MISSOURI’S PLACES IN PERIL
Missouri Preservation Announces its annual Call for Nominations to it’s statewide list of Places in Peril. Is there an endangered historic resource in your city or neighborhood? Consider nominating it for listing. Nominations are due by March 20, 2015 and announcement of Missouri’s 2015 Places in Peril will be made on Tuesday, May 25, 2015.
The first announcement of an endangered properties list in Missouri was made in 2000 and was entitled “Missouri’s Most Endangered Historic Places.” 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. In 2015 the Most Endangered Committee at Missouri Preservation re-named the program, “Missouri’s Places in Peril,” having seen the program re-branded in Georgia. 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 May, which is National Preservation Month.
MISSOURI’S MOST ENDANGERED ANNOUNCED MAY 20, 2014
Missouri Preservation announced its list of the State’s Most Endangered Historic Places for 2014 at a press conference held at the Henry Blosser House in Malta Bend (Saline County), Missouri. The announcement was made at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20, 2014.
The list of Missouri’s Most Endangered Historic Places is announced annually during National Preservation Month 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.
The 2014 List of Missouri’s Most Endangered Historic Places (in no particular order) is as follows:
The Henry Blosser House, Malta Bend – Saline County
Lewis & Clark Branch Library, Moline Acres – St. Louis County
Houston House, Newburg – Phelps County
The Coleman House, Poplar Bluff – Butler County
University of Missouri Campus Properties – Bel Nor – St. Louis County
The Franz Schmidt Cabin – Cape Girardeau – Cape Girardeau County
The Henry Miller House, Bloomfield – Stoddard County
The Phillip Kaes House, Sherman – St. Louis County
The James Clemens House, City of Saint Louis
Greenwood Cemetery, Hillsdale – St. Louis County
The Route 66 Bridge – St. Louis County
The Henry Blosser House – Malta Bend, Saline County
The Henry Blosser House was constructed c.1878, built by E. R. Page. The home was built for Henry Blosser, who had moved his family from Ross County, Ohio in November 1865. An enterprising and self-reliant farmer, Blosser was well known and respected and his farm known for its large livestock herd and prolific wheat production. The Blosser name is well-recognized in Saline County. Blosser’s daughter-in-law, Georgia Brown Blosser, daughter of St. Louis broker and real estate tycoon Paul Brown, was both designer and financier of the construction of the Georgia Brown Blosser Home for the Aged and the Georgia Brown Blosser Home for Crippled Children on Eastwood Street in Marshall. Unusual in this rural area, the Henry Blosser house in Malta Bend is an elegant and substantial three-story brick Second Empire style home, with a signature mansard roof. It was designed by George Ingham Barnett, who was the architect for the current Governor’s Mansion in Jefferson City. The house is currently vacant and vandalized, but not beyond repair. The current owners have indicated that they are willing to sell a small plot of land on which the house is located to a willing buyer interested in renovating the home. If a suitable owner cannot be found, the owner intends to demolish the building and return the land to agricultural use.
Lewis & Clark Branch Library – Moline Acres, St. Louis County
(photo: John Guenther)
The Lewis & Clark Branch Library, the only library building designed by architect Frederick Dunn, FAIA, was constructed in 1963. Once the pride of the County Library system, the building was fitted with stained glass windows by master artist Robert Harmon, and was constructed as part of a progressive mid-century building program which sought to re-envision libraries in the postwar era. Placed at the northern end of the library building’s main façade and echoed in smaller blocks of colored glassed embedded throughout the curtain wall and tiny hopper windows, Harmon’s design includes images of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the library’s namesakes, along with their Shoshone guide, Sacagawea and her baby, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. Flora and fauna including a buffalo in sprint are interwoven with abstract patterns to complete a stunning composition. The building design is a very elegant response to functional requirements both in plan (a simple rectangle) and in elevation, with the brick walls extending upward to give a solid wall to display the perimeter book shelves and a clearstory window above providing ample daylight to the interior. These features make this building as fresh today as it was when it was first created and flexible to extend its life well into the future. The St. Louis County Library plans to demolish the Lewis & Clark Branch and replace it with a completely new structure. Our hope is that listing here will help persuade the Library Trustees to reconsider, adding a sensitive addition to meet the future needs of the Library’s patrons rather than demolishing this worthy mid-century St. Louis County Landmark.
