2013 List to Be Announced at the Henry Miller House in Bloomfield, Stoddard County
Missouri Preservation will announce its list of the State’s Most Endangered Historic Places for 2013 at a press conference to be held at the Henry Miller House, 106 Cape Road in Bloomfield, Missouri 63825. The announcement will be made at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21, 2013. The House was constructed some time between 1845 and 1849 for Henry Miller, a civic leader and merchant who was prominent in the early swamp land reclamation movement in Southeast Missouri and was also involved in the creation and promotion of the Cairo & Fulton Railroad Company in the 1850s. Known architecturally as an “I-House,” it is believed to be the oldest in Stoddard County and one of the oldest houses in Southeast Missouri.
The list of Missouri’s Most Endangered Historic Places is announced annually to call attention to threatened historic resources in Missouri. Nominations are solicited from citizens statewide and the properties chosen are considered endangered for a variety of reasons, including deterioration, neglect, encroachment, potential demolition or a combination of threats. Nominations for this year’s list came from all corners of the state. Counties with endangered historic places on this year’s list include Clay, Christian, Jackson, Shannon, Stoddard, St. Louis Counties, as well as the City of St. Louis.
Missouri Preservation is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to education, advocacy and recognition for historic resources throughout Missouri. Contact Missouri Preservation staff at (660)882.5946 or (314)-691-1941 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Penny Pitman is the Chairperson of the Most Endangered Program and can be reached at (636)734-5255 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Press packets and information on sites listed will be available at the press conference. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.
For more information about Missouri Preservation, please visit our website at www.preservemo.org and also friend “Missouri Preservation” on Facebook. Details will also be located on the website immediately following the announcement on May 21, 2013.
Instructions to site: From Missouri Interstate 55 take Exit 93 (Cape Girardeau/Dutchtown), which is Missouri Highway 74. Proceed West on Highway 74 for 5 miles and make a left on Missouri Highway 25 South. Proceed 32.9 miles to Cape Road/Street and make a right turn. 106 Cape Road is on the Left.
Missouri Preservation announced its list of Most Endangered Historic Places on Wednesday May 30, 2012 at a press conference held in St. Joseph at The Frank L. Sommer house, which is one of the places named on this list. Others to be named are listed below, in no particular order. Missouri Preservation is a statewide organization whose chief advocacy program is the Most Endangered Historic Places. Now in its twelfth year, the program has sought to bring statewide attention to endangered places through a media campaign and offers support services to the properties on the list. Nominations are received from citizen preservationists throughout the state. This year there was such a large number of new nominations that an entirely new list was presented. Those properties that would have normally been carried over from the previous year are on a “Watched List,” which is also provided below.
The Frank L. Sommer House (“The Cracker House”) Buchanan County
The AAA Building City of St. Louis
The Lyric Theater Phelps County
Barns of Missouri Statewide
The Pouncey Building Jackson County
The Diamonds Restaurant Franklin County
Kemper Arena Jackson County
The Charles and Bettie Birthright House Dunklin County
School Buildings of Missouri Statewide
The Frank L. Sommer House (“The Cracker House”) - St. Joseph, Buchanan County
This Italianate style home was built in 1882 just a few blocks north of Frank Sommer’s bakery. The saltine cracker is known to have been created at this bakery earning the house its local moniker, the “Cracker House.” Mr. Sommer’s bakery, the American Biscuit Company, later merged with the New York Biscuit Company to become the National Biscuit Company, or Nabisco. Nabisco now makes more than 35 billion crackers each year – enough to circle the equator 44 times. The Cracker House has been vacant for a number of years and has suffered greatly from neglect. It is currently owned by an absentee landlord and the property is on St. Joseph’s dangerous properties list. A local non-profit group called The Cracker House Project is hopeful that they can gain ownership of this historic home and renovate it as a house museum and for other public use.
The American Automobile Association or AAA Building is an oval-shaped mid-century modern building in a modern classical style referred to as New Formalist. Designed by architect W.A. Sarmiento in 1976, the building has not yet reached the 50-year-old age criteria for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. In the absence of a completed survey of modern architecture in St. Louis, it has not yet been identified as potentially eligible for historic listing, and therefore is not subject demolition review. Even though Saint Louis’ mayor has supported the preservation of this iconic building in the City’s West End, the Planning Commission gave approval by 5-3 vote to allow a developer to demolish the building and clear the site for a CVS Drug Store. It is hoped that Most Endangered listing will encourage CVS to use the existing building for its drug store operation or construct a new building elsewhere.
