Columbia, Missouri

Columbia, Missouri
Columbia skyline
City seal
Official name: City of Columbia
Nickname: The Athens of Missouri, CoMo
Country United States
State Missouri
Region Mid-Missouri
County Boone
Elevation 705 ft (215 m)
Coordinates 38°56′54″N 92°20′2″W / 38.94833°N 92.33389°W / 38.94833; -92.33389
Area 60.4 sq mi (156 km2)
 - land 60.1 sq mi (156 km2)
 - water .3 sq mi (1 km2)
Population 108,500 (241st) (2010)
Density 1,592.8 / sq mi (615 / km2)
Settled 1806
 - Founded 1818
 - Incorporated 1826
Government Council-manager government
 - location City Hall
Mayor Bob McDavid
City Manager Mike Matthes
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP Code 65201, 65202, 65205 (PO BOX), 65211, 65212, 65215, 65216, 65217, 65218, 65299
Area code 573
FIPS code 29-15670
GNIS feature ID 0716133
Location in Boone County and the state of Missouri
Wikimedia Commons: Columbia, Missouri

Columbia (play /kəˈlʌmbiə/) is the fifth-largest city in Missouri, and the largest city in Mid-Missouri.[6] With a population of 108,500 as of the 2010 Census,[7] it is the principal municipality of the Columbia Metropolitan Area, a region of 164,283 residents.[8] The city serves as the county seat of Boone County and as the location of the University of Missouri. The college town is politically liberal[9] and is known by the nicknames "The Athens of Missouri,"[10] "College Town USA,"[11] and "CoMO."[12] Over half of Columbians possess a bachelor's degree[13] and over a quarter hold graduate degrees,[14] making it the 13th most highly educated municipality in the United States.[14]

Columbia was settled in Pre-Columbian times by the mound-building Mississippian culture of Native Americans. In 1818, a group of settlers incorporated under the Smithton Land Company purchased over 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) and established the village of Smithton near present-day downtown Columbia. In 1821, the settlers moved and re-named the settlement Columbia—a poetic name for the United States.[15] The founding of the University of Missouri in 1839 established the city as a center of education and research. Two other institutions of higher education, Stephens College in 1833 and Columbia College in 1851, were also established within the city.

Located among small tributary valleys of the Missouri River, Columbia is roughly equidistant from St. Louis and Kansas City. Greater St. Louis is 70 miles (110 km) to the East, and the Kansas City Metropolitan Area is 100 miles (160 km) to the West. Today, Columbia has a highly diversified economy, and is often ranked high for its business atmosphere.[16] Never a strong center of industry and manufacturing, the city's economic base relies on the education, medical, technology and insurance industries.[17] Studies consistently rank Columbia as a top city in which to live for educational facilities, health care, technological savvy, economic growth, cultural opportunities and cost of living.[16] The city has been ranked as high as the second-best place to live in the United States by Money Magazine's annual list, but has not been ranked in the top 100 since 2006.[18] Residents of Columbia are usually described as "Columbians."[19]



An aerial view of Columbia's downtown district in 1869. The large building on the right is University of Missouri Academic Hall.

The Columbia area was once part of the Mississippian culture and home to the Mound Builders. When European explorers arrived, the area was populated by the Osage and Missouri Indians.[1] In 1678, La Salle claimed all of Missouri for France. The Lewis and Clark Expedition passed by the area on the Missouri River in 1803. In 1806, Daniel Boone and his sons established a salt lick 40 miles (64 km) northwest of Columbia. The Booneslick Trail wound from Kentucky through St. Charles to the lick. In 1818, a group of settlers, incorporated under the Smithton Land Company, purchased over 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) and established the village of Smithton less than a mile from current day downtown Columbia.[17] In 1821, the settlers moved, because of lack of water, across the Flat Branch to the plateau between the Flat Branch and Hinkson creeks in what is now the downtown district. They re-named the settlement Columbia—a popular historical name for the United States.[1]

