Jun 10, 2024

Patee House Museum: attracting tourists to St. Joseph for 63 years

Posted Jun 10, 2024 2:00 PM
The Patee House Museum at 12th and Penn, St. Joseph/file photo
The Patee House Museum at 12th and Penn, St. Joseph/file photo


St. Joseph Post

It has been around for 63 years and still attracts visitors from throughout the United States and the world.

The Patee House Museum, the one-time headquarters of the famed Pony Express, hosts a wide variety of exhibits. Next door is the former home of Jesse James.

Director Gary Chilcote says visitors to the James home step back in time.

“When they get in there, they sign the guest book and step in the front room and we play a message that tells what happened in that house on April 3rd, 1882,” Chilcote says.

Chilcote says the Jesses James home plays down all the legends and rumors associated with James and simply tries to convey history as best it can. The museum no longer attempts to entice visitors with the slogan, “See the bullet hole.”

Chilcote says the museum simply wants to tell of James’ last days in St. Joseph, where he went by the name Tom Howard. James died at the hands of Robert Ford, who shot him while James attempted to adjust a picture on the wall.

“So, there’s a lot of rumors dealing with the house,” Chilcote says. “We’ve tried to put away all those rumors. We painted it white with green shudders, because that was the color when Jesse lived there.”

The Patee House began as a luxury hotel in 1858. It became a woman’s college, then a factory that produced shirts and overalls. During World War II, it was pressed into duty, making uniforms. Sixty-three years ago, it became a museum.

The Patee House is packed. It has model trains that have been donated. There is a 1941 carousel that operates daily. A new collection features the early inventions of Thomas Edison.

Oh, and there is that huge train, an 1860 steam locomotive.

All that draws visitors from all over.

“It’s amazing to me how many people hear about the Patee House and come to see it,” Chilcote says. “And they don’t just spend 15 minutes. They come and spend two or three hours, because that’s how long it takes to see all the exhibits.”

As a nod to its beginnings, the Patee House Museum now has five rooms on the third floor restored to reflect its origins as a luxury hotel.

File photo
File photo

You can follow Brent on X @GBrentKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.