Historic Downtown Waynesville Walking Tour

Which building on Waynesville’s public square was owned by Royalty? Where was Waynesville’s Opera House? Why is Waynesville “The Birthplace of the Byway”? Pulaski County Tourism Bureau answers these questions in their free Historic Downtown Waynesville Walking Tour brochure.

World War II era soldiers on the Square in downtown Waynesville, Missouri.
Soldiers on the Square in Waynesville in 1941. Image courtesy of Jan and Terry Primas.

Waynesville’s history comes to life as you explore downtown with your brochure in hand. Based on the research of noted Pulaski County historians, this self-guided tour describes twenty-six points of interest in downtown Waynesville, Missouri. The brochure is your blueprint for an afternoon of investigating the charming community.

During your tour you will discover century-old buildings and remnants of village life before Route 66 came to town. Stand in the footsteps where pioneers and early settlers forded the Roubidoux River. You will gain an understanding of the tragedy of the Trail of Tears. You will also witness how the arrival of neighboring Fort Leonard Wood forever changed the look of Waynesville.

For Adventurers

Adventurers from all walks of life recommend the tour. Route 66 enthusiast explore the city to come to know it better- to make it more than just a name on a map.

The tour is a fun learning activity. Consequently, it can be used in homeschool lesson plans.

However, the tour is not just for visitors, travelers, and tourists. Locals enjoy learning the unique stories about the buildings and locations they see in their everyday travels.

More to Explore

Bring your camera along on your tour. Many of Waynesville’s historic buildings are photogenic and inspiring! As a result, Plein air painters and artists have captured Waynesville’s cityscape in their art.  

Bring your appetite! Downtown Waynesville is home to international flavors and pub grub that will make your taste buds sing! Indulge in Missouri wines, Ozarks craft beer, and gourmet coffee.

Ask for your Historic Downtown Waynesville Walking Tour when you order your official Pulaski County Visitors Guide . Many downtown merchants have them on hand. The free guide is also stocked in the outdoor kiosk at the Pulaski County Visitors Center in Saint Robert, Missouri.

Visit the Old Stagecoach Stop- Virtually!

The Old Stagecoach Stop on the Square in Waynesville, Missouri is closed due to coronavirus and stay-at-home orders. You can still visit this beloved Pulaski County landmark online though!

Pulaski County Tourism Bureau caught up with the Foundation’s president, Jeannie Porter, and past-President Jan Primas, on how the organization is still meeting their mission- and how you can teach your kids Pulaski County history during the pandemic.

Exterior of the Old Stagecoach Stop in Waynesville, Missouri.
Exterior of the Old Stagecoach Stop in Waynesville, Missouri.

Pulaski County Tourism Burau: It is easy to see that the coronavirus crisis has brought travel to a standstill. How has that affected your organization?

Old Stagecoach Stop Foundation: Sadly, we were not able to open the Museum on April 4th as scheduled. Nor were we able to complete our cleaning and preparations for opening. We always look forward to the many traveling visitors and military families who are looking for things to do while here for graduations. 

PCTB: The Old Stagecoach Stop Museum usually opens the first Saturday in April. What was it like for the docents when they learned they would not be able to throw open the doors and welcome visitors on schedule?

OSS: We were disappointed but knew that delaying our opening was the right thing to do. At least one county in Missouri had put a “Stay at home order” in place when we made our decision. Docents at the OSS are all volunteers, many are Seniors, we have no paid staff and our visitors come from all around the US and overseas. Considering all those factors, it seemed a sound decision. We all look forward to our tourist season which runs from April thru September. We were beginning to fill out our calendar for the 6-month period and dates were filling up. We will need to do some adjusting to the calendar when we are able to set our opening date, after allowing time to do our spring cleaning. 

PCTB: Your organization has transformed the Old Stagecoach Stop building from an unloved crumbling mess to a beloved Waynesville treasure. How is the building being cared for during Missouri’s Stay-At-Home order? What are some of the associated challenges?

The Old Stagecoach Stop as it appeared in 1977. Image by James Reist.
The Old Stagecoach Stop as it appeared in 1977. Image by James Reist.

OSS: Stay-at-Home order or not, our old building takes lots of loving care year-round. Luckily, we have talented board members that can help with the maintenance of the building. The Old Stagecoach Stop is 165 years old. It seems there is always something to be done. The front exterior of the building was painted this fall, and the chimneys had some sealant applied. This summer/fall we plan to have the rest of the building painted. A new water heater was also installed this spring. Building maintenance is a never-ending process.

PCTB: Does the OSS maintain any other buildings on the property? How do they fit into the Old Stagecoach Stop’s story?

