Branson shows the Lucia Branson “zig zag”

Most of the millions of visitors coming to the “live music show capital of the world,” Branson, Missouri, will never experience one of the unique historical features of the city of Branson, its “zig zag” streets. As compared to some of the more exciting things Branson has to offer, Branson’s zig zag streets might not be at the top of the list of things most visitors plan to experience while in Branson. However, they can certainly provide a pleasant five or ten minute side trip while on the way to or from Historic Downtown Branson or Branson Landing, between shows, or on a rainy day etc.

In addition, they provide an opportunity to discuss a little bit of the history of the city of Branson and is an excellent lead into the various historical things to see in Historic Downtown Branson. Things such as the site where the Mabe family started the Branson’s first show, the “Baldknobbers,” Ruben S. Branson’s grave, the place where the fire started that almost destroyed the newly chartered city of Branson, the oldest free standing building in Branson, and of course “Dick’s 5 & 10.”

As one drives east on Highway 76 and passes the Highway 76/65 interchange they will notice a McDonalds to the north (left). The local “street name” for this portion of State Highway 76 is “Main Street” and the McDonalds is at the intersection of Sixth and Main Streets.

Although the street signage is less than impressive, that intersection looks like most other intersections and one could turn either right (south) or left (north). However, if one turns right on Sixth and drives south two blocks, passing Pacific they come to the apparent end of Sixth Street at its intersection with College Street.

It is only when one “Zigs,” by turning left on College and then, about a quarter of a block down College, “Zags” back onto Sixth Street by turning right that the zig zag alignment of Sixth Street becomes apparent. If the Sixth street turn is missed basically the same thing can be done by turning onto Fourth or Third Streets.

Some might ask the question, “Why didn’t the people who planned Branson simply have the streets go straight through?” The answer is because the city of Branson, as it was originally incorporated on April 1, 1912, was actually a combination of two different plats with different roads, alignments, and block lengths.

In the early 1900s, as the rail road started into the “Branson area,” there were competing interests trying to get land and plat towns. The first town platted was “Lucia” on October 2, 1903 with the town of “Branson” platted soon after on October 26, 1903. According to most historical accounts, Charles Fulbright and his “Branson Town Company” acquired both town sites by the end of 1903. The official records of the U.S. Post Office indicate that the name of the “Branson” Post Office was changed from “Branson” to “Lucia” in 1902 and changed back to “Branson: again in 1904.

In general, College Street was the dividing line between the Lucia and Branson town plats, being the northern edge for Lucia and the southern edge for Branson. The alignment of the current Long Street is representative of Lucia’s southern edge and the current Atlantic Street Branson’s northern edge with Commercial Street being Lucia’s eastern edge and Sycamore Street Branson’s. Although relative because of differing block sizes, both were widest at their eastern edge with Lucia being about three and one half blocks wide and Branson six blocks. The western edge of each plat was slightly west of the current intersection of Main and Sixth Streets.