Hundreds of visitors took advantage of the popular “Walk Through History” that was one of the many events held during the day-long Sesquicentennial Celebration at Rolla City Hall held last Saturday, June 4, 2011.
Included among the activities in the “Walk Through History” was a self-guided tour of the 37 Historic Walk Tour of Rolla plaque replicas that are now displayed along the stairway and in the first and second floor lobbies of Rolla City Hall (901 N. Elm Street). The vintage photographic exhibit, which was created by Anne McClay, Project Coordinator in the City’s Engineering Division, will remain a permanent exhibit available to the public to view anytime during normal business hours at Rolla City Hall (M-F, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.). The exhibit will also be available for any school groups, historical societies or organizations who may be interested in viewing the exhibit and learning more about the rich history of Rolla and Phelps County. With the temperatures in the 90s, viewing the 37 Historic Walking Tour of Rolla signs in an air-conditioned building may be a better choice than trying to walk the actual two or three mile-long Historic Walking Tour of Rolla that is spread out in the City’s downtown area.
The idea for the historical signage project, which was coordinated by Anne McClay, began as a joint project three years ago among members of the Public Works Department, the Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce, Phelps County Historical Society, Missouri S&T Historical Archives Department, and other interested citizens. The purpose of the project was to create a series of historical photos that would showcase our City’s history and heritage through a unique photographic exhibit that will add to the accessibility and awareness of the vast amount of history that abounds in our City. Some of the signs that are displayed in this historical sign walking tour include such notable landmarks as the Hotel Edwin Long (listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located at the corner of 8th and Pine Street where the corporate offices of Phelps County Bank are located), John Webber Homestead, “Old Town Rolla, “Whiskey Row” (once located on 8th Street, between Pine and the railroad tracks), all three of Rolla’s former train depots, the Lincoln School (Rolla’s first African American School), Rollamo Theatre, Scott’s Drugs, Frazier Wagon Company, Grant Hotel, The Rolla Building (located on the Missouri S&T campus) and many others.
The majority of the text and copy for the inscriptions on the signs, as well as the vintage black and white photographs, were generously provided by the well known author and Rolla historian John F. Bradbury, Jr. who wrote “Rolla – The Old Town.” In fact most of the text and photos were extracted from Bradbury’s book, which the City is very grateful for. Mark Stauter, who like Bradbury is a long-time member of the Phelps County Historical Society, also provided valuable guidance, input and assistance. The City is very appreciative of the contributions of time, talent, expertise and historical data that both of these individuals have contributed to this project. Special thanks also go to the Western Historical Manuscripts Collection, University of Missouri-Rolla Archives.
I’d like to once again extend a special thank you to everyone who attended not only the Walk Through History, but the Sesquicentennial Parade, Sesquicentennial Ceremony, Historic Re-enactments at the Old Phelps County Courthouse and the commemoration of the 150th Old Phelps County Courthouse on Saturday, June 4. Rolla and Phelps County are fortunate to have such a rich and interesting history, that was so well reflected through the numerous festivities held at last Saturday’s Sesquicentennial Celebration.
A special thanks also goes to those who participated in the Sesquicentennial Ceremony, including: former U.S. Senator Jean Carnahan, who delivered the keynote speech; State Senator Dan Brown (16th District), who presented the City with a framed Resolution; State Representative Keith Frederick (149th District); Pastor Gary Teague, Apostolic Pentecostal Church; Jeff Sandquist, Rolla High School and Rolla Choral Arts Society Choir Director; Kathy Mazzeo, Jazz Choir Director and Accompanist, and members of the Rolla Choral Art Society Jazz Choir, Rolla Community Choir and Rolla Men of Song, members of Rolla Cub Scout Pack 85, Chartered with St. Patrick’s Church; former Rolla Mayors Floyd Ferrell and Elwyn Wax; Randy Verkamp, Presiding Phelps County Commissioner, members of Rolla’s Sister City Delegation from Sondershausen, Germany: Jens Schmidt, Olaf Schade, Michael Witzenhausen and Heike Liebmann; James Rinehart, Rolla JHS History Teacher; and the 399th U.S. Army Band from Fort Leonard Wood who provided a beautiful patriotic tribute to Rolla’s Sesquicentennial and provided musical accompaniment throughout the ceremony.
In closing I’d like to remind everyone SplashZone, Rolla’s outdoor water park, will remain open throughout the summer months Monday through Friday (noon-7 p.m.) and Saturday and Sunday (noon-6 p.m.). Closing day at SplashZone is Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5. For more information, please call 364-8222 or 341-2FUN. The Rolla Public Library Summer Reading Program is also in full swing, as children up to age 12 will travel around the world, learning about different people, places and cultures through stories, activities and crafts. The Summer Reading Program, which is held in the Leola Millar Children's Addition on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. from June 7 through July 28, is free of charge. For more information, please call 573-364-2604 or stop by the Rolla Public Library at 900 North Pine Street.
Have a safe and enjoyable weekend!