The Houston House – Newburg, Phelps County
Newburg, Missouri is first and foremost a railroad town. Founded by the St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) Railroad in 1883-84, the town served as the major refueling point between St. Louis and Springfield. The first structures to be erected at Newburg for the purposes of the railroad were the Frisco roundhouse and the “Railroad Hotel and Eating House,” known today as the Houston House. Both of these structures opened for business on 1 January 1884. Construction began on the white frame, three-story Colonial Revival Style hotel building in 1883 by William H. Harris, who had previously operated a hotel and restaurant in Dixon. Following the relocation of the Frisco’s division point to Newburg, he set out to establish a hotel and restaurant for the developing community, railway employees, and the passengers traveling along the Frisco Line. For three generations the building not only serviced the railroad clientele but also served as the Harris family home. After the death of William Harris, his daughter Martha Elizabeth “Matt” Houston took over the operations of the building. It is at this time that the building took the name associated with William Harris’s daughter. Despite the fact that other such establishments existed along First Street, the Houston House was widely renowned for its hospitality, food, and ambiance. Today the building is threatened by decades of flood damage, rising damp, and a fire that ravaged the third flood in the mid-1970s. Subsequent renovation efforts went unfinished in the 1990s, leaving some of the building’s outer walls to become cracked and exposed to the elements. In 2004 the Newburg Community Revitalization Program Group purchased the building. This group has since operated the Houston House as a weekly soup kitchen in an effort to raise funds to help with the building’s maintenance and upkeep. With much work still to be done, it is hoped that by being listed on Missouri’s Most Endangered Historic Places, that a renewal of interest for the building will help generate not only awareness for the building’s condition but will also to help raise the much-needed funds for the preservation of this historic building that many consider to be the heart and soul of the Newburg community.
The Coleman House – Poplar Bluff, Butler County
Poplar Bluff’s Coleman house was constructed about 1902 for local prominent dentist, Charles Bernard Coleman and his wife, Ruth Hinckley. Dr. Coleman was born in 1873 in Foristell, Missouri, the son of Daniel T. And Sarah C. Price Coleman, a native of Missouri. Sarah’s parents were originally from Virginia and relocated to promote the primary pioneer settlement of Missouri. Her father, Job Price, was the cousin of Confederate General Sterling Price, and was considered one of the more affluent farmers and property owners of Warren County. The house is significant architecturally as it was designed in the Colonial Revival style, which is unusual in this Southern Missouri town. It is located in a well-known residential area of Poplar Bluff less than a block from the North Main Street Historic District. While it retains many of its original architectural elements including wood trim, hardwood floors, fireplace mantles, original staircase, pocket doors, transoms and plaster walls, the house has been vacant since 1983 and has been condemned by the City of Poplar Bluff, which has ordered its demolition if required repairs are not made. There is strong support within the community to save the Coleman House, and it is hoped that this listing will help persuade the current owner to sell the property to someone who is interested in renovating this important historic property.
University of Missouri Historic Resources – Bel Nor, St. Louis County
(photos: Mark Abeln, Ryan Brooks)
A community outcry against demolition of two important buildings on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis has caused this nomination to Missouri’s Most Endangered Historic Places. The first is at 2800 Normandy Drive and is currently known as Normandie Hall. This building is on the former estate of James H. Lucas, one of the original settlers to the area. Originally a convent for the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, it was constructed in 1922 and used by the Sisters until 1992 when sold to the University of Missouri. The University utilized the building first as on-campus housing, then as the Honors College center, then as a conference center, before vacating a few years ago. The other building is currently known as the Alumni Center. Located at 7956 Natural Bridge Road, the house is a substantial Mediterranean style house built of all masonry construction in 1927. The exterior features stone, and red brick as well as a green glazed tile roof. Interior features include arched leaded glass windows, French doors, decorative plaster walls and molding and terrazzo floors throughout. The University vacated the Alumni Center and maintains that it is too costly to renovate. Given the strong community support shown for the preservation of these buildings, the University has agreed to stave off demolition to see if suitable owners can be found to renovate and again occupy these buildings. We hope that by naming them to the list of Most Endangered Historic Places, purchasers interested in renovation and repurposing of these buildings might be identified.
