If you appreciate history, architecture, preservation, and restoration, you won’t want to miss a special guided tour of two of the grandest houses in mid-Missouri. Both of these significant historical structures were brought back to life. Where are they?

Photo credit: Julie Robertson

By Peg Cameron Gill

You likely know Arrow Rock as the home of the Lyceum Theater. But it’s also home to two historic homes—Oak Grove and Prairie Park. And on Saturday, July 15, you can tour both of them and learn the history of the homes and their inhabitants, shared by knowledgeable guides who are with the Friends of Arrow Rock. 

Your foray into history begins at 11:30 AM with lunch and a tour of the legendary J. Huston Tavern, the longest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi. According to its website, the tavern …”has been serving hungry townsfolk and travelers since 1834.” That’s a long time!

After that, guests will caravan to both historic homes, where the guides will share further fascinating details both inside and outside each home. 

The tour group size is limited to 25 guests, so don’t dawdle or you’ll miss out. The cost is $60 per person, which includes lunch!

Reserve your space here, or by calling 660-837-3231 for tickets and information.

A bit more about the historic J. Huston Tavern and the two homes that you’ll see. 

The tavern has quite an interesting history. George Caleb Bingham immortalized it in his paintings. Political careers began there over rounds of beer; romances began in the ballroom. It’s been the heartbeat of Arrow Rock since 1834.

Photo credit: Friends of Arrow Rock

Joseph Huston moved to Arrow Rock in 1819, ten years before it was incorporated as a town, and is counted among Arrow Rock’s founding fathers. In 1833, he spent $89 to buy all four lots of Block 17, and it was there that he built a four-room, two-story, Federal style structure. Although he envisioned it solely as his family’s home, opportunity was at Huston’s doorstep as tired, hungry travelers heading West passed by his house.

Huston quickly expanded his home to make room for those travelers, and he added a mercantile and a second floor ballroom in 1840. 

During the mid- to -late 1800s, the J. Huston Tavern served as a hotel, restaurant, and community gathering place. During some of the town’s darkest days, it even served as a hospital. Learn more of its story here.

As for the historic plantation homes, the Greek Revival country mansion Prairie Park, was built by the son of frontier physician John Sappington. Dr. “Sappington’s Anti-Fever Pills” were a quinine-based patent medicine for malaria and for fevers in general. The mansion has long been considered one of Missouri’s architectural treasures, and will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2024.

Completed in 1854, Oak Grove was the thriving plantation of George A. Murrell, an immigrant from Barron County, Kentucky. Oak Grove has remained in the Murrell family since, and has been extensively restored by a fifth-generation family member, Blaine Murrell McBurney.

Missouri Life magazine has many other interesting articles about Arrow Rock. You can read them here and here.

For hundreds more events, visit Missouri Life’s Event Calendar.