Latest Event Updates

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

Hidden high-rise highlighted twice

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Here in 2015, there’s lots of talk about whether downtown Columbia should sport so many high-rise apartment buildings, but in 1910, another high-rise faced a different kind of problem — a shortage of steel.

The Guitar Building — which has nothing to do with guitars — at 28 N. Eighth St. was spotlighted in the April 2015 edition of the Columbia Business Times. It was also the subject of “Booches, Guitar Building rack up years downtown,” a column written by Warren Dalton and published on August 29, 2010 in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Guitar Building, 22 N. Eighth St., historic image and present image, highlighted in article the April 2015 edition of the Columbia Business Times, used with permission.
Guitar Building, 22 N. Eighth St., historic image and present image, highlighted in article the April 2015 edition of the Columbia Business Times, used with permission.

This is one of the important reasons for this site that catalogs information on historic buildings in Columbia, Missouri. Information on Columbia’s history is often revealed in many the city’s publications, but finding everything published on any one location can be difficult.

Do you have information on this building you’d like highlighted? Is there a clue or historical fact on this or any other building in Columbia you want to share? I’d love to hear it, either via comments of to me at Or perhaps you’re not keen on high-rise buildings now — or then. Let me know.

No guitar, only Guitars

So if the building has nothing to do with guitars, what’s up with the name? As the Columbia Business Times Flashback piece notes, the building was constructed by J.H. and E.H. Guitar in 1910, as part of what the article calls the “race to the sky as architects fought to erect the highest, most grandiose structure.” That race to the sky required steel, which was in short supply the article notes. The Guitars headed to Philadelphia to find the steel. (By the way, J.H. Guitar was mayor of Columbia in 1892, when Academic Hall of MU burned, and helped to retrieve items from the burning building during the fire, according to this document, “Columbia Water and Light, Centennial Celebration, 1904-2004.”)

Since it was built, the Guitar Building, Dalton writes, has housed doctors, insurance firms, dentists and others. In 1940, he states, “the main floor was occupied by Conley-Meyers Insurance and Real Estate Agency, Gaylord-Rhodes Insurance Agency, George Sapp Business Office, Ercell Miller Life Insurance and Gem Drugstore. Kelly Press operated in the basement.”

The Columbia Business Times article notes the building today “showcases a mural by local artist Sidney Larson, whose work can also be seen inside the Boone County Courthouse and the Columbia Public Library.” Here’s more information about the mural and other downtown murals in this City of Columbia Murals of Note document.

Neither article notes whether this 1911 high-rise was greeted with fanfare or frowns, but nearly 100 years later, few would call it a high-rise or even raise an eyebrow if such a five-story building were proposed today — if it weren’t planned for the same spot as another Columbia icon at least.

Maplewood:14-foot walls, a $3 million heritage and a $14,400 grant

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Fourteen-inch thick walls. Three gifts worth nearly $1 today. And now a $14,400 grant

Those numbers are part of the story of Maplewood, a 1977 historic home owned by the City of Columbia and managed by the Boone County Historical Society.

Maplewood was built by Columbia pioneer Slater Lenoir in 1877, the house has 14-inch thick brick walls. The house was a home for Lenoir’s child Lavinia Lenoir Nifong and her husband Frank Nifong from 1905 until their later years. Lavinia died in 1959, preceded by her husband in 1954.

You can look for those 14-inch thick walls if you like. The Boone County Historical Society offers tours by appointment Thursday – Sunday 12:30- 3:30 p.m. Special arrangements can be made for large groups. For information call 573-443-8936 or email at

Where’s that $3 million?

The $3 million is a little harder to find.

The Nifongs also gave to two organizations what would total roughly $3 million in 2014 purchasing power dollars, according to a calculator on Measuring Worth.

In 1949, the Nifongs gave $100,000 toward a retirement home and in 1953, bequeathed another $100,000 for that purpose, for what now is Lenoir Woods. The Nifongs also gave what is now Boone Hospital Center, but was once Boone County Hospital.

“In 1953, the Nifongs gave $100,000.00 toward the construction of a wing, later named for them, at the Boone County Hospital. Finally, in 1953, the couple deeded the remainder of their farm to the Lenoir Memorial Home. Included in their gift were all the furnishings, antiques, works of art and memorabilia found in the house; all the associated outbuildings and contents; and all farm machinery and equipment,” states the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Maplewood, which placed the house on the Register on March 13, 1979.

So now you know something that’s not easy to learn. Both the Lutheran Senior Services website that lists Lenoir Woods doesn’t reference the Nifongs, nor does the Boone Hospital Center.

Life moves on with $14,400

The City of Columbia has received a $14,400 grant from the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office. The city will work with the Boone County Historical Society, which operates the house to deal with water damage, structural concerns and electrical issues, according to the city publication, CitySource, Vol. 17, No. 5, May 2015.

Lost Black history spotlighted on Tuesday, May 19, 2015

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Black history will be the brought back to life on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 with the unveiling of a marker to highlight a place that once existed — Sharp End — will be highlighted. From 5:30 to 6:15 p.m., members of the Sharp End Heritage Commission and city and state officials will mark the unveiling of a historic marker near the REDI offices on Walnut Street.

This once vibrant entrepreneurial area filled with black-owned businesses including barber shops, restaurants, taverns and other firms filled the 500 block of East Walnut Street, now home to the Columbia Post Office and a city parking garage, according to this May 17, 2015 article by Rudi Keller in the Columbia Tribune.

Why is this important?

