s a local resident, Lisa Wittmeyer always knew Platte County owed some of its formation and traditions to British Isle immigrants.
But the curator of the Ben Ferrel Museum said she was surprised to inadvertently discover the widespread impact of the area’s neighbors “across the pond.” During a visit to the McCormick Distillery, Wittmeyer noticed British labels on several bottles and that caused her to wonder how many other British Isle influencers could be found in modern-day Platte County.
As the list grew, Wittmeyer said, she began to wonder if fellow Platte Countians may also not be aware of that history. The discovery eventually led her to develop a driving tour of more than a dozen local destinations featuring British fare.
“The immigrant experience is very important to Platte County…” and the tour “allows others to be involved in a way that’s fun,” Wittmeyer said. “The tour is meant to be for everyone and can be done at their leisure,” she said, adding that the event “provides a lot of flexibility.”
For example, Wittmeyer said, the tour need not be accomplished in a day but can be completed sporadically, even as slowly as one location at a time.
Wittmeyer created the tour with the help of those at participating sites, which include commercial and historic locations in Platte City and nearby Weston.
Sites range from local eateries featuring traditionally British fare (scones and fish ‘n chips) to a historic Platte City home built by a Welsh immigrant and The National Silk Art Museum in Weston, which features a gallery of English silk tapestries based on works by major artists from the 15th through 20th centuries. The gallery highlights figures and scenes with English heritage, including portraits of Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II.
Wittmeyer said other surprises are in store for tour participants, including the fact that a Scottish immigrant and architect designed the Platte County Courthouse.
The tour is being held in conjunction with the exhibit, “Downton! Platte County Style,” which includes fashions hailing from the decade between 1910 and 1920.
The special exhibits are on display from 1 to 4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays through mid-October at the museum, 220 Ferrel St., Platte City. Admission is $5 for adults, while children ages 12 and younger are free.
A special roaring 20s fashion porch party featuring non-alcoholic ginger beer (while supplies last) will be served from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26 and will coincide with the Platte City Main Street Fall Festival, she said.
In addition, a special event, “The History of Fox Hunting,” will be presented by Army Lt. Col. Robert Kornacki (retired) from 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14 at First Christian Church, 708 Third St., Platte City.
Kornacki, a Platte County resident and history expert, will offer information about how history intersects with fox hunting and the military. He plans to bring his horse, Blue Skin, who will be saddled in traditional British style.
The Platte City and Weston Mid-Continent libraries also will feature special exhibits and information about British immigrants to the area, Wittmeyer said.
Copies of the tour guide can be picked up at the Ben Ferrel Museum and Hopshop Antiques, 313 Main St., Platte City, and the National Silk Art Museum, 423 Main St., Weston. The tour also is available on the Ben Ferrel website, https://www.facebook.com/BenFerrelPlatteCountyMuseumMiniMansion/posts/510028619543000 or pchs1882.org.
Wittmeyer said the driving tour, like other events and exhibits sponsored by the Platte City museum and its supporting historical society, offers the opportunity to educate others about the rich resources available for genealogy and other such forms of research, available in the museum’s basement archives and at the Platte County Archives. She said, “A lot of people don’t know we have these resources in our area.”