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New old images of Eero Saarinen’s Firestone Baars Chapel at Stephens College

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Did you know there’s a bit of St. Louis in Columbia? The same designer, Eero Saarinen, who designed The Arch in St. Louis designed Stephens College’s Firestone Baars Chapel.

If you love before and after views, you are going to love this historic images released on June 17, 2016 by the State Historical Society of Missouri.

The seven images below are from the State Historical Society of Missouri’s Steinberg, Simon C. “Si” (1906-2002), Photograph Collection, 1938, 1950. (P0005) collection.

All seven images are from the May 22, 1950 groundbreaking.

The image above is a public domain image from Wikipedia.

Firestone Baars Chapel Groundbreaking

Firestone Baars Chapel Groundbreaking

Firestone Baars Chapel Groundbreaking

Firestone Baars Chapel Groundbreaking

Firestone Baars Chapel Groundbreaking

Firestone Baars Chapel Groundbreaking

Firestone Baars Chapel Groundbreaking

Background

Dedicated in 1957, Firestone-Baar Chapel at 1209 E. Walnut St. is a unique, nondenominational chapel. It was designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, who also designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis as well as other landmark buildings.

The chapel features a square plan and an entrance at each of the compass points. The Stephens College Campus Life-Student Handbook notes, “The chapel symbolizes commitment to individual spiritual development and worship. The chapel is used for meditation, religious services, vespers, weddings, memorials and campus programs.”

In 2002, the chapel was named to the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission’s Notable Properties Listing.

  • November 2013 — Columbia, The Beautiful by Morgan McCarty. Inside Columbia. Outlines the architectural finds in Columbia.

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Danger of demolitions

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Any DIYer or carpenter can tell you the importance of the adage measure twice, cut once. That applies to demolitions, too.

In 2013, several buildings were demolished, including a 1905 historic home, to make way for the Hagan Scholarship Academy, a residential college preparatory school for rural students. Three years later, despite the worthy plan, there is only a vacant lot — and the irrevocable loss of several historic buildings.

It may stay that way for a while. In this May 23, 2016 article, Construction of Hagan school in central Columbia delayed for second time” Mark Farnen, a spokesperson for Dan Hagan, who is the behind the foundation which is funding the project, said the building is “still in the design stages.”

What happened

In 2013, an article in the Columbia Daily Tribune proclaimed, “Old Stephens buildings to make way for academy soon.” Perhaps the problem was with the word “soon.”

The buildings destroyed included the1905 Altis/Chandler House at 1404 E. Broadway, a loss noted in this 2013 city of Columbia report decrying the loss of historic properties in our recent frenzy of destruction. This picture shows it was no beauty prior to its destruction and was in need of renovation.

1404 E. Broadway, Altis/Chandler Home prior to the 2013 demolition. Named to Columbia's Notable Properties list in 2007. Image credit: FitzImages Photography/City of Columbia Historic Preservation Commission.
1404 E. Broadway, Altis/Chandler Home prior to the 2013 demolition. Named to Columbia’s Notable Properties list in 2007. Image credit: FitzImages Photography/City of Columbia Historic Preservation Commission.

 

To make way for the Hagan Scholarship Academy, Stephens College lost an auditorium, a 1948, 2,300-seat auditorium, not that the college seemed to regret it. A Dec. 11, 2012 article in the Columbia Missourian, “Students, officials at Stephens College react to property sales,” quotes the college’s marketing manager Rebecca Kline as saying the building wouldn’t be missed.

Yet, in the same article, a Stephens student, Kirsten Izzett called the building the “old Jesse,” referring to the University of Missouri’s Jesse Hall, an anchor of the university’s historic quad. This July 1, 2013 article in the Columbia Missourian noted the building had not been used in 20 years.

Hillcrest Hall, another building demolished, the article notes, was used as a residence hall since it was built in 1965.

Loss or progress?

I can’t denigrate Stephens College for selling the buildings to fund other projects.

I do take umbrage against  society’s country’s inability to reimagine buildings. While traveling in the United Kingdom in 2015, I saw churches turned into restaurants, bed and breakfasts, taverns and bookstores. In Europe, I know of a family who visits their old ancestor’s home in Germany which now includes the family’s old barn. I’ve seen pictures and you can’t tell it’s a house/barn combination.

In Columbia, we’re familiar with reusing buildings. At Columbia College, for example, Williams Hall in 1848 was the home of Dr. James H. Bennett, a leading Columbia physician, according to information provided by Columbia College as a part of the nomination process for the city’s Notable Properties list. “Williams Hall is the oldest college building in continuous use for educational purposes west of the Mississippi River,” according to the Columbia College Web site.

Perhaps when we finally see the true cost of demolition including the cost of filling up our landfill with building rubble and the loss of soul when an old building is gone, we as a society will choose differently.

For now, there’s a large vacant area on Broadway that we can only hope will someday house hopeful students on their way to college where I hope they’ll learn a better way to use our resources rather than rip down and dispose of buildings rather than reuse them.

True losses from demolitions

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Once again, historic houses look like they are slated for the wrecking ball, and the public has little recourse. Both Victorian houses at 1312 Bass Ave., and 1316 Bass Ave., have had demolition permits applied for, according to this May 6, 2016 article in the Columbia Missourian.

So what can the public in Columbia, Missouri do? Nothing. Unless the development planned would violate zoning permits or cause harm to public safety, property owners have the right to do what they like to their property.

Who is behind the destruction of these historic buildings in Columbia, Missouri?

