Missouri Main Street Connection Inc. (MMSC) partnered with the Missouri Humanities Council and the National Endowment for Humanities through ARPA in awarding $5,000 grants to 12 selected communities through a competitive process to fund projects focused on strengthening heritage and cultural tourism in rural Missouri. The grant helped each community implement a project and market itself to prospective visitors. These heritage tourism projects gave added value to the economies in each community through a range of projects from murals to walking tours to new monuments and building plaques that all highlight each respective community’s history for residents and visitors. One of the Marketing Heritage and Cultural Tourism grants was awarded to Warrensburg Main Street in March of 2022 with the project being completed in October of 2022.
Warrensburg Main Street is the Main Street organization for Warrensburg, Missouri. They are no stranger to the hard work of Main Street as they have found creative solutions to revitalize the heart of their community, the downtown, since the late 1970’s when a group of visionary business and civic leaders formed the organization. The most recent project implemented to promote their downtown is the “Stories of Downtown” historic walking tour highlighting their historic buildings in the historic commercial district made possible through funding Warrensburg Main Street received from MMSC's Marketing Heritage and Cultural Tourism grant.
“Stories of Downtown” blends the virtual world with the real-world using plaques, QR codes, and information printed on the plaque and hosted on their website highlighting over 50 buildings around the downtown district. The plaques are on buildings selected for this historic tour spread throughout the district. The plaques have the address, year the building was built, and a brief description or other important facts about the building style. The QR code is on the plaque itself and takes the participant to the Warrensburg Main Street website where there is a landing page with comprehensive descriptions of each building as well as pictures of the building from past and present. Warrensburg’s ambitious goal of creating this intensive and immersive project were made possible through its incredible use of community partners that include a variety of community organizations, local groups, and the University of Central Missouri.
The design, content, and production work to implement this project took a collaboration with several local partners. Design and content were the first components Warrensburg Main Street addressed by working closely with Johnson County Historical Society, Warrensburg Preservation Commission, and the technical writing class at the University of Central Missouri. First, during several workshops and brainstorming sessions, students in the University of Central Missouri’s technical writing class developed the content and path of the historic walking tour including what information they researched and created would go on the plaque and on the website as well as which buildings in the district along Pine and Holden Street would get plaques, as they could not at this stage add 50 plaques. After this step, the Johnson County Historical Society assisted Warrensburg Main Street at selecting the buildings along Pine and Holden Street with significant and noteworthy history that would benefit the most from having a plaque. This collaboration gave each participating group a new way for visitors and locals to engage with downtown and its history, but also gave them a chance to learn about each other. Other local partners like a marketing company, local photographer, and local printing company were utilized to produce the plaques and webpages that would present and hold the information created and photos taken.
From start to finish the “Stories of Downtown” historic walking tour project was a community project as various partnerships with other community organizations, schools, and local groups made this project a reality. Now that the “Stories of Downtown” historic walking tour is in place, it offers Warrensburg Main Street a way to promote their historic district all year long through a virtual activity that participants can engage with on their own time. Warrensburg Main Street, Warrensburg Convention and Visitor Bureau, and other community partners are excited to include the walking tour in their 2023 event programing including Historic Preservation Month, University of Central Missouri Family Weekend, and Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce mobile app.
Missouri Main Street Connection awarded the Marketing Heritage & Cultural Tourism Grants in partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council and the National Endowment for Humanities through the American Rescue Plan Act.