Discover a wealth of cultural history at the Lake of the Ozarks' different museums. The four historically-focused museums offer a glimpse into the storied tapestry of life in the area from the original Native American inhabitants to early European settlers and beyond. Visitors can learn about the area's role in the American Civil War, the creation of Bagnell Dam, the lost and nearly forgotten towns that now lay under the six billion gallons of water that make up the Lake of the Ozarks and the first glory days of what is now the "Best Recreational Lake" in the nation.
Through interesting exhibits and fascinating artifacts, the Lake area's notable people and places come to life at the Camden County Museum in Linn Creek, the Miller County Museum in Tuscumbia, the Morgan County Historical Museum in Versailles and Willmore Lodge in Lake Ozark.
These museums also serve as community centers hosting entertaining and educational presentations, ice cream socials, arts and craft shows, art classes, classic car cruise-ins, dinner theaters and special holiday events as well. Entry to most museums is free of charge, though donations are welcome and appreciated.
Living exhibits of several varieties are demonstrated at the Camden County Museum.
The building that houses the Camden County Museum, 206 S. Locust Street in Linn Creek, operated as the Linn Creek School from 1930 until the mid-1970s. So, it's only fitting that this building which used to be filled with classrooms now serves as an educational epicenter for the history of the Camden County region. Those former classrooms have since been transformed into reproductions of an old pioneer school, a courtroom and a vault from the old Camden County Bank. Also on display are antique medical equipment, vintage firearms, Civil War memorabilia, Native American artifacts as well as other treasures from a bygone era. The Camden County Museum also hosts living history events, regular dinner theater performances, genealogy programs and other events throughout the year.
The Camden County Museum is open on weekdays from March 1 through mid-December from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum is staffed solely by volunteers, so it is strongly suggested visitors call ahead to ensure the museum is open. For more information about the Camden County Museum or for a full schedule of museum events, please call 573-346-7191 or visit the museum's website at CamdenCountyMuseum.org.
Two authentic rough-hewn cabins let visitors at the Miller County Museum get a glimpse of life in the Ozarks in the 1800s.
In Tuscumbia, the Miller County Museum now inhabits a former hardware store built in the 1940s. This museum, located at 2005 Highway 52, features over 6,000 square feet of artifacts on display all from Miller County. The displays cover different subjects ranging in time from before the Civil War and extending into the 1940s. Exhibits include a replica of a one-room school house and a reproduction of an old farmhouse, complete with a large collection of antiquated farm implements and hand tools. There also are relics of the Osage tribes, Civil War items and 19th century clothing. Another highlight of this museum is two authentic rough-hewn log cabins located on the property. These cabins were moved from their original sites in Miller County and meticulously rebuilt on the museum grounds to give visitors an idea of what life was like in the Ozarks in the 1800s.
The Miller County Museum is open from mid-May through mid-October on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information about the Miller County Museum or for a full calendar of Museum events, please call 573-369-3500 or visit the museum's website at MillerCountyMuseum.org.
The Morgan County Museum in Versailles resides in the former Martin Hotel.
Step into the rich history of Morgan County at the former Martin Hotel, once the oldest continuously-operated hotel owned by one family in the U.S. The Morgan County Museum, 120 N. Monroe in Versailles, now resides in the landmark hotel, which was open from 1853 until 1965. Originally owned and operated by Samuel and Elizabeth Martin, the Martin Hotel served as overnight accommodations for legendary guests including two U.S. Presidents, Grover Cleveland and Harry S Truman, as well as the famous showman P.T. Barnum and the infamous outlaw Frank James, a member of the notorious James-Younger Gang. The 28 rooms of this beautiful building are filled with themed exhibits dedicated to its famous visitors and antiques specific to the history of Morgan County. Inside the museum, visitors can enjoy replicas of an old post office, doctor's office, a 1927 beauty parlor and a popular war-themed room and more.
Versailles' Morgan County Museum is open on weekdays from May 1 through September from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Weekend tours are available by appointment only. Admission for adults is $3 and $1 for children. For more information or for a full calendar of museum events, please call 573-378-5747 or visit the museum's Facebook page at TinyURL.com/MorganCoMuseum.
The rustic exterior of Willmore Lodge, which houses the Bagnell Dam History Museum, in Lake Ozark.
Willmore Lodge, 1 Willmore Lane in Lake Ozark, offers the most comprehensive history of Lake of the Ozarks. The museum features exhibits about life before Bagnell Dam, from the Native American tribes that first inhabited the area to the early planning stages and erection of Bagnell Dam, the filling of Lake of the Ozarks and the early days of this outdoor recreation haven. The building itself has an interesting story, too: the Adirondack-style lodge was built in 1930 as Union Electric's main administrative offices and entertainment facility throughout the construction of the dam during the height of the Great Depression. Today, the two-story log structure houses both the museum and the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. And, from a large deck located on the backside of the building, visitors to Willmore Lodge can take in a panoramic view of the Osage River feeding into Lake of the Ozarks.
Willmore Lodge is open all year on Mondays though Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information about the history of Willmore Lodge, the museum or for a schedule of events, please call 1-800-451-4117 or visit WillmoreLodge.com.
More background on the history and heritage of the Lake of the Ozarks region is available on the "History" page under the "Things to Do" tab on the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau's award-winning website, www.FunLake.com, or by calling 1-800-FUN-LAKE (386-5253). Also on the website, visitors can find more fun activities, attractions and events, as well as information on all lodging and dining options at the "Best Recreational Lake" in the Nation.