MISSOURI’S MOST ENDANGERED HISTORIC PLACES – 2007
Ralls County Sheriff’s Office (1868) New London, Ralls County
The Ralls County Sheriff’s office is a two-story limestone building across the street from the 1859 Ralls County Courthouse. Both the Courthouse and Sheriff’s Office are on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to being one of the oldest jails in Missouri, this is one of our state’s few remaining examples of a nineteenth-century jail that combined the housing of both the prisoners and the jailer’s family. There is significant water damage to the stonework on the south east corner of the structure and to a wooden lintel supporting the stonework above it. In turn, these problems have begun to affect the interior floors and walls. This year, Missouri Preservation will advise the Ralls County Commissioners and County Historical Society on the preservation of the jail’s stone work.
Yetter Building (1871) Grant City, Worth County
The commercial buildings surrounding the Courthouse Square in Grant City represent types found in many rural Missouri towns – one and two story brick vernacular structures on narrow, deep lots. Some of the buildings have pressed metal facades, some have brick corbelling, some have large plate glass windows on the first floor, some have bay windows on the second story, some have side-staircases or balconies. Often these buildings face one of two fates. First, many of these commercial buildings were defaced in the 1970s with unsightly metal coverings or vinyl siding, shingle shed roofs and windows infilled with brick or wood or altered to accommodate smaller windows. Property owners sacrificed unique nineteenth and early twentieth-century structures to the illusion easy maintenance. What made towns like Grant City unique became a predicable copy. Second, many of these turn of the century commercial buildings were abandoned.
The Yetter Building faces the Worth County Courthouse and anchors one corner of the downtown streetscape. Despite its important position, the Yetter Building has been seriously neglected. What were basic maintenance issues were allowed to escalate into major structural issues. The roof leaks and has caused serious interior damage. The mortar in the rear exterior wall has weakened and bricks have fallen out of several courses, destabilizing the bond for some of the walls.
The Grant City Downtown Redevelopment Association acquired the Yetter Building in 2006 and proposes buying the neighboring properties in order to raze all five adjoining structures and “build something new.” Missouri Preservation hopes to introduce the citizens involved with the Grant City Downtown Redevelopment Association to the demonstrated link between historic preservation and economic growth, particularly to how federal tax credits that have been available for the past thirty years and Missouri state tax credits, available for the past ten years, can be used for the renovation or adaptive reuse of historic commercial properties.
207, 211, 215 & 221 West McCarty Street (1907-1911) Jefferson City, Cole County
Built by Louis Kolkmeyer at the turn of the century, these four houses on the National Register of Historic Places demonstrate both a unified and varied streetscape. These buildings are located a block from the State Capitol and downtown business district; they were bought by Jefferson City and its housing authority in 1999 to tear them down and make way for a convention center on this block. That dream has not materialized. After the City and Housing Authority let the properties sit vacant for eight years, they are dilapidated now and in violation of city codes. The Historic City of Jefferson and Friends of Jefferson City have organized to save these houses. They met with city officials and negotiated a deal whereby the four houses on West McCarty could be sold if restored within one year and adapted for reuse to get them back on the city’s tax rolls. The Historic City of Jefferson needs to find buyers immediately since the city council has said that, if this plan fails, these buildings will be demolished and turned into a parking lot.
UPDATE – October 2007: 207 W. McCarty, known as the Bassman House, was lost to demolition.
The MKT Railroad Bridge (1932), Cooper and Howard CountiesBoonville, Cooper & Howard Counties
This structure constitutes the only Missouri river crossing for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) railroad. It has a unique vertical lift span design to allow easy passage of river traffic. The lift span itself is 408 feet long, electrically operated, and weighs more than 1,200 tons. This bridge merged railroad and river commerce on the Missouri River. It is in excellent structural condition and the quality of its steel contributes to the threat to its existence. The direct threat to the bridge stems from interpretations of the 1987 Rails to Trails agreement that developed the KT State Park along the Missouri River. The bridge was included as part of the interim trail use agreement. However, in October 2004, the Union Pacific Railroad, headquartered outside our state, initiated plans to demolish the bridge and to recycle its steel for new bridge at Osage City, Missouri. There was strong public outcry and demolition was temporarily on hold. Recently the DNR has reversed its position and has agreed to let the Union Pacific remove this unique historic property and a court ruling in April 2006 will permit this. An appeal was filed and a decision is expected soon.
Courthouses of Missouri: Including the Clark County Courthouse – Kahoka, Clark County
Historic Preservation continues to be threatened by sections of the Missouri State Legislature. In 2005, the Senate, but not the House, passed a bill to divert monies from preservation to fund sports facilities, most of which would be in urban areas. This Bill would have eliminated the funding for Historic Preservation Revolving Fund, one of whose programs was scheduled to work on county court houses and city halls. The Revolving Fund offers the only potential financing for the restoration of these publicly owned historic resources. Some legislators continue to see funding for maintenance and help to rural and urban county court houses as nonessential.
The variety of threats to Missouri’s courthouses can be seen in examples found in Clark County in Kahoka and in Gasconade County in Hermann. The Clark County Courthouse is threatened by the lack of funding and no maintenance budget for the courthouse which was constructed in the 1870’s. The roof structure, its cupola, windows and soffits have severe damage and are in need of immediate repair. The Gasconade Courthouse in Hermann was built in 1896 and is thought to be the only courthouse in American built with private funds. Rather than repair and adapt this courthouse, some Gasconade commissioners and supporters have proposed abandoning it and transferring the county seat to another town to a 1960’s school. Working to maintain the courthouse in Hermann, others are working to obtain estimates and proposals to address maintenance, parking and accessibility issues. Other Missouri courthouses have refitted their courthouses to make them accessible rather than discard their historic building. Last year, Missouri Preservation met with County Commissioners and opponents of the proposed move to discuss adapting this historic structure to modern uses and demands. In 2006, Hermann was awarded the DREAM initiative and made the county courthouse part of this proposal. Nevertheless, talk of abandoning the courthouse and moving the county seat continues.