The roots of Columbia's three economic foundations—education, medicine, and insurance—can be traced back to incorporation in 1821.[17] Original plans for the town set aside land for a state university. Columbia College (distinct from today's), later to become The University of Missouri, was founded in 1839. When the state legislature decided to establish a state university, Columbia raised three times as much money as any other competing city[20] and James S. Rollins donated the land that is today the Francis Quadrangle.[20] Soon other educational institutions were founded in Columbia such as Christian Female College, the first college for women west of the Mississippi, which later became the current Columbia College. In 1833, Columbia Baptist Female College opened, which later became Stephens College. The city benefited from being a stagecoach stop of the Santa Fe and Oregon trails, and later from the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. In 1822 the first hospital was set up by William Jewell. In 1830, the first newspaper began; in 1832, the first theater in the state was opened; and in 1835, the state's first agricultural fair was held. By 1839, the population (13,000) and wealth of Boone County was exceeded in Missouri only by that of St. Louis County, which at that time included the City of St. Louis.[21]

A busy day on Broadway in 1919.

Columbia's infrastructure was wholly untouched by the Civil War. Missouri, as a slave state, had Southern sympathies, but remained in the union. The majority of the city was pro-union,[17] however, the surrounding agricultural areas of Boone County and the rest of central Missouri were decidedly pro-slavery. Because of this, the University of Missouri became a base from which union troops operated. No battles were fought within the city because the presence of union troop dissuaded the confederate guerrillas from attacking, though several major battles occurred nearby at Boonville and Centralia.

In 1963, Columbia become home to the headquarters of both the University of Missouri System, which today serves over 71,000 students,[22] and the Columbia College system, which today serves about 25,000 students.[23] The insurance industry also became important to the local economy as several companies established headquarters in Columbia, including Shelter Insurance, Missouri Employers Mutual, and Columbia Insurance Group. State Farm Insurance has a regional office in Columbia. In addition, the now defunct Silvey Insurance was once a large local employer. Columbia became a transportation crossroads when U.S. Route 63 and U.S. Route 40 (which became present-day Interstate 70) were routed through the city. Soon after the city opened the Columbia Regional Airport. The latter 20th century saw tremendous growth, and by 2000 the population was nearly 85,000 in the city proper.[2]

In early 2006, Columbia embarked on a plan[24] to manage the continued growth as the city neared 100,000 population. The city is today growing especially towards the Missouri River in southwest Boone County. The downtown district has maintained its status as a cultural center and is undergoing significant development in both residential and commercial sectors.[25] The University of Missouri, which has tremendous economic impact on the city, experienced record enrollment in 2006[26] and is undertaking significant construction. The city experienced a violent crime spike in late 2007, and the city's growth is often cited as a contributing factor.[27]


Columbia, located in the center of Missouri, is 120 miles (190 km) away from both St. Louis and Kansas City, and 29 miles (47 km) north of the state capital Jefferson City.[28] The city is near the Missouri River[29] between the Ozark Plateau and the Northern Plains.[30] Trees are mainly oak, maple, and hickory;[31] common understory trees include Eastern Redbud, Serviceberry, and Flowering Dogwood. Riparian areas are forested with mainly American sycamore. Much of the residential area of the city is planted with large native shade trees. In Autumn, the changing color of the trees is notable. Most species here are typical of the Eastern Woodland.


The city generally slopes from the highest point in the Northeast to the lowest point in the Southwest towards the Missouri River. Prominent tributaries of the river are Perche Creek, Hinkson Creek, and Flat Branch Creek. Along these, and other creeks in the area can be found large valleys, cliffs, and cave systems such as that in Rock Bridge State Park just south of the city. These creeks are largely responsible for numerous stream valleys giving Columbia hilly terrain similar to the Ozarks while also having flatland typical of northern Missouri. The city operates several greenbelts with trails and parks throughout the city. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 60.4 square miles (156 km2), of which, 60.1 square miles (156 km2) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2) of it (0.51%) is water.[32]

