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Blackwater

Est 1887

Town History

Blackwater is a small town located in Cooper County, Mid-Missouri. There are no stop lights or gas stations in this quaint town of (roughly) 200 people. But you won't find yourself missing much between the local hospitality and the rich history of the Blackwater River Valley. 

Blackwater had its beginning in 1887, when the Missouri Pacific Railroad Co surveyed for the location for their "River Route" connecting Kansas City to Boonville, Jefferson City, and eastern points. Soon the building of the railroad began and many small towns sprouted up along the line, including Blackwater. The name was derived from the river, which is believed given its name by the Indians, due to the rich, black soil in the bottom lands. 

The railroad town quickly grew with new access to distant markets and the opening of a rock quarry just a couple miles outside of town. With job opportunities and more residents, the town started to see the usual businesses appear: drugstores, banks, hardware stores, millinery shops, cafes, a hotel, lumber yard, livery stables, a creamery, meat market, blacksmiths, and, of course, saloons. The village thrived. The population grew to 650 during the 1930's and 40's. The town was even considered a "fourth class city" according to Missouri laws at the time, but after World War II, things started to change. Transportation improvements meant that people could travel more easily to bigger towns and commute to distant jobs. Around 1950 the town's largest employer, the "Blackwater Stone Company" was met with disaster. Several fresh water springs had been hit while blasting for rock and the quarry filled with water, closed its doors and put many out of work. The town had begun a long downward spiral. In the early 60's Estil Oswald purchased several downtown buildings and gave them a purpose through whole sale antiques shops. In the late 60's, the old rock quarry found a new role as well. It opened as a swimming place, campground and picnic area. Known as "Wildcliff", it drew many people through Blackwater. The declining population leveled-off around 290 people. Fortune, however, did not smile on Blackwater for long. In 1986 a severe flood forced "Wildcliff" to close and within a year, the antique business also closed. There were few remaining businesses along with the elementary school. It seemed that Blackwater had run its course. As a community, the people of Blackwater had to decide whether to get serious or pack it in and call it quits. There emerged a group of volunteers determined to pour new blood into the revitalization efforts. The Blackwater Preservation Society was formed! The volunteers came together, formed a non-profit, and applied for grants. After many years of hard work and dedication, the town was restored to one of the best small towns in Mid-Missouri. In the last several years, Blackwater has been known to host festivals, theatre and concert events, theme dinners, weddings, movie sets, and so much more. 

The Iron Horse Hotel

In 1889, shortly after Blackwater was founded, the Frady Hotel was built to house workers and travelers on the railroad. The original, wooden building caught fire soon after and was replaced with a two story brick building. The hotel changed hands several times over the years, and became known as the City Hotel. In 1993, another fire destroyed  most of the building. The property was then purchased by the town mayor. After  a massive restoration project, the property was opened as the Iron Horse Hotel in 2002. 

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Today, the hotel runs as a unique Bed & Breakfast, hosting many guests that travel to town. Check out their gorgeous rooms at IronHorseHotel.com

The Depot

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The original Blackwater Depot was built in 1888 by the Missouri Pacific Railroad. The Depot was a busy and vital place in its early years. It was a ticket office for the railroad, a telegraph office, and station to handle all mail and freight going through the area. The depot was torn down in 1973 and rebuilt in 2008 and used as an event space until present. The new Depot is a wonderful place to hosts private and community events. To reserve the depot, please visit our Depot Reservation page. 

West End Theatre

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The building at 301 Doddridge Ave, was orginally built as a Baptist church in 1905. After changing to a Federated Church in the 1950s, the congregation added classrooms, a kitchen and restrooms onto the back of the building. In 1985 the congregation, having grown too small, gave the building to the Blackwater R-2 School across the street.  The school used it for storage until Jay Turley moved back to Blackwater in 1996. Mr. Turley was a Blackwater native, and distinguished play-writer. He wrote 62 plays which are registered in the Writers Guild. After gathering community volunteers, a theatre troupe was formed, and the community held three plays a year under the direction of Mr. Turley. After 10 years of plays, vaudevilles, and piano concerts, the building was bought and given to the Blackwater Preservation Society.  

Jay Turley passed on November 20, 2004, but his legacy to Blackwater will always be remembered. 

Check out our Events page to see the next performance at the West End Theatre. 

Telephone Museum

The two story brick building on the corner of Main Street and Trigg Avenue was completed in 1907 as the Bank of Blackwater. During the Great Depression the bank had to close it's doors, and over the several years, the building was used as a church, grocery store, and then finally a telephone company. 

In 1997, the building was given to the Blackwater Preservation Society to be used as a Telephone Museum. With an extensive collections of old telephones, switchboards, and other memorabilia, guests are sure to be fascinated at technology's change over time. 

Visitor are welcome!

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Prairie Lawn School

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The one room, county school called Prairie Lawn was built in the late 1800s and was located about 10 miles west of Blackwater. Not only is this school house historical, but unique with its pressed tin ceiling and walls. This building served as a school until 1954, when a newer school was built. The school house sat in a field for several years until the Blackwater Preservation Society purchased it and moved the building into town. 

You can still visit the school house on the corner of Trigg and Cooney. It is now the home of Prairie Lawn School Antiques.