Get Up-Close with Branson’s History on Downtown Walking Tour

With this self-guided walking tour, visitors can experience many of the authentic and historic sites in Downtown Branson. The tour starts on Main Street in front of Dick’s 5 and 10, continues down North Commercial Street, goes through the Town Square portion of Branson Landing, returns to South Commercial Street and ends up back on Main Street.

Branson’s downtown started taking shape in the first years of the 20th century. The city of Branson was incorporated on April 1, 1912, and only four months later in August a devastating fire destroyed most of the downtown. On this tour, you can see the historic sites and a handful of buildings that survived the fire.

The tour is at your own pace and can be modified as you wish. Plan on at least 2 hours to walk the entire route. The route is wheelchair/scooter accessible, but does include climbing some moderate hills.

Dick’s 5 and 10 – 103 W. Main Street

In this world-famous and classic “dime store,” visitors can enjoy old-time shopping.

Go east, next door.

Patricia’s Victorian House – 101 W. Main Street

Branson’s first bank building, built in 1906, is one of five buildings to survive the August 1912 fire. During the fire, men raced to the bank to pour water on the building to protect their money and keep the building safe.

Turn left on Commercial Street (note public restrooms are on the left).

Old Branson Cemetery – North Commercial Street

The town’s first city cemetery, this is the final resting place of many of the city’s founders, including Reuben Branson, the city’s first postmaster and namesake.

Turn around and return south on Commercial

Former Welchel Hardware Store – 101 E. Main Street

This building was the second location of Welchel’s Hardware Store, the first being destroyed in the 1912 fire. The lower level was used as a mortuary. Until recently, the building served as a drugstore.

Turn left onto Main Street and continue down the hill

Plum Bazaar – 123 E. Main Street

This is the oldest commercial building in Branson and was built in 1903. It survived the 1912 fire and the 1927 flood.

Continue east across the railroad tracks and through Branson Landing’s Town Square

Lake Taneycomo

Although it looks like a river, Lake Taneycomo is cold-water lake with dams on both ends. Originally the White River (named “Rio Blanco” by explorer Hernando DeSoto), Lake Taneycomo was created when the first dam on the river was built in 1913 near Forsyth to help control flooding and to generate electricity. Additional dams were built on the river and its tributaries in the 1940s and 1950s to create Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Norfork and Beaver Lakes and to provide additional flood control.

Return westward and cross railroad tracks

Branson Railroad Depot – 206 E. Main Street

Currently home to the Branson Scenic Railway (and the Polar Express at Christmas), this historic depot was built by the White River Iron Mountain Railway at the turn of the 20th Century. The first freight train arrived in Branson on June 10, 1905, and the depot has played an important role in the city’s history as a transportation and economic hub.

Continue up Main Street and turn left on Commercial Street

Branson Centennial Museum – 120 S. Commercial Street

Now home to this free museum housing great exhibits on Branson’s history, the building was for more than 80 years the home of Reish Shore Store.

Continue south on Commercial

Lightning Pawn & Music – 202 S. Commercial Street

Now a popular pawn shop at the corner of Commercial and Pacific Streets, this is where the August 1912 fire began. Sparks from a wood stove in the Commercial Hotel laundry shed, formerly at this location, ignited linens and furniture.

Go south across College Street to the U.S. Post Office

“Circle of the Waters” 

This metal sculpture, 13 feet in diameter, was created in 1995 by Lee Robertson. Originally placed on the lake shore at the foot of Main Street, the sculpture was moved here in 2010. The work was included in the 1996 Smithsonian’s National Survey of Public Sculptures.

Return to College Street and cross left to corner

“Legends of the Ozarks”

This fiberglass-reinforced concrete statue, originally located on the shores of Lake Taneycomo, was also relocated here in 2010. Sculptor Tim Smith attended Hollister High School and studied at the School of the Ozarks. He used cast members from Shepherd of the Hills pageant as inspiration for his figures.

Cross Commercial Street going north

Branson Christian Church – 213 S. Commercial Street

Originally organized around 1900 by Joe Gayler, the congregation reorganized around 1924 and moved into this location in 1926.

Walk north on Commercial

Owen Theater – 205 S. Commercial Street

Branson’s first movie theater building was built in 1936 by Jim Owen. Envisioning the city as a thriving tourism destination, he provided float fishing excursions on the White River attracting thousands of visitors. Owen, who served as mayor, hosted many celebrities, including Gene Autry, Forrest Tucker, Bing Crosby, Charlton Heston, artist Thomas Hart Benton. Extraordinary publicity stunts promoted his film showings, such as sending volunteer firemen to the train depot to receive the reels of a Mae West film that was billed as “too hot to handle.”

Walk two doors north to corner

Peter Engler Designs – 201 S. Commercial Street

Formerly known as the McGill Building and the Burlington Annex, this structure was built shortly after the 1912 fire and housed a radical newspaper, The Menace, for three years. Later it was the Masonic Lodge and a second floor was added in the 1920s. The building has been used as a theater, a community center and an early location for the Taneyhills Library.

Turn 1 block left (west) on Pacific Street

Liberty Plaza

Branson’s newest park and public venue is also one of its most historic sites. Now a home to an outdoor amphitheater, trolley stop and public restrooms, the location has served as Branson’s first city hall, a community center and a library. The Mabe Brothers, later known as the Baldknobbers, started Branson’s first music show in a 50-seat basement auditorium that used to be on the site.

Return to Commercial Street and cross Pacific Street going north

Parnell Building – 101 S. Commercial

Located on the southwest corner of Main and Commercial Streets since 1907, this building has been used constantly and is now used for office space. Originally, the building was a dry goods business that was convenient to the railroad.

Turn left onto Main Street

Branson Cafe – 120 W. Main Street

Serving diners since 1910, this is Branson’s oldest restaurant and one of the city’s oldest continually operating businesses.


A brochure with an expanded walking and driving tour is available at the Downtown Branson Betterment Association at 112 W College St., Branson, MO 65616.