Odd Fellows Home, 1900-1908Liberty, Clay County
An impressive, significant complex of four buildings, the Odd Fellows Home sits on 36 acres. Three of the red-brick buildings exhibit the Jacobean-Revival style with rich stone door and window surrounds and gabled dormers. Nationally recognized architect, William Ittner, designed one of these structures, the Administration Building. Constructed for one of America’s largest fraternal orders, the Odd Fellows Home educated orphans and gave care for elderly members of the IOOF. The buildings are in a state of advanced deterioration; broken windows, doors and damaged roofs create a dangerous environment.
Martinsburg City Hall, Fire House and Jail Martinsburg, Audrain County
This multi-purpose building housed a city council office, meeting room, courtroom, jail and fire house for over fifty years. Today, the city’s tractor, mower and grader are stored there. The city of Martinsburg wants to preserve the structure but needs technical assistance for rehabilitation and suggestions about future uses and planning.
Union Pacific Train Depot and Stairs Poplar Bluff, Butler County
This double-winged staircase unites two vital levels of Poplar Bluff’s commerce: the two-story brick Union Pacific Train Depot at the bottom of the hill and Main Street at the top. Both the depot and stairs are in fair to poor condition following their abandonment by the Union Pacific in 2000. A local group has secured a MoDOT matching funds grant to repair the depot’s roof. Missouri Preservation will offer technical assistance on the conservation of the depot’s interior and the staircase.
Andrew Baker HouseDesloge, St. Francois County
One of the earliest and largest log houses in this part of Missouri, the Baker house is two stories and has stone fireplaces. Andrew Baker was the area’s first merchant, a slave-owner, and wealthy. The property has not been in use for some time, has a leaking roof and has suffered serious neglect.
Mullanphy Emigrant Home (1867) St. Louis City
Often abandonment and deferred maintenance create accidents waiting to happen. The Northside of St. Louis was hit with severe weather in April 2006 and strong winds caused considerable damage to these two landmarks. The disintegration of the south wall at the Mullanphy Emigrant Home has left joists and beams exposed, sagging and potentially triggering the collapse of the roof. The damage to this structure is major but not insuperable. Missouri Preservation will be working together with the owners and area associations to aid the conservation efforts for the building.
The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group has done admirable work this past year reversing a demolition order, purchasing the building, coordinating help and stabilization work on the building and gathering monies for its preservation through such activities as a fundraiser last month and a concert tomorrow evening at Christ Church Cathedral. Further storm damage occurred in the Spring of 2007, so the fundraising is extremely vital in once again stabilizing and saving this historic building. Missouri Preservation strongly supports Old North St Louis Restoration Group’s work and will continue to aid their conservation efforts for this building.
2007 Watch List
18th and Vine Historic District (1887-1926) Kansas City, Jackson County
One of the most important African-American commercial and cultural centers in the Mid-west, the 18th and Vine Historic District has undergone quality redevelopment over the past five years. Utilizing federal and private monies, the Jazz District Redevelopment Commission (JDRC) has conducted several praiseworthy projects in this neighborhood, including the construction of new space and multi-family housing. To date, however, JDRC has not completed measures to protect a number of historic buildings as the organization had agreed to when it accepted federal funds. Missouri Preservation has offered to assist the JDRC to ensure that these properties, essential to the perpetuation of this historic district, are stabilized and monitored properly until ready for reuse.
George Washington Carver School (1937) Fulton, Cole County
Designed by the Kansas City practice of Felt, Dunham, and Kreihn, the George Washington Carver School has been a center of Fulton’s African-American community. It is one of the few architect-designed American-American schools in our state and was dedicated by George Washington Carver, for whom the building was named. The school closed in 1982, was used for storage for several years, and then purchased in 1989 by a local foundation with the intent of restoring the structure to its prominent place in the lies of Fulton’s African-American community. To this end the building has been used as a black history museum, library and family resource center. Despite its importance to the black community of Fulton and Callaway County, the George Washington Carver Memorial Foundation continues to struggle to fund the on-going repair and maintenance of this building. Missouri Preservation has helped assess the building’s structure and will continue to work with local advocates to develop a fundraising and preservation plan which includes strategies for future utilization of this important piece of Missouri’s black heritage.
The Rotunda (1864) Hermann, Gasconade County
This red-brick octagon is on the National Register of Historic Places and was constructed as part of a fairground by the Gasconade County Agricultural Association to provide a location for horticultural exhibits and wine-judging events. The building, with its rare shape, demonstrates the importance of viniculture to the economic growth and identity of Hermann as a distinctly German community. It is threatened by years of deferred maintenance. The Brush and Palette Club, a local group, have worked enthusiastically over the past year raising funds and seeking authorization from the City of Hermann to oversee the restoration process and receive a lease for this structure.
Linn County Jail, (1871) Linneus, Linn County
This building currently houses the Linn County Historical Museum. The local museum association would like to purchase the building from the County this year, but they need technical help with fund development, rehabilitation and restoration plans in order to retain original features. Much of the structure of the jail is in good condition; however, major repairs to the roof, porch and trim need to be done.