The Franz Schmidt Cabin – Cape Girardeau, Cape Girardeau County
The current appearance of what was the Franz Schmidt Cabin – a frame Bungalow design typical of the 1930s – belies its original form. The settlement of this property occurred prior to 1832, although it is unsure whether a building existed here when Franz Schmidt acquired it in 1860. During some initial rehabilitation work in 2013, the first logs became visible from beneath the exterior clapboard siding, and it was discovered that the southern half of the house was indeed a log “cabin” of modified lap and half-notch construction. The cabin structure is shown in early lithograph maps of Cape Girardeau and military maps from the Civil War. The cabin is in close proximity to the location of the Union Army’s Fort A and was very near to the horse corral, on land now bisected by what is now Cape Girardeau’s Fountain Street. Verbal historical accounts from the Schmidt family indicate that Franz Schmidt was its builder. The original core of the present house represents one of the oldest extant structures in the historic City of Cape Girardeau, as well as being a rare remaining structure in the Fort A District, and a rare example of German Vernacular construction. The City of Cape Girardeau has condemned the house and considers it “impractical” for renovation. A support group consisting of local preservationists has been working with the house’s owner to stabilize the building, and has also done preliminary work toward listing it on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, these supporters have established a social networking site and have begun the process of establishing a tax-exempt corporation in order to raise funds for its restoration. It is hoped that listing on Missouri’s Most Endangered will help persuade the City of Cape Girardeau to give the preservationists more time in which to raise these funds and establish a new use for this historic place.
The Henry Miller House – Bloomfield, Stoddard County
This house was constructed sometime 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 interior of the house retains much of its original material, with the exception of minor repairs. The house was used as a residence continually from the time it was constructed until about 1979 and has been vacant ever since. The house has since fallen into general disrepair from neglect, some siding is missing, and the porch collapsed and was removed. A $200,000.00 grant was received several years ago to restore the house, but after one of the contractors failed to produce, the grant was forfeited. Student volunteers from the Historic Preservation Association at Southeast Missouri State University have been working to stabilize the Miller House. It is hoped that Missouri’s Most Endangered List will bring added recognition to this historic place, that the building can be listed on the National Register of Historic Places and that it will be able to once again garner economic favor through a broader system of support. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Schmitt
The Phillip Kaes House – Sherman (Castlewood State Park), St. Louis County
The land on which the Phillip Kaes house sits was part of a Spanish land grant to Samuel Pruitt, who was one of the first English-speaking settlers west of the Mississippi. By 1862, most of Pruitt’s holdings had been divided between the Lewis, Kaehs (Kaes) and Coons families. The house was sited on land belonging to the Kaeses. There is still a private cemetery on the property bearing Kaes family inscriptions. The house is designated a St. Louis County Landmark and is now part of Castlewood State Park. It suffers sorely from lack of maintenance. Acquired by the State Parks Department in 1980, one year later the first proposal to pay for its restoration started through the bureaucratic maze. Finally in 1986 $172,000.00 was allocated by the state legislature for the house, but officials shifted money to other needs at the park. In the ensuing years, time has not been kind to State Parks budgets and even though the house was listed in a previous Most Endangered list, has continued to fall into disrepair. It is hoped that this nomination will call attention to the need for increased funding for Missouri’s State Parks and historic buildings that have been acquired into the State Parks system.
