America’s National Churchill Museum
Every trip to Fulton should include a visit to America’s Churchill Museum. It’s basically a presidential library dedicated to a British Prime Minister, but why is it located in Fulton of all places?
Never in the field of Fulton history was so much owed by so many to so few. In particular, the organizers who brought Winston Churchill to speak at Westminster College. It was March 5, 1946, about a year after Sir Winston Churchill stepped down as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Despite public scrutiny as a war hawk, he sought to raise attention to a European crisis that would dominate the world for the next fifty years. Soviet Russia refused to withdraw from the land it occupied following World War II. When President Truman personally invited him to speak in Truman’s home state, he saw it as an opportunity to deliver one of the most important speeches in history – The Sinews of Peace. He warned that “an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” The world listened, and the Cold War started in response.
The Churchill Museum is a monument to the Cold War, giving details of Churchill’s life as an innovator and disruptor and his leadership during England’s “darkest hour”. It also shows Winston Churchill the person, with his difficult childhood and unwavering devotion to his wife, Clementine. Love letters between Winston and Clemmie fill the spaces between war and strive, giving insight to the man behind the fierce facade. You’ll leave the museum with not only a more exceptional understanding of the most pivotal war in history but also one of the most significant leaders of the time.
The Berlin Wall / Breakthrough
How monumental was Churchill’s speech in Fulton? From the museum’s webpage:
Forty six years, two months, and two days after Winston Churchill’s monumental speech, Gorbachev had brought Westminster and the world full circle — proclaiming an end to the Cold War and the beginning of a new era holding the promise of peace.
Even before Gorbachev’s The River of Time and the Imperative of Action speech proclaimed the end of the Cold War, there were signs of the iron curtain lifting. Four years earlier, the Berlin Wall fell, reuniting one of the ancient capitals of Europe trapped behind that line. The largest portion of the Wall outside of Germany is the Breakthrough sculpture outside of the Churchill Museum.
Edwina Sandys, the granddaughter of Winston Churchill, created the sculpture, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the museum’s support. She envisioned an 11 foot, 8-panel sculpture, but 4-foot-wide sections cost $60,000 to $200,000 to purchase. Instead, she met with East German officials who were intrigued by the monument’s placement at the sight of Churchill’s famous speech. They offered to let her choose her favorite sections for the project, and she selected a segment from near the iconic Brandenburg Gates with the word Unwahr, German for lies, boldly graffitied on the concrete.
People say this sculpture is the most significant American monument since the Vietnam War Memorial. It’s so important that Gorbachev opened his speech with a procession through one of the cut-outs in Breakthrough.
Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury / Christopher Wren
The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury is a Christopher Wren church and perhaps the most photogenic area of the Churchill Museum. It’s an 800-year old church that rose from the ashes twice to find a new home in Fulton that’s inextricably linked to Winston Churchill.
The burning occurred during the Great Fire of London in 1666. The church and surrounding parish were completely destroyed. King Charles II commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild 52 churches destroyed by the fire, including the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury. The building stood for another 400 years until a German firebombing raid during the Blitz again destroyed the grounds in 1940.
The church remained in ruins until 1965. During Churchill’s second term as PM, he worked with representatives of Westminster College to move the gutted church to Fulton and restore it to its former glory. The phoenix rose again and was rededicated in May of 1969, one month before Apollo 11 landed on the Moon.
The Brick District
The Churchill Museum isn’t the only place where Fulton’s respect for history shows through. The town has done a fabulous job of preserving and rebuilding its historic Brick District. The district has over one hundred locally-owned restaurants, retailers, and businesses, including the newly renovated Brick District Playhouse.
The Brick District is home to some of the best restaurants in Fulton, including Cuban-style lunches at the Fulton Cafe and the upscale foodie experience at Beks gastropub and steakhouse. It’s also home to a series of festivals, such as the Fulton Street Fair and the William C Potter Foundation BBQ Contest. In our opinion, the Brick District is everything good about small-town America.
Stinson Creek Trail
The Stinson Creek Trail is a short, 3-4 mile rail trail that runs along the banks of Stinson Creek. It’s a bit short to anchor a bike getaway, but it could be worked into a greater Columbia bike weekend. However, if you’re coming to town and can carry your bikes easily, it’s a beautiful ride and worth loading the bikes on the rack.
Now, you might ask about the tie-ins for history… There are two historic bridges along the trail. The first is a railroad bridge that was originally built in 1878 by the Kellogg Brothers Co. over the Sin-A-Bar Creek in Grain Valley, Missouri. It was moved to its current site over Stinson Creek in 1902. What makes it particularly interesting is that it’s primarily built of iron instead of steel. There’s also a covered bridge in Memorial Park that was built in 2000 but based on a design from the mid-1800s.
Loganberry Inn Bed and Breakfast
The Loganberry Inn Bed and Breakfast is precisely the hidden gem type of accommodations you hope to find in a small town like Fulton, with a list of famous visitors that you wouldn’t expect anyplace else. The grand Victorian house was built in 1899. When you enter, it’s hard to say if you feel like you’re stepping back in time or entering a dollhouse. Maybe it’s a little of both. You’re walking distance from the Churchill Museum and the Brick District, and it’s only a short ride to get on to the Stinson Creek Trail.
Since this is the nicest accommodations in Fulton, it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a long guest list of dignitaries who have come for the Churchill Museum. Famous visitors include Margaret Thatcher, Scotland Yard detectives, Winston Churchill’s daughter Mary Soames, and Polish President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa. We stayed in the Thatcher suite, complete with a picture of Ronald Regan and Margret Thatcher hung on the wall.
Wrapping Up Historic Fulton
Are you convinced that the historical things to do in Fulton make for a unique and historical (maybe even romantic 😉) getaway? We haven’t even mentioned the classic cars at the Autoworld Museum or the romantic Serenity Winery yet, but perhaps we should. If nothing else, you should check out the winery’s live music lineup on Saturday night and see if anything tickles your fancy. It might just give you enough romantic momentum to overcome Ronnie and Margie watching from the wall when you get back to Loganberry Inn. LOL.
Disclosure: A big thank you to The Beenders Walker Group for setting up a fantastic itinerary and hosting us along with their partners Visit Fulton Missouri! For more travel inspiration check out their Instagram and Facebook accounts.
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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