Historic Sites & Museums in Clay County & Kansas City, MO
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Historic Sites & Museums

Discover legendary US history & unique museums in Clay County, MO
From Jesse James' history and museums to historic homes and farmsteads, Clay County, MO, is home to a storied past that will keep any history buff entertained. Visit the birthplace of the infamous Jesse James in Kearney or the Liberty bank where he and his gang perpetrated the first successful daylight bank robbery in US history. Explore Excelsior Springs, Missouri, a town founded because of its rich mineral waters. Along with the big names and unique destinations, Clay is home to many preserved historic sites that offer a unique glimpse back into American history. Add these experiences to your itinerary to take a step back in time in Clay County.

Jesse James Birthplace

Tour the world's largest collection of James family artifacts and visit the birthplace of the infamous Jesse James in Kearney. Peruse three galleries, watch a historical video, walk through the cabin where James was born, and see his original burial site during this can’t-miss experience for any history enthusiast.

Phone: 816-736-8500

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Jesse James Bank Museum

Tour the site of America's first successful daylight bank robbery during peacetime in history by the James Gang in 1866. Located at Liberty’s historic square, this historic site takes visitors back in time to the chilly February afternoon when the Jesse James robbery took place. Take a peek into the original green vault, hear the story as told by the bank teller, and view rare documents and photographs on display.

Phone: 816-736-8510

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Hall of Waters

The Hall of Waters was built in 1936 and 1937 as a bottling facility and distribution point for the healing, medicinal mineral waters of Excelsior Springs. Said to treat ailments, the water’s supposed healing powers were discovered in the late 1800s, and thousands of people flocked to Excelsior Springs to try it themselves. After its construction, the Hall of Waters became a hot spot for those looking to experience the local mineral waters through the world’s longest water bar, an indoor swimming pool, a Polio pool, and men’s and women’s spas. Now, visitors can take a self-guided walking tour of the preserved hall.

201 E Broadway Ave, Excelsior Springs, MO 64024

Phone: 816-637-2811

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Watkins Woolen Mill

This three-story woolen mill building, complete with intact mid-19th-century textile machinery, provides guests with a close-up experience with the Industrial Revolution in rural America. Learn about farm life in Lawson in the 1800s during a walking tour of the restored building and other historical sites, and then explore the scenic 3.75-mile hiking trail around nearby Williams Creek Lake.

Phone: 816-580-3387

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Mt. Gilead School

Mt. Gilead School operated in Kearney for more than 100 years until it closed its doors in 1946. Today the school hosts several educational events, including field trips where a teacher in period attire guides students through penmanship and arithmetic problems as though they were in an 18th- or 19th-century classroom. For homeschoolers, Mt. Gilead School offers themed Mt. Gilead Mondays, where smaller groups who don’t meet the typical field-trip minimum can experience the historic site. Learn more on the Clay County event calendar.

Phone: 816-736-8500

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TWA Museum

In Kansas City, learn about the history of Trans World Airlines (TWA) and the role it played in pioneering commercial airlines by touring the museum’s displays and aircraft. Visit the gift shop for TWA apparel and souvenirs after exploring decades of memorabilia, cockpit simulator panels, and a flight simulator.

10 Richards Rd #110, Kansas City, MO 64116

Phone: 816-234-1011

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Excelsior Springs Museum

Explore Excelsior Springs' past at this Clay County museum showcasing local artifacts, including the Clay County State Bank vault, 20th-century murals, an antique loom (on which volunteers still weave rugs!), and a military room. The museum is home to several permanent and rotating displays as well as a gift shop.

Phone: 816-630-0101

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Mt. Gilead Church

Organized in 1830 as a Primitive Baptist Church, Mt. Gilead Christian Church erected its first building in 1844 in what is now Kearney. Visitors can see the historic church building as well as the adjacent cemetery to the church, which also dates back to 1830. Regular services at the churched continued until its closure in 1930, and then restarted from 1934 through 1937 and again from 1951 through the early 80s. Now, it hosts a variety of events, including live music, weddings, family reunions, birthday parties, holiday-themed get-togethers, and picnics.

Phone: 816-736-8500

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Clay County Museum

The Clay County Museum houses historical artifacts from around the county with a mission to increase awareness of the area’s interesting past. Experience Civil War exhibits featuring the Battle of Liberty, biographies of Union and Confederate forces, and more. Then, visit the library to check out the reading room, which houses historical documents and articles.

Phone: 816-792-1849

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Historic Pharis Farm

In 1927 Donald Pharis purchased a 160-acre farm in rural Clay County and gave up teaching to farm full time. As a farmer he continued to teach about the importance of soil and water conservation. He was the first farmer in Clay County to terrace his fields. He was a founding member of the Clay County Soil & Water Conservation District and assisted farmers throughout the Midwest. Donald and his second wife, Laura welcomed students to their farm and taught them about historical and modern farming practices, the importance of soil and water conservation, and pioneer life. Today, visitors can tour the farm during special events.

Phone: 816-736-8500

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Atkins-Johnson Farm & Museum

Built between 1831 and 1834, the Atkins-Johnson Farm and Museum is one of the oldest continuously occupied homes in Clay County. In 1853, the Atkins family expanded the one-room log cabin into a four-room house. Visit the Gladstone home today to see Atkins family artifacts and a heritage garden, where volunteers grow 100-year-old heirloom seeds, including strawberries, herbs, and asparagus—all of which would have been grown during the period when the Atkins and Johnson families inhabited the property. Visitors can also experience a pumpkin patch and apple trees.

6607 North Antioch Rd, Gladstone, MO 64119

Phone: 816-453-3276

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Shoal Creek Living History Museum

Explore more than 20 authentic 19th-century homes and enjoy scheduled reenactments at this one-of-a-kind museum in Kansas City. Open daily from dusk until dawn, this 80-acre property allows visitors to immerse themselves in the 1800s life. Visit during a special event for the chance to walk through the buildings and interact with actors in period attire roaming the museum.

7000 NE Barry Rd, Kansas City, MO 64156

Phone: 816-792-2655

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Historic Liberty Jail

During the winter of 1838 to 1839, Latter-Day Saints Prophet and leader Joseph Smith and five others were held in the Liberty Jail. Now, the restored jail—which dates back to 1833—resides in a granite rotunda, allowing visitors to experience its history any time of year. Learn about Smith’s life and the jail’s past during a tour of the site, which includes a replica of the dungeon where Smith was held.

216 N Main St, Liberty, MO 64068

Phone: 816-781-3188

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Kearney Historic Museum

Learn more about the storied town of Kearney and the birthplace of Jesse James at this museum, which has housed a collection of local artifacts since its opening in 2006. Follow along with the complete timeline of Kearney’s history to discover each milestone in the town’s past, dating back to 1856 when it was known as Centerville. Then, explore other rotating and permanent displays, including the safe in which the ashes of Frank James—older brother of Jesse James—were kept at the Kearney Trust Bank until 1944.

Phone: 816-903-1856

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National Airline History Museum

Visit this Clay County museum for a first-hand look at artifacts and memorabilia from airlines around the US. Located at the Kansas City Downtown Airport, the museum features flight simulators and almost a dozen aircraft. Embark on a 45-minute tour to get up close and personal with the displays in the hangar.

Phone: 816-421-3401

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