Animal life

Large mammals found in the city include urbanized coyotes[33] and numerous whitetail deer.[34] Eastern Gray Squirrel,[35] and other rodents are abundant, as well as Cottontail rabbits and the nocturnal Opossum[36] and Raccoon. Large bird species are abundant in parks and include the Canada goose, Mallard duck, as well as shorebirds, including the Great Egret and Great Blue Heron. Turkeys are also common in wooded areas and can occasionally be seen on the MKT recreation trail. Populations of Bald Eagles are found by the Missouri River. The city is on the Mississippi Flyway, used by migrating birds, and has a large variety of small bird species, common to the eastern U.S. The Eurasian Tree Sparrow, an introduced species, is limited in North America to the counties surrounding St. Louis. Columbia has large areas of forested and open land and many of these areas are home to wildlife.

Frogs are commonly found in the springtime, especially after extensive wet periods. Common species include the American toad and species of chorus frogs, commonly called "spring peepers" that are found in nearly every pond. Some years have outbreaks of cicadas or ladybugs. Mosquitos and houseflies are common insect nuisances; because of this, windows are nearly universally fitted with screens, and "screened-in" porches are common in homes of the area.


Columbia has a climate marked by sharp seasonal contrasts in temperature, falling between a humid continental and humid subtropical climate (Köppen Dfa/Cfa, respectively). Monthly daily averages range from 27.8 °F (−2.3 °C) in January to 77.4 °F (25.2 °C) in July, and the annual mean is 54.0 °F (12.2 °C). The temperature exceeds 90 °F (32 °C) on an average 36 days per year, and every few years exceeds 100 °F (38 °C), while 5 to 6 nights of below 0 °F (−18 °C) conditions can be expected.[37] Precipitation tends to be greatest and most frequent in spring, when severe weather is also most common. Snow averages 26 inches (66 cm) per season, and typically falls in light amounts at a time. Extreme temperatures have ranged from −26 °F (−32 °C) in February 1899 to 113 °F (45 °C) in July 1954.


Downtown Columbia, facing southeast on Fifth St.

Columbia's most commonly recognizable architectural attributes reside downtown and within the university campuses. Widely used icons of the city are the University of Missouri's Jesse Hall and the neo-gothic Memorial Union. The David R. Francis Quadrangle is an example of Thomas Jefferson's academic village concept. There are four historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places within the city: Downtown Columbia, East Campus Neighborhood, Francis Quadrangle, and North Ninth Street Historic District.[40] The downtown skyline is relatively low and is dominated by the 10-story Tiger Hotel, and the 15-story Paquin Tower.

Downtown Columbia is an area of approximately one square mile surrounded by the University of Missouri on the south, Columbia College on the north, and Stephens College to the east. The area serves as Columbia's financial and business district and is the topic of a large initiative to draw tourism, which includes plans to capitalize on the area's historic architecture, and bohemian characteristics.[41] The city's historic residential core lies in a ring around downtown, extending especially to the west along Broadway, and south into the East Campus neighborhoods. Columbia can be divided into roughly 36 neighborhoods and subdivisions.[42] The city's most dense commercial areas are primarily located along Interstate 70, U.S. Route 63, Stadium Blvd, Grindstone Pkwy, and the downtown area.


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1880 3,326
1890 4,000 20.3%
1900 5,651 41.3%
1910 9,662 71.0%
1920 10,392 7.6%
1930 14,967 44.0%
1940 18,399 22.9%
1950 31,974 73.8%
1960 36,650 14.6%
1970 58,521 59.7%
1980 62,061 6.0%
1990 69,101 11.3%
2000 84,531 22.3%
2010 108,500 28.4%
U.S. Decennial Census

In 2000, the city had a day time population of 106,487.[43] As of the census[32] of 2000, there were 84,531 people, 33,689 households, and 17,282 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,592.8 people per square mile (615.0/km²). There were 35,916 housing units at an average density of 676.8 per square mile (261.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 81.54% White, 10.85% Black or African American, 0.39% Native American, 4.30% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.81% from other races, and 2.07% from two or more races. 2.05% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.[32]