The Lyric Theater – Newburg, Phelps County
Originally named The Community Theater, the Lyric opened in 1919, exclusively offering live performances then switched to a combination of live theater and movies before it closed in 1957. The building was used for storage by a local lumber company for a number of years. In 1983 it was purchased by J.D. Turley and again became a live theater venue. It was purchased later by the Regional Opera Company (ROC), and this group has presented live performances during every summer season since then. The ROC is a volunteer group and the only money collected for upkeep of the building has been from donations taken at the door. Storms on leap day 2012 have caused damage to the building and without funds for repairs needed immediately, the local company announced that it cannot hold performances there in 2012. It is hoped the Lyric Live Theater can find supportive financial friends through its Most Endangered listing and return to a place of entertainment and pride for the Newburg community.
Barns of Missouri – Statewide, Including the State Hospital Barns in Fulton, Callaway County
According to the most recent US Census of Agriculture, the State of Missouri ranked #2 in the country in the number of historic barns with over 35,000 reported. Due to a variety of factors including urbanization, new farming building practices and the inability of small farmers to compete with large agribusiness, we are losing barns and farmsteads at an alarming rate. Farm Aid estimates that an estimated 330 farmers leave the business each week in America. Without a new purpose, empty barns suffer from lack of maintenance which leads to rapid deterioration. The two barns used here as examples were once used for sustenance farming at the State Hospital in Fulton, Missouri. With no clear purpose, these unique structures are the first to suffer from neglect. It is hoped that this listing will help find a new purpose for many Missouri barns such as these, and that efforts can be stepped up to ensure the basic historic documentation of the tens of thousands of Missouri farms and their barns before many are lost.
The Pouncey Building – Kansas City, Jackson County
The Pouncey Building is a 1909 2-story brick commercial building in the heart of Kansas City’s 18th and Vine Jazz District. This is one of the few remaining original office buildings in the district and is significant in its association with the social history of the district in that it was the office of the city’s first African American female lawyer, Leona Pouncey Thurman, who moved her office to this building in 1955. Missouri Preservation has been made aware that the City of Kansas City intends to move forward with demolition in anticipation of the City hosting the All Star baseball game in July 2012. The building is on the main strip of the Jazz District and in close proximity to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It is currently on the dangerous building list. Although on the National Register of Historic Places and subject to Section 106 review, it is feared that the City desires to “fast track” the demolition as they are concerned about codes and safety, and the image of blight in the City. Listing on Missouri’s Most Endangered Historic Places will hopefully bring additional interest and awareness to the building to find a buyer who can rehab the building, as there has been interest in the past and the building is currently for sale.
The Diamonds Restaurant – Villa Ridge, Franklin County
This Art Moderne restaurant building was constructed along historic Route 66 in 1950, replacing an earlier (1928) Diamonds Restaurant which had burned in 1949. In rebuilding the Diamonds, the owner created a state-of-the art restaurant in the streamlined north wing and added another purpose to the site, constructing in the adjoining north wing a truck stop with sleeping rooms and showers. The Diamonds’ advertising postcard from 1960 called it the “Worlds Largest Roadside Restaurant Serving over a million people a year…” When Interstate 44 was constructed during the 1960s, the Diamonds was moved to a new building along the new roadway, about two miles northeast of the original site. The vacated building continued to operate as a restaurant, but under new name and ownership before finally closing several years ago. Although suffering from lack of maintenance, the original 1950 building still stands as a Route 66 roadside icon. It is currently for sale and its owner has committed to list the structure on National Register of Historic Places, making it eligible for the state’s Historic Preservation Tax Credits. It is hoped that listing will attract a new owner interested in renovation of this extraordinary property.
Kemper Arena – Kansas City, Jackson County
In 1972 the City of Kansas City selected the Chicago architecture firm of C.F. Murphy Associates to design a state of the art arena on the groups of the Kansas City Stockyards. With this charge, Helmut Jahn, their Director of Planning and Design developed an innovative solution to suspend the roof from monumental steel trusses located on the outside of the building, eliminating the need for interior columns. Opened in 1974, the 19,000 seat Kemper Auditorium was one of the first examples of high-tech architecture, known as Structural Expressionism, to be constructed in North America. The building stands today as a seminal example of this style. In 2007, in an effort to attract a professional hockey and basketball team, Kansas City opened the Sprint Center. The new arena has since replaced Kemper as the City’s premier event venue. Unfortunately, the building is quickly falling into disrepair from neglect. In October 2011, a local plan was revealed to replace the Arena with a new 5,000 seat agricultural events center for the American Royal Farm Show. It is hoped that this listing will inspire greater recognition of Kemper Arena’s importance architecturally, as well as the great potential the Auditorium presents as a repurposed community asset.
