10 of the Most Interesting Buildings in Missouri

In Missouri, a wide array of architectural styles can be found throughout the entire state, ranging from ornate historical buildings to modern masterpieces that feature clean lines and glass galore. While many of Missouri’s architectural marvels are well over a century old that were constructed from brick, marble, and sandstone, there are a few that have only recently been built and were constructed from concrete, fiberglass, and structural insulated panels.

If you live in Missouri or are planning to visit the state in the near future, there are several buildings you should make an effort to see, especially if you are interested in architecture. Here are 10 of the most interesting buildings in Missouri.

1. Parking Garage of the Kansas City Public Library

Often mentioned on lists of the most unusual buildings in the world, the Kansas City Public Library’s parking garage is truly an amazing sight. Made of signboard mylar, the wall, constructed in 2006 looks like a row of humongous books lined up on a library shelf. The spine of each book, which includes classics such as A Tale of Two Cities, Romeo and Juliet, and Charlotte’s Web, measures 25 feet by 9 feet. Not only was the unique design the result of input from the community, but they also choose which books were featured.

2. St. Louis Priory Chapel in Creve Coeur

Designed by famed architect Gyo Obata and completed in 1962, the St. Louis Priory Chapel is frequently referred to as a “modernist masterpiece.” The building features a flower-shaped concrete shell and three symmetrical tiers of concrete arches that have been whitewashed and filled with Kalwall, a translucent fiberglass material. Sitting at the top of the church is the belfry, which is supported by steel structures hidden in the concrete below. At night, the interior light makes it appear as if the building is glowing.

3. Thomas Dunn Learning Center in St. Louis

Designed by William A. Bowersox of Ittner & Bowersox Architects and built in 1991 with an emphasis on energy conservation and natural lighting, the Thomas Dunn Learning Center has won numerous awards. It is considered one of Missouri’s 25 Architectural Treasures and features a masonry and clay tile exterior that allows the building to maintain the architectural consistency of the park it is located in.

4. Cave House in Festus

Easily one of the most unique properties in Missouri, the Cave House was purchased by the Sleeper Family in 2003 after they ran across a listing for the 17,000 sq. ft. cave on eBay. (Prior to this, the cave had functioned as “Caveland,” a roller skating rink and concert venue.) For the next four years, they lived in a tent outside the cave as they worked to create a home that includes three bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a laundry room, a kitchen, living area, and tons of storage space. In May 2008, the home, including an indoor natural groundwater swimming pool, was completed. Today, the family still calls the cave home and has a website dedicated to telling about their adventures living in a cave.

5. Samuel Cupples House in St. Louis

Designed by Thomas Annan and completed in 1890, the Cupples House was named after the wealthy businessman who owned the 3-story magnificent mansion that was built using purple Colorado sandstone. Considered by many in the architectural community to be a perfect example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, the home features an array of intricate exterior details, including gargoyles, rounded copper towers, chiseled vines along the balconies, and mythical animals climbing the rain gutters. The home’s interior is just as detailed as the exterior, which may be why it now operates as a museum owned by St. Louis University.

6. Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins in Camdenton

Started in 1905 by local businessman Robert Snyder, construction on what was meant to be a turn-of-the-century castle overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks below stalled after Snyder’s death in one of the first automobile fatalities. His sons eventually completed the project, though Ha Ha Tonka Castle was gutted by a 1942 fire. Today, only the skeleton of the European-style castle remains, yet it still attracts visitors all over the country who are captivated by the ruins.

7. Vine Street Workhouse Castle in Kansas City

Built in 1897 and designed by A. Wallace Love and James Oliver Hog in the Romanesque revival style that was hugely popular at the time, the Vine Street Workhouse Castle originally served as a city jail. The 4-story structure castle-like structure was constructed from chiseled yellow limestone, which was quarried by prisoners. Abandoned in 1972, the castle was in a state of collapse until a local couple (one was an architect) offered to clean it up if exchange for having their wedding ceremony there in 2014. The city agreed to their request.

8. Home of Architect Jamie Darnell in Kansas City

Designed and built by the architect in 2008, this family home was constructed using a combination of concrete, glue-laminated timber, chain link fencing, ipe decking, and corrugated copper. Situated atop a bluff that looks down over the city, the one-story home’s main level is raised so that the windows offer views of the tree branches and sky instead of the ground. It sits on a slab of unfinished concrete and was framed using structural insulated panels that helps keep energy costs down.

9. Jasper County Courthouse in Carthage

Designed by Max A. Orlopp Jr., the Jasper County Courthouse was constructed in 1894 using local marble, Portland cement bead, copper, and aluminum window casing. The Richardson Romanesque-style courthouse has the appearance of a medieval castle complete with arches, turrets, and towers, including the dominant, central clock tower. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and remains in use today.

10. Nodaway County Courthouse Tower in Maryville

Built in 1881 on the square in Maryville, the Nodaway County Courthouse was designed by the firm of Eckel and Mann in a High Victorian Italianate style. It features thick red brick exterior walls, extensive ornamental stonework, projecting bays, towers, and gabled wall dormers. Despite being only 3-stories, the courthouse dominates the Maryville skyline. In 1979, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

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