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Why historic homes matter

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Why should we save historic homes? Why do I care about historic homes? Because those walls of wood or brick encapsulate the stories of the people who lived in them, stories which could become lost without those nail and mortar reminders.

How do I know this? A recent article headlined “Ceremony celebrates black Union veteran,” published in the Nov. 9, 2015 Columbia Daily Tribune outlines the placement of a headstone in the Columbia Cemetery. The writer Rudi Keller outlines how Wallace Lilly lived — died, buried without a headstone and nearly forgotten.

Lilly deserves to be remembered. A former slave, he fought as a soldier in the Union army, enlisting on April 13, 1864, notes Keller. All soldiers who fought for their country, many would say, should be remembered. Lilly was promoted twice before being mustered out and then worked to establish the Union veterans group and a black Masonic lodge.

The local Sons of Union Veterans spent four years researching the former slave, the article notes. He was in an unmarked grave since his death in 1932 until this week. The man’s life and memory could have been lost, as he’d died without children and other relatives would be hard pressed to find his grave. As the article notes, “Census records don’t give the names of slaves…”

But because he served and because there are Union soldier organizations and members who care, the name of Wallace Lilly lives on.

Math tells us historic homes matter

Contrast that with a house that exists and so we have the story of another black man and his success. Many in Columbia know the name of J.W. “Blind” Boone because his home remains on Fourth Street, awaiting the completion of its renovation. In his heyday, he was an internationally renowned musician, playing and composing ragtime and classical music. It’s estimated he and his entourage played 7,200 to 8,400 concerts from 1880-1915. The National Register of Historic Places document that outlines why the house which marks his life should be on this national register notes that it’s estimated Boone and his crew made $150 to $600 per concert. The math tells me that this would equal roughly $23.3 million in 2014 earning power, according to Measuring Worth, a website that converts historic dollars to modern dollars.

Born in 1864 to a former slave, Boone died in 1927. His home changed hands and fell into disrepair. At one time, it even looked like his his home might be demolished. But without that house, the story of the multi-millionaire musician might have been lost.

So why should we care about his story? Or the story of Wallace Lilly? Because without these stories of people who overcame adversity, our world would be a poorer one. Not in dollars but in spirt.

And that’s why I think historic homes are important. They keep the stories of our ancestors who strove and succeeded alive for all of us.

Take a walk on the business side

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At 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, you’ll be able to take a walk on the business side of historical architecture.

A free “Vocabulary of Architecture Walking Tour,” will set off from the Daniel Boone City Building at 701 E. Broadway. The walk is sponsored by the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission.

In this article published Nov. 3 in the Columbia Missourian, a few teaser terms were offered including fenestration, quoin, transom. Take a peek at the article or come along on Saturday and see for yourself.

Mystery ghost tour of MU in photos

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Did you have to miss last night’s ghost tour? Here’s a photo/text peek at the tour which was hosted by Columbia’s Historic Preservation Commission.

The tour discussed the ghosts and mysteries associated with the Residence on the Quad, the Columns as the remains of Academic Hall, where the Shack once stood, McAlester Hall, the Conley House and the Missouri Theatre.

This online tour is via the Columbia Missourian article headlined Historical Conservation Commission leads haunted Columbia tour.


Halloween walking tour on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015

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A free walking tour is on tap for Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015. The tour is being offered by Columbia’s Historic Preservation Commission. The tour will meet at 6 p.m. on MU’s Francis Quadrangle.

For more information about the Historic Preservation Commission and walking tours, check out this blog:

Oct. 23, 2015 — Historic Preservation Commission hosts spooky walking tour — Columbia Missourian.

Horsey history here

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Were you too busy to take in the Boone County Stables Tour this past weekend?

Not to worry, the Columbia Historic Homes website has you covered. Here are links to information on the Stephens Stables with photos and history about these stables which were built in 1939 and 1952.

This history is important because first it gives us a window into one of our past industries, the horse industry, second it gives us a peek at something that’s still important in Columbia, Stephens College where women can still major in equestrian studies and finally it’s a place that still offers access to the community via lessons and visits.


Scary history on display Oct. 28, 2015

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There’s more to history than old buildings — there are the tales within. Those tales, scary and otherwise, will be on display in a history tour set for 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015.

The Columbia Historic Preservation Commission holds historic tours periodically. The most recent was Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015.

Several more are scheduled including on at 10 a.m. on Nov. 7 titled Vocabulary of Architecture and another on “Quirky Locals,” the date, time and place to be announced.

Learn more about the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission on their blog at or on the HPC’s Facebook page.

Missed the one on Sept. 20? Find out what you missed by reading this Sept. 21, 2015 article on historic tours in the Columbia Missourian headlined “Locals tour downtown Columbia to learn about history.”

Buy history, live in the Gingerbread house

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The house at 121 West Blvd., North, often called the Fairy Tale house or the Gingerbread house, is once again for sale.

This recent article, “Famed Columbia gingerbread house on the market again,” gives a brief outline of the house and its recent history.  Best of all, it does not repeat some of the urban myths about the house that had grown up around it. For years, people said Arch McHard or Arch McCard had felled the trees on the land to build the log cabin inside the treat of a home — but my research showed that to be unlikely.

An interview with Mills Coleman, who once lived there, told me that the string on the door that could be pulled in at night to keep out visitors was not a reminder of pioneer days but a joking creation of his mother, Nadine Coleman, who lived their prior to the well-known owners Betty and Herb Brown.

Now Sean and Leigh Spence are selling the home and that means homebuyers have another chance to buy or even live in history.

Read my work on the house, published in the state magazine, Missouri Life in 2013, by clicking on the pdf below.

Hansel Gretel 121 West Blvd Missouri Life 2013