There were 33,689 households out of which 26.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.2% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 48.7% were non-families. 33.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.92.[44]

In the city the population was spread out with 19.7% under the age of 18,[45] 26.7% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 16.2% from 45 to 64, and 8.6% who were 65 years of age or older.[45] The median age was 27 years.[45] For every 100 females, there were 91.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,729,[46] and the median income for a family was $52,288.[45] Males had a median income of $34,710 versus $26,694 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,507.[46] About 9.4% of families and 19.2% of the population were below the poverty line,[45] including 14.8% of those under age 18 and 5.2% of those age 65 or over. However, traditional measures of income and poverty can be misleading when applied to cities with high student populations, such as Columbia.


The economy of Columbia is historically dominated by education, healthcare, and the insurance industry.[17] Jobs in government are also common, either in Columbia or a half-hour away in Jefferson City.[47] Commutes into the city are also common and in 2000 the city had a day time population of 106,487.[43] The Columbia Regional Airport and the Missouri River Port of Rocheport connect the region with trade and transportation. The University of Missouri is by far the city's largest employer.[47]

The economy of the metro area is slightly larger than that of the Bahamas.[48] With a Gross Metropolitan Product of $5.84 billion in 2004, Columbia's economy makes up 2.9% of the Gross State Product of Missouri.[49] Insurance corporations headquartered in Columbia include Shelter Insurance, and Columbia Insurance Group. Other organizations include MFA Incorporated, Missouri State High School Activities Association and MFA Oil. Companies such as Socket (Telecommunications Provider), Datastorm Technologies, Inc., Slackers CDs and Games and Carfax[50] were founded in Columbia.

MBS Textbook Exchange, regarded as the industry leader in new and used textbooks in the nation was founded in Columbia. It holds the largest inventory of new and used textbooks in the nation. It is also the largest private employer in Columbia.


The Blue Note, a rock and pop venue downtown.

The Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts and Jesse Auditorium are Columbia's largest fine arts venues. The Ragtag Cinema host the well-known True/False Film Festival annually. In 2008, filmmaker Todd Sklar completed Box Elder, which was filmed entirely in and around Columbia and the University of Missouri. The University of Missouri's Museum of Art and Archaeology displays 14,000 works of art and archaeological objects in five galleries for no charge to the public.[51] Libraries include the Columbia Public Library, the University of Missouri Libraries, with over three million volumes in Ellis Library, and the State Historical Society of Missouri. The "We Always Swing" Jazz Series[52] and the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival[53] bring some of the country's finest Jazz and Blues to Columbia and Central Missouri.

Columbia has a flourishing and progressive music scene thanks in large part to many acts that come out of the University.[54] The indie band White Rabbits was formed while the members were students at the University of Missouri before moving to Brooklyn to record and gain a higher profile.[55] Musical artists from Columbia have been compiled by Painfully Midwestern Records with the ComoMusic Anthology series, and the "Das Kompilation" release. Although the hip genre continues to give Columbia some music recognition, it is their progressive psychedelic-heavy metal music scene that has garnered some attention lately. There are also local punk and hip-hop scenes that are gaining momentum locally. Country music singer-songwriter Brett James is also a native of Columbia.[56] The song "Whiskey Bottle," by Uncle Tupelo, is rumored to be about the city of Columbia as it makes specific reference to a sign which used be displayed on a Columbia tackle shop sign which read, "Liquor, Guns, and Ammo." The sign is now displayed at the downtown location of Shakespeare's pizzeria.