This site stems from a desire to save and reveal Columbia’s history. Once a person dies, his or her life story can fade. But when there’s a building, that story can be sometimes be found again. For example, few people know that an early woman journalist once lived in the house at 121 West Boulevard North — or that she’d nearly been given up to a wealthy Boonville, Missouri family.

That’s why Tuesday’s event is so important. It will bring back to life history and lives that can’t be highlighted through the buildings and homes, which are all now gone, except for a few notable exceptions, such as J.W. “Blind” Boone’s home, Second Baptist Church and St. Paul’s Church. The history of these buildings is highlighted in this National Register of Historic Places document.

Looking for more of Columbia’s black history? Here are several links:

Black History Lessons by Kevin Walsh, Inside Columbia, February 2015.

Interested in doing your own sleuthing on black history? I can’t wait to dig into this collection at the State Historic Society: Boone County Black Archives Collection. It includes information on the 1923 lynching.

Looking for a great read? Here’s a review of Gary Kremer’s recent book, “Race and Meaning.”

As for me, I’ll be at the event on Tuesday, when Columbia marks history that I’m grateful didn’t fade once the buildings were gone.

Bungalows and local couple celebrated for historic preservation

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The bungalow-studded neighborhood on Hubbell Drive and Lucy and Hugo Vianello will be celebrated at a free event set for 6:30 p.m. May 11, 2015, to highlight historic preservation in Columbia, Missouri.

The event, sponsored by Columbia’s Historic Preservation Commission, will be held in the historic Missouri Theatre — the building that Hugo and Vianello are being honored for preserving and restoring. The 1928 theatre is at 203 S. Ninth St., Columbia, Missouri. It was modeled after the Paris Opera House and was designed by Boller Brothers, according to this University of Missouri website.

This May 11, 2015 article in the Columbia Missourian outlines the homes and the contributions of the Vianellos.

Each year, the Historic Preservation Commission honors people and places of historic significance.

Things that go bump in the day and the night

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Interested in what you can’t see? That’s what you’ll learn about at these free downtown historic walking tours, with the first one slated for July 31, 2014. Given by members of the Historic Preservation Commission of the City of Columbia, the tours will focus on what you can — and can’t see.

All four of the upcoming tours start at 7:30 p.m. at the “Key” at City Hall at Broadway and Eighth Street. The first tour will cover Columbia’s brick streets, but not the part you can see. The other walks include an August 14 walk to view Columbia’s historic hotels and theatres, the Sept. 18 event will cover downtown worship centers and Oct. 30, the last walk, will take a look at places where ghosts and other scary tales lurk.

For the walk on Thursday, Patrick Earney, HPC member and project engineer at Trabue, Hansen & Hinshaw, Inc., will discuss the engineering under and around the brick streets of Columbia, Missouri.

What? Who cares? You should. Many of these streets are more than 100 years old and while they’ve lasted, those dips and ridges that make your car go bump in the day and the night when you drive on them are due in some cases to the poor foundation under the bricks.

As Earney noted in an email, “The take away for the average person is that a street laid 110 years ago is still viable and would still be performing well had they been maintained.”

There’s another value said Earney, one that not every one would recognize at first glance or first drive.

“Each brick was touched by at least two people — he who made it and he who installed it. They’re not all the same, and the rows aren’t exactly straight. There’s a human element to a brick street that another street pavement doesn’t possess,” Earney wrote in a recent email.

In this day and age of disposable, manufactured items, a hand-made, crafted item can hold value for those who see it.

Wonder where those brick streets are? Here’s a map that shows where they are exposed and hidden.

Map showing brick streets, covered and uncovered and the core area of concern. Historic Preservation Commission map used with permission.
Map showing brick streets, covered and uncovered and the core area of concern. Historic Preservation Commission map used with permission.

Are those bricks or bucks under your feet?

Just as important, these brick streets may end up costing — or saving — you money some day. Proponents of brick streets cite the fact that they last. Remember the part above that mentioned some of them are more than 100 years old? Advocates for spiffing up and even uncovering some of the brick streets say the reason they were covered during the 1960s and 1970s is because they weren’t maintained. They also point out that asphalt streets must be repaved every 15 or so years, making the apparent savings of covering brick streets instead of repairing them a false frugality over time.

On the other hand, some people point to the cost of repairing the brick streets, pointing out that when the brick street were laid, labor costs were a fraction of today’s costs. Repaving using bricks calls for craftsmen and craftswomen, not just rollers.

Like it or lump it, on March 17, 2014, the City Council passed a Brick Streets Policy Resolution PR 229-13 that says the city will not remove covered or exposed brick pavement within a “Core Brick Street Zone,” and may be given a budget to uncover some brick streets over the next 20 years, “after a successful demonstration project.”

Brick streets good or bad?

What? Not a fan of brick streets. Well, you are not alone. Some folks decry the bumpy ride they provide, while others point to that same rumbling road as a good thing. A city document cited a case study of Winter Park, Florida that showed traffic fell on one of the main brick streets by nearly one-third from 8,500 to 6,000 cars ,with the average speed taking a nosedive from 41 mph to 29 mph after a 1996 brick street restoration. That’s called traffic calming and it can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your perspective.

Others complain that spending money fixing or uncovering brick streets is a waste just for the sense of place and historic ambiance. That view is countered, of course, by those who say brick streets can save money in repaving costs.

But whether you are for or against brick streets, here’s a chance to learn more for free and find out why you might want to care about the part of the brick street you can’t see.