The Charles & Bettie Birthright House – Clarkton, Dunklin County
For more than 40 years this house was home to Charles and Bettie Birthright, former slaves who achieved economic independence and prosperity while building close ties with the families that had held them in slavery and the predominantly white citizenry of Clarkton and Dunklin County. From modest beginnings, this barber and seamstress amassed substantial wealth from highly successful commercial and farming operations. By 1901 Charles was among a group of men cited in the local press as contributing to “Dunklin County’s greatness.” The couple used their growing wealth to benefit the community, investing in its economic development and donating funds to construct the 1884 and 1911 Clarkton school buildings. After their deaths, their estate went to Stillman Institute (now College) in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, constituting the single largest charitable contribution to the college until the 1980s. A building on campus, Birthright Auditorium, is named in their honor. Though not civil rights activists in the common definition of the phrase, the couple’s economic and civic contributions to Clarkton and Dunklin County contradicted the popular image of blacks as indolent, undisciplined and unworthy of the full rights of American citizens. The Birthrights represent an aspect of history rarely studied in Missouri or the United States—African Americans who were well respected and accepted members of the larger white community during a period when racism was the social norm. The house has suffered from extensive termite damage, as well as structural problems from recent earthquake activity. The Clarkton Historical Society feels that this listing will allow the public the opportunity to learn of the importance of the Charles and Betty Birthright House and that their story will be able to reach an audience of supporters that are dedicated to the support of the home and to the development of the site into an interpretive site for educational purposes.
Due to increased suburbanization in Missouri, many inner-city schools have been closed due to dwindling enrollments. Between the state’s two largest urban districts alone – Kansas City and Saint Louis – there are currently over seventy empty school buildings. Although many of the Kansas City school buildings are designed by noted architects like Charles Ashley Smith, and many of the Saint Louis schools designed by the world-renowned William B. Ittner, many of these buildings are in neighborhoods struggling with the effects of long term disinvestment. Lack of available financing makes adaptive reuse projects challenging. Similarly our rural school buildings are endangered. As more of our state’s population moves from rural areas to the new suburbs of our larger cities, they leave behind empty buildings in our smaller towns and rural school districts have been consolidating, sometimes to rein in the costs of property maintenance. Some communities feel that a vacant lot is better than a vacant building, and many school districts cannot afford the costs of upkeep. This makes demolition likely if reuse plans cannot be identified and encouraged. Some empty school buildings of Missouri have found new purposes, including municipal offices, condominiums and affordable housing, especially for senior citizens. It is hoped that this listing will call attention to these many endangered historic resources and encourage reuse and repurposing of many more of Missouri’s empty school buildings.
The Jefferson School, Cape Girardeau County
Historic Bridges of Missouri – Statewide, Including the Riverside Bridge in Chrisian County and The Route 66 Bridge in Saint Louis County
Former Missouri State Penitentiary Complex, Cole County
The Wheatley-Provident Hospital Building, Jackson County
Lexington Municipal Auditorium, Lafayette County
Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, Lafayette County
St. Louis Iron Mountain & Southern Railroad Depot, Madison County
The Russell Hotel, Mississippi County
Delmo Community Center, Pemiscot County
Rock Mechanics Laboratory/Former Missouri Trachoma Hospital, Phelps County
MISSOURI PRESERVATION’S MOST ENDANGERED HISTORIC PLACES PROGRAM
The first Most Endangered announcement was made in 2000 and was the program instituted as a media campaign aimed at calling attention to endangered historic resources statewide, serving as a call to action. In 2010 the program was expanded and staff support and a board liaison was assigned to each of the endangered places to assess the immediate needs of the endangered resource and assist the nominators to help ensure the preservation of each of the endangered resources. A public call for nominations is made each spring and nominations received from Missouri citizens. Nominations are assessed by a committee of Missouri Preservation’s governing board and the announcement of their selections is made at one of the sites chosen to be on the official list, usually during National Preservation Month.