An aerial view of sold-out Faurot Field

The University of Missouri's sports teams, the Missouri Tigers, play a significant role in the sports culture of Columbia. Faurot Field, capacity 71,004, is host to both home football games and concerts. The Hearnes Center and Mizzou Arena are two other large sport and event venues, the latter being the home arena for Mizzou's basketball team. Taylor Stadium is host to the University's baseball team and was the regional host for the 2007 NCAA Baseball Championship.[57] Columbia College has several men and women collegiate sports teams as well. In 2007 Columbia hosted the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics volleyball national championship which the Lady Cougars participated in.[58]

Columbia also hosts the Show-Me State Games, a non-profit program of the Missouri Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health. They are the largest state games in the United States.[59][60] The games consist of 26,000–28,000 Missouri amateur athletes (35,000 total athletes[60]) of all ages and ability levels who compete in the Olympic-style sports festival every year during July and August. It recently made ESPN's list of "101 Things All Sports Fans Must Experience Before They Die".[61]

Situated halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City, Columbians will often have allegiances to the professional sports teams housed there such as: the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals. St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, and St. Louis Blues.[62]

The NRA Bianchi Cup is held every year in Columbia. It is among the most lucrative of all the shooting sports championships.

Starting in 2011, the Columbia Enforcers women's football team will begin play as a member of the Women's Spring Football League.


The city has two daily newspapers, the Columbia Missourian in the morning and the Columbia Daily Tribune in the afternoon. The Missourian is directed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia. The Missourian is associated with the Spanish-English bilingual publication Adelante! and Vox magazine.[63] With a daily circulation of nearly 20,000, the Tribune is the most widely read newspaper in central Missouri. The University of Missouri has the independent but official student newspaper, The Maneater, which is printed bi-weekly. The now-defunct Prysms Weekly was also published in Columbia. In Fall of 2009, KCOU News officially launched full operations out of KCOU 88.1FM on the MU Campus. The entirely student run news organization airs a daily newscast "The Pulse" weekdays from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

The city has 14 radio stations and four television channels.[64]

Government and politics

The Boone County Courthouse within the Boone County Government Center

The City of Columbia's current government was established by a home rule charter adopted by voters on November 11, 1974, which established a Council-manager government that invested power in the City Council. The City Council is made up of seven members - six elected by each of Columbia's six wards, plus an at-large council member, the Mayor, who is elected by all city voters. All members of the council, none of whom receive a salary for their work, are elected to staggered three-year terms. The Mayor, in addition to being a voting member of the City Council, is recognized as the head of city government for ceremonial purposes. Chief executive authority is invested in a city manager, who oversees the day-to-day operations of government.[65]

Columbia is the county seat of Boone County, and the county court and government center are located there. The City is located in the ninth U.S. Congressional district. The 19th Missouri State Senate district covers all of Boone County. There are five Missouri House of Representatives districts (9, 21, 23, 24, 25) in the city. Columbia is home to a plethora of attorneys and serves as a legal hub and testing grounds for many new laws and grassroot efforts. The principle law enforcement agency is the Columbia Police Department, with the Columbia Fire Department providing fire protection. The Public Service Joint Communications Center coordinates efforts between the two organizations as well as the Boone County Fire Protection District which operates Urban Search and Rescue Missouri Task Force 1.

The Daniel Boone Building functions as Columbia's city hall.

The population generally supports progressive causes such as the extensive city recycling programs and the decriminalization of the drug cannabis[66] both for medical and recreational use at the municipal level (though the scope of latter of the two cannabis ordinances has since been restricted).[67] The city is also one of only four in the state to offer medical benefits to same-sex partners of city employees.[68] The new health plan also extends health benefits to unmarried heterosexual domestic partners of city employees. On October 10, 2006, the City Council approved an ordinance to prohibit smoking in restaurants and bars. The ordinance was passed with protest, and several amendments to the ordinance reflect this.[69]

Sister cities

In accordance with the Columbia Sister Cities Program, which operates in conjunction with Sister Cities International, an organization that began under President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, Columbia has been given five international sister cities in an attempt to foster cross-cultural understanding:[70]