Yes. In 2003 the Foundation purchased the lot behind the Old Stagecoach Stop. It had been a part of W. W. McDonald’s property in the 1850’s. The yard extends back to highway 17. A.S. and Lulu McNeese built the two-room brick building during WW II to provide rental rooms. When acquired, the McNeese Building, as it is now named, was used for storage. Plans were to eventually make it part of our tour after some restoration. We soon discovered that not to be feasible. In the past year we have been working to make it the monthly meeting place for our Board of Directors meetings. Some repairs and painting the interior and a new roof have made that possible.

The McNeese building on the Old Stagecoach Stop property in Waynesville, Missouri. Image by Laura Huffman, August 2019.
The McNeese building on the Old Stagecoach Stop property in Waynesville, Missouri.

PCTB: When the OSS can open again will you continue to offer free admission?

OSS: Absolutely. We have never charged our Saturday visitors an admission fee, though we do accept donations and we sell souvenirs. We do however charge for tours scheduled at times other than our scheduled hours. We try our best to accommodate tour requests from groups, bus tours, and families. We charge $2 per person for those tours.

PCTB: Do you have any projects that volunteers can help you with virtually right now? Historical research, grant opportunities, transcription work, brochure design, etc.? If so, what are your needs and how can someone sign up to pitch in?

OSS: Currently, due to COVID 19, there is nothing. Once we reopen, there will be opportunities. If interested you could stop by on a Saturday or contact our President, Jeanie Porter at (573) 336-3561.

PCTB:  For parents who wish to add more Pulaski County, Missouri history to homeschool lesson plans what parts of your website would you recommend they use? Any other sections of your website that would be especially interesting and helpful?

OSS: There are three sections of the website that could be used to develop lessons. They are: Route 66 Auto Tour, Old Settlers Gazette Archives, and the Podcasts. All lend themselves to the lessons of history and one could develop some interesting lessons around them. Even the Vintage Image Gallery could be used for some creative writing activities.

Historic marker outside the Old Stagecoach Stop in Waynesville, Missouri. Image by Laura Huffman.
Historic marker outside the Old Stagecoach Stop in Waynesville, Missouri.

PCTB: How happy would it make your heart to see pictures of the OSS from past visits prior to the COVID-19 crisis? How can they get them to you?

OSS: We would be delighted to accept photos visitors have taken during a visit. Contact our webmaster by email at tprimas@mac.com.  He can let you know the best way to send them.

PCTB: How can people stay in touch with the Old Stagecoach Stop during this time? How can we find out when you are ready for visitors again?

OSS: Visit our website (www.oldstagecoachstop.org)  or our Facebook https://www.facebook.com/oldstagecoachstop) page.

History & Heroes- Hector John Polla

Hector John Polla was born in Lexington, Missouri in 1916. He graduated from Higginsville High School and Wentworth Military Academy Junior College before heading to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1937. Upon his graduation from West Point in 1941, Lt. Polla was deployed to the Philippines and stationed on the Bataan Peninsula.

He was there when the Japanese attacked on December 8, 1941. His courage and gallantry during the defense of the Bataan resulted in his being awarded the Silver Star Medal. He survived the Bataan Death March and spent nearly three years in Japanese prisoner of war camps. Survivors of the war camps praise him for the leadership, fortitude, and skill he demonstrated during the hard years of captivity. Lt. Polla died tragically in January 1945 after the Japanese ship on which he and other prisoners were being transported was bombed by American forces.

1LT Hector J. Polla (1916-1945)

In addition to the Silver Star Medal, Polla’s military medals and other citations include the Purple Heart Medal, two Bronze Star Medals, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze service star, the American Defense Service Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award, and the Philippines Defense Ribbon.

1LT Hector John Polla is the namesake of Polla Road. Polla Road connects Fort Leonard Wood’s west gate with the town of Waynesville.

History & Heroes is an occasional series of interesting facts regarding namesakes and historical figures in Pulaski County, Missouri.

Historical sketch of 1LT Hector John Polla provided by Fort Leonard Wood.

Purple Heart Trail in Pulaski County, Missouri

Take a drive along Missouri’s interstates and highways and you are bound to notice signage depicting various counties and cites as Purple Heart communities on the Purple Heart Trail.

The purpose of the Purple Heart Trail is to create a symbolic and honorary system of roads, highways, bridges, and other monuments that give tribute to the men and women who have received the Purple Heart medal.

Pulaski County was the first county in Missouri to receive the Purple Heart County designation.

The Purple Heart Trail accomplishes this honorary goal by creating a visual reminder to those who use the road system that others have paid a high price for their freedom to travel and live in a free society. Signs placed at various locations annotate those roads and highways where legislation has been passed to designate parts of the national road system as The Purple Heart Trail.

The Purple Heart Trail was established in 1992 by the Military Order of the Purple Heart to be a symbolic trail throughout all 50 states to commemorate and honor all men and women who have been wounded or killed in combat while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The Purple Heart Trail originates at a monument in Mt Vernon, Virginia. Mt Vernon is the burial location of George Washington. This monument marks the origin of the Purple Heart Trail.

