Patee House Museum, St Joseph, Missouri (full)


In 1856 John Patee began construction of the Patee House, a huge hotel at the foot of a bluff on Penn Street at 12th in St. Joseph, Missouri.

The Patee House was an imposing structure of red brick, four stories tall and built in the shape of a “U”.

A two-story center section was enclosed on three sides. The block-size structure featured several balconies, front steps running the length of the building and an ornate cupola.

The dining room was well equipped with steam tables and the floors were covered throughout with thick, red carpeting.

The Patee House was completed in 1858 and was very profitable until the outbreak of the Civil War.

Its conversion into a shirt factory in 1885 led to massive interior alterations.

The building was vacated in 1957 and stood empty for five years.

During that time, the interior was continuously vandalized.

In 1963 the Pony Express Historical Association was formed, and through their efforts the building was saved from demolition.

In 1975 the Patee House was partially restored.

The cupola was replaced but balconies and the steps which ran the length of the west side of the hotel have not yet been reconstructed.

The interior has been largely altered through the years but retains the second-floor ballroom, several original hotel rooms and a staircase. These will be restored as funds permit.

Several areas have been renovated for use as museum space.

One such area, the”Transportation Hall,” contains antique cars, wagons, buggies, fire trucks, sleighs, and the 90-foot Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad steam locomotive and mail car.

The museum has been open free to the public since its inception.The Patee House in St. Joseph, Missouri was the headquarters for Russell, .Majors, and Waddell, the owjiers of the Pony Express.

The cannon which inaugurated the opening of the Express was fired in froit of this building on April 3, 1860. Arthur Chapman describes the Patee House as follows in The Pony Express;

In keeping with its dignity as the chief way-point between East and” West, St. Joseph had provided itself with a hotel which was one of the marvels of the time.

John Patee, in 1856, began the construction of what was to be the finest hotel in the West.

The Patee House cost $200,000, but, unfortunately for its promoter, its location was such that the project could not be made to pay.

Stage coaches ran special excursions when the hotel was opened. Guests came from Liberty, and Weston and all the way from Hannibal.

The long hitching rack in front of the hotel was lined with the “rigs” of the young bloods from St. Joseph and vicinity.

But the railroad terminal, instead of being located on Penn Street, as Patee had been assured, was built several blocks away, at Eighth and Olive streets, and St. Joseph’s marvel among hotels was a financial failure from the start.

Many distinguished guests of stage-coach days put up at the Patee House, notwithstanding.

For the east-bound it afforded the first glorious plunge into the luxuries which the “States” possessed and the frontier- lacked.

For those bound west, it afforded afarewell revelry in such luxuries.

William H. Russell and Alexander Majors were familiar figures about the Patee House when they were establishing their stage line and later the Pony Express.

Richard F. Burton, keen to penetrate the mysteries of Mormondom; Horace Greeley and the correspondent Albert D. Richardson, intent on “writing up” the Colorado gold camps; adventurers headed for the distant excitements of Washoe; sportsmen who wanted to shoot buffaloes and perhaps have a not-too-dangerous brush with Indians such figures gave the corridors of the Patee House something more than local swank.

“Ripples” Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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Robert Dunfee