explore displays telling the stories of Joplin over the decades, including the famous jewelry left behind when Bonnie and Clyde and their gang fled Joplin after their vacation turned into a deadly shootout in 1933.
Jewelry abandoned by the Barrow gang as they fled Joplin is on display at the Joplin History & Mineral Museum.
From the museum, follow Route 66 to Historic Murphysburg District, one of the two communities that merged to create Joplin and home to many of the towns founding fathers. Experience a variety of architectural styles, including Victorian, Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, and American Foursquare.
A Queen Anne style home in Historic Murphysburg District
Continue your journey through history and discover downtown, stopping at Joplin City Hall and Visitors Center. Originally built as a department store in 1910, now home to the last signed mural of world-famous regionalist and local son Thomas Hart Benton. His only autobiographical mural, Joplin at the Turn of the Century, 1896-1906, hangs adjacent to a mural by his grandson, Anthony Benton Gude. Route 66 Joplin, Missouri, gives a midcentury perspective of the scene his grandfather painted. On the mezzanine sits a treasure trove dubbed the Evolution of a Mural. Letters, rough drawings, and one of his few remaining maquettes trace the development of Benton’s thought process as he designed the mural.
Thomas Hart Benton’s last signed mural Joplin at the Turn of the Century, 1896-1906 located inside City Hall.
After you leave the Visitors Center, be sure to get your pics on Route 66 at Route 66 Mural Park! Featuring two large murals and a mock 1964 Corvette, it’s a must-stop photo op. Explore Joplin’s Main Street, lined with locally owned restaurants, stores, and boutiques, while taking in the different decades shown in the architecture. Enjoy history depicted in our public art. Experience the heart of Joplin’s art community since 1947, Spiva Center for the Arts, located inside the Cornell Complex. One of the newest buildings on JOMO 66, the Cornell Complex is also home to Joplin’s community arts agency and performing arts presenter, Connect2Culture, which is creating history in the making in Joplin, featuring world-class performances in its home theater.