This article appears in July 25 Travel page.
The central Missouri town of Fulton is home to three unexpected historic gems: The Churchill National Museum, the historic Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, and the largest piece of the Berlin Wall located outside of Germany. The piece is displayed in a sculpture titled “Breakthrough”, created by artist Edwina Sandys, the statesman’s granddaughter.
The sculpture stands tall in front of the museum and church located on the campus of Westminster College.
One would not expect to find a museum dedicated to a prime minister of the United Kingdom in a U.S. town described by Renee Graham, director of tourism for Callaway County, as “prairies, rolling hills and river valleys, where south meets north and east meets west.” However, it came about when the agricultural town’s people approached Missouri native President Harry Truman, asking him to invite Winston Churchill to Westminster College in 1946. The location is where Churchill delivered his famous “Iron Curtain” speech. In May, a celebration was hosted to honor the museum’s 50th anniversary.
Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury is a special find. The 800-year-old English parish was re-designed by Christopher Wren in 1670 after the Great Fire of London. The church was partially destroyed during the bombing of London in 1940. In 1965 it was sailed to Virginia brick by brick — 7,000 stones to be exact — and found its home in Fulton. Reconstruction took place in the 1960s. It is the only building in the U.S. designed by Wren. Before sailing the ocean blue and ending up in central Missouri, the church was known as the place where William Shakespeare prayed for good reviews.
A visit to the museum offers a deep look into the life of Churchill and the history of St. Mary’s. Visitors can enter the gymnasium where Churchill delivered the “Iron Curtain” speech. Museumgoers get a look at the beautiful interior of the church and the Mander Organ. Noel Mander, as a young soldier, remembers the sounds of the organs in the churches “shrieking in agony” during the bombing of London Dec. 29, 1940. He became involved with the restoration of St. Mary’s at the college and with building the organ. Many organists have called the St. Mary’s Mander organ the finest Baroque organ in America.
The museum offers visitors more than 10,000 objects in its collection and hosts traveling and temporary exhibits, has a center for learning for teachers and students, and holds free public conferences and lectures by prominent speakers.
For more information visit nationalchurchillmuseum.org.
To continue to follow in the footsteps of history, book a room at the Loganberry Inn, where Margret Thatcher once stayed while in Fulton. Daniel Boone also has been a guest in the home.
Other things to see while in Fulton include a walk in the Brick District, where travelers will find more than 100 independent restaurants, stores and businesses, the playhouse and Art House.
A must-see for car and history buffs is the Auto World Car Museum. The variety of automobiles is amazing, and the displays are well documented with car descriptions and history. The museum takes visitors on a journey though the last 100 years of vehicles, and each is placed in areas created to take visitors back to the years and times of the automobiles.
Visit autoworldmuseum.com for hours and more information.
Celebrating 200 years in 2020
Graham said that those in Fulton have always had a bold streak.
“Each of these bold actions inspired visits by presidents, prime ministers, heads of state, business leaders and humanitarians. I don’t think any small community in ‘fly-over country’ comes close to hosting as many world leaders as Fulton,” she said. “We are a stouthearted, vibrant community. You see it in our independent businesses, our creative endeavors and our civic pride. As we prepare to celebrate our county’s bicentennial in 2020, we continue to do what it takes to remain relevant while preserving our sense of place.”
For more information on lodging, restaurants, and things to do and see in Fulton and Callaway County, go to visitfulton.com.