Saint Robert & Waynesville

During January 2013, Saint Robert, in Pulaski County, became the first city on the Interstate 44 corridor to become a Purple Heart City on the Purple Heart Trail. In March, Saint Robert’s sister city, Waynesville became the fifth city in Missouri to receive the Purple Heart City designation, joining in Missouri’s effort to honor those veterans who have been wounded or killed while in military service to our country. The declaration follows legislative action which made Missouri’s entire sections of Interstate 44 and 70 a Purple Heart Trail.

“The City of St. Robert seeks to recognize veterans who are recipients of the Purple Heart veteran. The Board of Alderman desire to proclaim the city of St Robert to be a Purple Heart city, honoring the sacrifices of our nation’s men and women in uniform serving to protect our freedoms.”

City of Saint Robert City Administrator Anita Ivey

Missouri’s First Purple Heart County

History was made March 25, 2013 when Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Department of Missouri, Everett Kelly made his third trip to Pulaski County in as many months to present Pulaski County Commissioners with a plaque and flag recognizing the county as a Purple Heart County. Pulaski County was the first county in Missouri to receive this designation.

History was made yet again June 3, 2013 when Disabled American Veterans Harry L Herron Chapter No 49 was recognized as a Purple Heart Supportive Chapter by the Military Order of the Purple Heart. D.A.V. Chapter 49 becomes the first service chapter to receive this designation nationwide.

Crocker, Missouri was also designated as a Purple Heart city in 2013.

“The City of Waynesville is honored to be included in this designation, as we honor the service of our valiant military.” 

City of Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman

These designations are another indicator of the prevalent patriotism that runs deep in Pulaski County, Missouri- home to heroes!

For information on booking your next military reunion in Pulaski County USA (a Purple Heart County and home of Fort Leonard Wood) please visit https://visitpulaskicounty.org/groups-reunions and email Karen Hood at karenh@pulaskicountyusa.com.

Various forms of this article were published in 2013.

There’s More Than You Thought in Pulaski County!

Whether you are visiting Pulaski County, Missouri to attend a military graduation at Fort Leonard Wood, traveling and exploring Route 66, paddling and fishing our Ozark Mountains streams, or simply basking in the splendor of our lush Ozarks backdrop and panoramic views, you will discover that there is more than you thought in Pulaski County USA!

Four time Emmy Award winner and Instagram Husband Jeff Houghton learns that there is more than you thought in Pulaski County, Missouri! Jeff discovers small town quirky charm, befriends local rapper LL Cool Gray and scubas the land! Featuring a special appearance by Bruce.

Pulaski County Visitors Center

Your FUN Headquarters for Fort Leonard Wood and the heart of the Ozarks!
Your FUN headquarters for Fort Leonard Wood and the heart of the Ozarks!

Make Pulaski County Visitors Center your first stop! Our friendly team will make you feel at home. Their knowledge of Pulaski County’s communities will have you navigating the area like a local!

The Visitors Center is packed with brochures, maps, information, and local restaurant menus. It is well-known along Missouri’s Interstate 44 corridor for its clean restrooms, complimentary coffee, and free wi-fi.

Our Visitors Center is helpful before you arrive as well! Order your Visitors Guide to plan your trip ahead of time. This guide is stuffed with useful tips, lodging information, and inspiring activity ideas.

More Than You Thought!

While touring Pulaski County you will discover intriguing attractions, museums, and historic sites. Find your next treasure at unique boutiques and antique stores.

Old Stagecoach Stop in downtown Waynesville, Missouri
Tour the Old Stagecoach Stop!
Pulaski County Museum on Route 66 in downtown Waynesville, Missouri
Explore the Pulaski County Museum!

You won’t go hungry here! Grab some pub grub or comfort food from a Mom & Pop eatery. Tour and taste the globe at a one-of-a-kind German, Greek, or Korean restaurant. Sample craft beers at a taproom or tavern. Nationally recognized chains also call Pulaski County home.

Don’t be surprised to stumble upon a fun festival or one of our family-friendly signature events during your visit!  

Small Towns, Big Personalities!

Explore Pulaski County with confidence! Our Historic Driving Tours brochure will guide you through our Route 66 communities of Hooker, Devils Elbow, Grandview, Saint Robert, Waynesville, Buckhorn, Laquey, and Gascozark. This brochure also includes a turn-by-turn driving tour of our railroad boomtown communities of Dixon, Hancock, Crocker, Swedeborg, and Richland. A driving tour of Fort Leonard Wood’s historic highlights is featured in this free brochure as well.

The Waynesville Walking Tour brochure highlights historic points of interest in and around the downtown area. This brochure is complimentary.

Ask for both brochures when you request your Official Visitors Guide or pick up a copy of each at our Visitors Center in Saint Robert. Many area restaurants and businesses keep copies on hand for visitors.