The James Clemens House – The City of Saint Louis
This house, completed 1859-60 was designed by architect, Patrick Walsh and constructed for James Clemens, who was a highly successful businessman and cousin to writer Samuel Clemens. The house is listed on the National Register and is a St. Louis City Landmark. This imposing Palladian-style villa with extensive cast iron ornamentation represents one of the most intact antebellum mansions in the St. Louis area. After the death of the illustrious owner in 1888, the house and furnishings were sold to the Sisters of Carondelet, a chapel addition was constructed, and the property became the Convent of Our Lady of Good Counsel. The Sisters enlarged the property to include a dormitory and a Georgian Palladian chapel, which was designed by Aloysius Gillick and completed in 1896. Beginning in 1949 the buildings were used by a number of Roman Catholic communities and charities, and in 1987 it was sold to the Berean Missionary Baptist Association and then in 2005 to the Universal Vietnamese Buddhist Association. In these recent years, the complex has been used as a homeless shelter and the buildings have received little or no maintenance. A 1984 inspection report suggested that the cast iron used in the façade had become cracked and brittle, allowing water to be trapped behind. The quoins at the corners of the building were reportedly in bad condition, were missing fragments and cracking at the anchor bolts. A conservative price tag for repairs needed at that time was $100,000.00. Since then the building has transferred hands a number of times, the most recent being to the developer of the proposed “NorthSide Regeneration” project. Representatives of NorthSide Regeneration removed the cast iron façade of the house years ago when it was promised the building would be renovated. Since then, even though NorthSide has received substantial tax credits for redevelopment of the area, nothing has been done to preserve or stabilize the house or additions, and the roof of the nearby chapel has collapsed. It is hoped that this nomination will encourage NorthSide Regeneration to complete rehabilitation of the Clemens House and to include preservation as a focal point of its future plans in the NorthSide Regeneration area.
Greenwood Cemetery – Hillsdale, St. Louis County
Greenwood Cemetery was established in 1874 as the first commercial African-American cemetery in the St. Louis area. After emancipation and before the establishment of Greenwood, the majority of African-Americans in this area did not have a choice of burial location for their deceased family members – due to Jim Crow laws the potters fields and other city-owned cemeteries were the final resting places not only for indigents, but also for people of color no matter what their circumstances or status. Greenwood, with its rural location, park-like setting and 31.85 acres of beautiful well-kept grounds was a welcome change for the small but growing black middle class. Maintenance at the cemetery seems to have ended in the 1980s, as the cemetery showed a drastic loss in revenue due to decreased burials. In 1993 burials ceased at the cemetery due to deteriorating conditions and eventually vegetation was allowed to grow wild in all of Greenwood’s 31.85 acres, making it an impenetrable wilderness. Due to the many decades of neglect, the situation at Greenwood is grim. Much of the cemetery has been used as a dump site, the roads are impassable, stones have been toppled and buried, and shrubs and trees have now become impenetrable overgrowth. Despite current conditions, this site has potential as a cultural and historical resource. It has enormous potential for education, African-American genealogical research, and could be restored for hiking, biking and other activities.
The Route 66 Bridge – Eureka Vicinity, St. Louis County
The Route 66 Bridge over the Meramec River in Southwest St. Louis County was constructed in 1932 and is known as a Warren deck truss bridge, of which only three other examples remain in Missouri. Route 66’s passage across the Meramec River was heavily promoted as a tourist attraction due to the river itself, as well as the adjacent working class resort community known as Times Beach. Although major highway traffic is now carried over the Meramec by the Interstate 44 Bridge, the Route 66 Bridge was incorporated into the boundaries of Route 66 State Park, which opened in 1999. A Route 66 Museum was opened in a former lodge and road house, which houses maps and memorabilia from “The Mother Road.” Most of the remaining acreage of the park, however, lies across the bridge in what was formerly Times Beach, leaving the interpretive center cut off from most of the remaining park space. Previously one of the most visited State Parks in Missouri at around 250,000 visitors per year, park attendance has dropped since the bridge’s closure in 2009. There is strong support from a number of local and statewide groups to preserve this bridge. Since this is a deck truss bridge, the biggest detriment to its structural integrity is the heavy weight of the concrete surface above. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has used some of the money in its demolition budget to remove the deck and give supporters of saving the bridge until 2015 to find a new owner to assume the cost of rehabilitation.
2014 Watched Properties List:
Athens Methodist Church – Athens, Clark County
Wheatley-Provident Hospital – Kansas City, Jackson County
The Frank L. Sommer “Cracker” House – St. Joseph, Buchanan County
The Diamonds Cafe – Villa Ridge, Franklin County
School Buildings of Missouri – Statewide
The Kemper Arena – Kansas City, Jackson County
The Russell Hotel – Charleston, Mississippi County
The Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church – Lexington, Lafayette County
The Pelster House Barn – Franklin County
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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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.