In the early ’90s, Wayne Winchester had no intention of purchasing Jensen Point Overlook, but he was interested in purchasing an acre and a half of land near it.
The owner insisted Jensen Point be part of the deal.
“So we reached an agreement, and I took that and fell in love with it,” Winchester said. “I just love that place to this day.”
On Sunday, April 18, at the Franklin County Historical Society in Union, Winchester presented a slideshow of photos from his book, “Jensen Point, Stop and Reminisce,” about the history of the historical Route 66 lookout that he owned from 1991 to 2016 when the city of Pacific bought it.
Jensen Point, located at 1039 E. Osage St. in Pacific, sits high on a bluff overlooking the Meramec River, which, supposedly, made it a coveted position during the Civil War. Winchester said he believed the 2.8-acre site was used by both the Union and the Confederacy during the war.
A sandstone gazebo was quarried on site in the late 1930s by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp 1770, under the supervision of the National Park Service, according to The Missourian archives. Winchester said at one point he showed a group of architects from Chicago the gazebo, and “they were fascinated that they were that precise in how they cut the stone.” May 30 will mark 82 years since the inauguration of that gazebo.
A plaque hung inside the gazebo attributes its construction to Lars Peter Jensen, according to The Missourian archives.
“I lot of people think he owned the property,” Winchester said of Jensen. “He never owned it.”
Jensen was born in Denmark, immigrated to the U.S. at the end of the 19th century and operated the Shaw Nature Reserve for a time, according to Winchester. Jensen also helped orchestrate the May 30, 1939, inauguration of the outlook.
“It was a major, major, big deal, especially for a little city like Pacific,” Winchester said.
Previous Missourian reporting described “a crowd, estimated at 500, gathered at the small park” and “marching bands from neighboring cities (that) filled the roadway ... for half a mile in each direction from the site as they strode up to the dedication area.”
The men wore ties, and the women wore dresses and high heels like they were “all dressed up for church on Sunday,” Winchester said.
“And if you’ve ever been out there, it’s amazing how you can get up there in a pair of high heels,” Winchester added. “I like being in a pair of tennis shoes.”
Two years after the inauguration, in 1941, a memorial service was held at the overlook, where Jensen’s granddaughter Catherine unveiled a plaque in his honor.
Seventy-seven years after its inauguration, in 2016, the Jensen Point was reopened to the public after the city of Pacific bought the property from Winchester.
More information on the history of Jensen Point can be found in Winchester’s book, which is available at Gallery 66 and on ebay.com.