CLICK ON THESE LINKS FOR PAST ENDANGERED HISTORIC PLACES:
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
A Progress Report on the 2011 Most Endangered Historic Places
At some there hasn’t been a lot of movement, and at a couple the movement can probably be described as backwards, but here’s the lowdown on some of the 2011 Most Endangered:
The Williams Gierth House in Poplar Bluff: As a perk of Missouri Preservation membership, you can list your historic property for sale on our web site. Such was the case with the Williams-Gierth House, (a.k.a. The Castle House). The current owner saw the listing on our web site and purchased the house in late 2011 with the intention to restore this wonderful Victorian. In addition, Darren Bell, a graduate student in Historic Preservation at Southeast Missouri State University has nominated the building to the National Register of Historic Places, which will make it eligible for the state’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit.
The Jefferson School in Cape Girardeau: In late 2011, the City of Cape Girardeau issued an order to remediate structural deficiencies at this building or demolish. Missouri Preservation worked with local liaisons to urge owners of this building to gift the building to a non-profit that might be interested in renovation. The Prodigy School received the building as a gift and initially planned to renovate it for use as an educational facility again. The new owners may be thinking about building new, so we are hoping they will decide to sell the building to another party for rehabilitation before deciding to demolish.
Hodgen School in the City of Saint Louis: The Transitional School District of the City of St. Louis Special Administrative Board voted on February 16, 2012 to expend almost three quarters of a million dollars to demolish the Hodgen School for a playground and parking lot. This represents what we feel is a tremendous waste of a useful building in a (currently non-accredited) school district which is already financially strapped. The building is in an area of St. Louis which is known for its vast tracts of vacant land, so the district need not look very far for available playground or parking space.
William P. Thompson House in Grundy County: A local organization has acquired the Thompson House from the State Division of Parks and has already raised tens of thousands of dollars to restore the house for use by the community. The house is now ready to receive a replacement roof and windows as supporters have recently completed restoration of all the brickwork and foundation. They have also been milling and installing oak floor boards from locally raised timber. This is going to be an amazing transformation of an historic house that sat in ruin for many years!
The Route 66 Bridge in St. Louis County and the Riverside Bridge in Christian County: The Route 66 Bridge received a grant in 2011 from the National Trust to perform a feasibility study. Since then, the group has gotten another grant from the National Park Service to perform an historic structures report. The State Department of Transportation has been supportive of their efforts. In Christian County, Section 106 Review should begin soon as Christian County is discussing the construction of a new bridge at the current site and moving the historic bridge to dry land alongside the new bridge and roadway.
Fairfax House and the Rock Hill Church in St. Louis County: The Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery sold the property on which these two building sits in 2010. The City of Rock Hill granted permission to Fenton-based UGas to construct a gas station on the current site of these two landmarks soon after. UGas agreed to move the Fairfax house, but not the church, and gave locals one year in which to find a new owner. The group was unable to raise the funds necessary to move the church in the short time allowed. It looks now like Fairfax will be moved to city-owned property elsewhere, and that the church will probably be destroyed and its building stone reused for a chapel at a winery near Foristell, Missouri.
The Russell Hotel in Charleston: The Russell Hotel was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places by Tiffany Patterson of the State’s Historic Preservation Office. It is hoped that this listing might attract a developer who might be interested in using the State Historic Preservation Tax Credits to renovate the building for future use, perhaps as housing.
The Lexington Municipal Auditorium in Lexington: The non-profit Lexington Auditorium Association was formed and the City of Lexington has recently agreed to grant them a 99-year lease. After it is passed into ordinance on April 10, 2012, a major donor campaign will be kicked off, utilizing the State’s Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) Credits. The building will be retrofitted to meet ADA requirements and the auditorium returned to its original purpose, hosting both private and civic functions.
Zion AME Church in Lexington: The Zion AME Church building has been vandalized a couple of times since its listing on our Most Endangered list, but the community has come forward to repair and stabilize until a suitable new owner can be found. Discussions are currently being had with the Wentworth Academy, a college-prep military school about acquiring the building for incorporation into their campus. The community is considering building a new hospital, and Wentworth is interested in acquiring the old hospital building. The church sits on land in the middle of the old hospital and the Academy, so the structure would be a natural addition for use as a chapel or repurposed for a new use.
Click on the links below for highlights of our Most Endangered Historic Places