The University of Missouri campus late 19th century

Columbia and much of the surrounding area lies within The Columbia Public School District. The district enrolls over 17,000 students[71] and has a revenue of nearly $200 million for the 2007–2008 school year.[72] It is above the state average in attendance percentage and in graduation rate.[73] The city operates three public high schools which cover grades 10–12: David H. Hickman High School, Rock Bridge High School, and Frederick Douglass High School. Rock Bridge High is one of two Missouri high schools to receive a silver medal by U.S. News & World Report, putting it in the top 3% of all high schools in the nation.[74] Hickman High has been on Newsweek magazine’s list of top 1,300 schools in the country for the past three years, and has more named presidential scholars than any other public high school in the nation.[74] There are also several private high schools including: Christian Fellowship School, Columbia Independent School, Heritage Academy, Christian Chapel Academy, the newly constructed Father Augustine Tolton Regional Catholic High School.[75]

The city has three institutions of higher education: the University of Missouri, Columbia College, and Stephens College. The city is the headquarters of the University of Missouri System, which operates campuses in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Rolla.



Columbia Transit provides public bus and para-transit service, and is owned and operated by the city. In 2008, 1,414,400 passengers boarded along the system's six fixed routes and nine University of Missouri shuttle routes, and 27,000 boarded the Para-transit service.[76] The system is constantly experiencing growth in service and technology. A $3.5 million[77] project to renovate and expand the Wabash Station, a rail depot built in 1910 and converted into the city's transit center in the mid-1980s, was completed in summer of 2007.[78]
In 2007, a Transit Master Plan was created to address the future transit needs of the city and county with a comprehensive plan to add infrastructure in three key phases.[79] The five to 15-year plan intends to add service along the southwest, southeast and northeast sections of Columbia and develop alternative transportation models for Boone County.
Fares are $1.50 for adults, and $.75 for children 5-11, for students with valid I.D, for handicapped/Medicare recipients, and for senior citizens age 65 and up. Columbia Transit offers FASTPass electronic fare cards and issues electronic transfers for accuracy and convenience. Para-transit fares are $2.00 for a one-way trip, and the service area includes all of Columbia.
Buses operate Monday through Saturday, from 6:25am to 6:25pm Monday-Wednesday, 6:25am to 10:25pm Thursday and Friday, and from 1:00am to 7:30pm on Saturday. Buses do not operate on Sunday.

The city's former mayor, Darwin Hindman, is largely in favor of a non-motorized transportation system,[80] and can often be seen riding his bicycle around the city.[81] Columbia is also known for its M.K.T. Spur of the Katy Trail State Park, which allows foot and bike traffic across the city, and, conceivably, the state. It consists of a soft gravel surface, excellent for running and biking. Columbia also is preparing to embark on construction of several new bike paths and street bike lanes thanks to a $25 million grant from the federal government.[82] The city is also served by Delta Air Lines at Columbia Regional Airport, the only commercial airport in mid-Missouri.

I-70, US 63, and US 40 are the main freeways used for travel to and from Columbia. Within the city, there are three state highways: Route 763, Route 163, and Route 740.

Rail service is provided by the city-owned Columbia Terminal (COLT) Railroad, which runs from the north side of Columbia to Centralia and a connection to the Norfolk Southern Railway.

Health systems

The University of Missouri Hospital, the largest hospital in Columbia

Health care is a large sector of Columbia's economy, with nearly one in six people working in a health-care related profession[83][84] and a physician density that is about three times the United States average.[85][86] Columbia's hospitals and supporting facilities are a large referral center for the state, and medical related trips to Columbia are common.[87] There are three hospital systems within the city and six hospitals[83] with a total of 1,105 beds.[86] University of Missouri Health Care operates four hospitals: Columbia Regional Hospital, University of Missouri Hospital, Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and University of Missouri Children's Hospital. Boone Hospital Center is administered by BJC Healthcare and operates several clinics and outpatient locations. Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital is administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

There is also a large amount of medically-related industry in Columbia. The University of Missouri School of Medicine uses university owned facilities as teaching hospitals. The University of Missouri Research Reactor Center is the largest research reactor in the U.S.[88] and produces radioisotopes used in nuclear medicine. The center serves as the sole supplier of the active ingredients in two U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved radiopharmaceuticals and produces Fluorine-18 used in PET imaging with its cyclotron.[89]

See also


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