It’s good to recall these things happen because someone wants them to happen. These are not strangers coming to Columbia to destroy our historic homes, but people just like you and me who decide they’d rather have a different building on their property. In this case, those people are Elizabeth Crawford through her firm CCD Investments. According to public records, CCD Investments is an eight-year-old firm headquartered in Columbia.

Another person involved owns Connell Architecture, and public records show the owner of this firm is Brian Connell.

Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that real people are taking real actions we may or may not like, as in this case. But the reality is that owners of property can do what they like with their property, unless public funds are involved in some way such as when historic preservation tax credits are used for renovations.

The article outlines that once again, the proposed use of the land, after the two 1910 circa homes are destroyed, will be apartments. Apparently, both Crawford and Connell think the needs of Columbia, Missouri would be better served by a three-story apartment complex with 48 bedrooms than two Victorian homes.

So what are we losing?

1316 Bass Avenue

The house at 1316 Bass Ave., is described as “The most obvious remnant from the Victorian age,” according to the National Register of Historic Places document for the East Campus National Historic District. The document continues, “the ca. 1898’Wm. T. Bayless house at 1316 Bass Avenue, an archetypical Queen Anne house featuring a curved wrap-around porch, corner tower, patterned shingles, stained glass windows, and polygonal corner bays.”

1312 Bass Avenue

Here’s what the NRHP document says about the 1312 Bass Ave. house:

“One early house in the northern part of the district displays such a mixture of styles. Directly east of the Bayless house, at 1312 Bass Avenue, is a large residence built by William Cochran around 1910. It displays an interesting mix of stylistic elements, some of which look ahead to twentieth century houses and others which are straight out of the Queen Anne era. The house has a solid rectangular form and Classically inspired decoration typical of Colonial Revival houses, and shaped exposed rafter ends and textured brick wall surfaces common to Craftsman houses, but also has decorative shingle work of the front gable end, and many multi-paned windows which are more representative of Queen Anne dwellings of the late nineteenth century. It appears that Cochran simply chose what was for him, the best of both worlds.”

The real loss

But I think the real loss of these homes is not the stained glass windows, the textured brick walls or event the decorative features of these Victorian homes. No, we’ll lose the story of the people who lived there. Who recalls William T. Bayless? Perhaps no one. But William Cochran may have been the man who helped organize the Presbyterian Church, according to this April 12, 2009 article in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Once the house is gone, no one will go looking for the history of Mr. Cochran or of Mr. Bayless. Perhaps offspring will come by and look for their memorial stones, but there will be no space, no living room, no bedroom, no garden, no bricks and mortar where their ancestors lived and perhaps died to look at, to see how they lived. And that is the real loss of any home.

So now, Columbia, Missouri and the East Campus Neighborhood will gain eight four-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom apartments.

Might be a fair deal, but that’s not our call. It’s not for the public to say, but for the owners of the development firm, Elizabeth Crawford and those at the construction firm Crawford Construction and the architect, Connell Architecture to say. It’s their call, but Columbia’s loss.

Civil War to today reflected in Second Missionary Baptist Church

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A historic building helps society recall its history, as demonstrated by this magazine article on the 150-year-history of Second Missionary Baptist Church, now at Fourth and Broadway.

Why say it is now at Fourth and Broadway? At one time, Fourth Street was called River Street for the Flat Branch waterway that now runs under Fourth Street, according to at National Register of Historic Places document that outlines the history of the adjacent J.W. “Blind” Boone home.

The article is headlined “Second Missionary Baptist Church reflects o 150 years of rich history,” and was written by Lauren Rutherford and published on April 7, 2016 in Vox magazine.

The piece explains the importance of the church: It housed and houses a community that has endured the insidious lasting harms of slavery and one that has also endured, fought and won many battles in the fight for civil rights. For example, the Rev. Clyde Ruffin helped spearhead an effort to place a tombstone at the grave of a man who was lynched in 1923. The church has been the staging ground of civil rights efforts as well.

This article demonstrates the purpose of historic buildings and how to save historic buildings. First, the purpose of historic buildings is so as a society, we are reminded of our history, good and bad. Second, saving a historic building requires that the building has a use.

You can save history – or at least a piece of it

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If you live in Columbia, Missouri, you’ve probably heard a 1903 former hotel is coming down. But you might not know that you can help save pieces of this historic building for salvage, even, perhaps for installation elsewhere downtown in the future. Here’s a look at what can be saved and how you can help.

Louvered doors in the former Winn Hotel, 1903, 121 S. Tenth St., Columbia, Missouri. Photo used with permission.
Louvered doors in the former Winn Hotel, 1903, 121 S. Tenth St., Columbia, Missouri. Photo used with permission.
In-wall tables in the former Winn Hotel, 1903, 121 S. Tenth St., Columbia, Missouri. Photo used with permission.
In-wall tables in the former Winn Hotel, 1903, 121 S. Tenth St., Columbia, Missouri. Photo used with permission.

Here’s a post from Pat Fowler, a member of Columbia Historic Preservation Commission, reprinted with permission:

“Thank you for agreeing to share this information with your students, circle of friends, family members and co-workers. At last look we had 29 of our slots filled, with 100 more to go. Some slots are 2 hours, some are 4 hours, all contribute measurably to the greater goal of saving what is unique and special about the James (formerly the Winn Hotel and the Tenth Street Elks Lodge). We welcome our volunteers signing up for more than one shift if their busy lives permit.

Send any questions via email to fowlerpatj@gmail.com or text 573-256-6841.

Our planning team: On site Rosie Gerding and I will share volunteer coordinator duties, one of us will be on premises for the duration to greet each of the volunteers, provide breakfast snacks, coffee, lunch food, beverages, get what ever is needed from what ever source, and make certain we have cleared your path, literally and figuratively, to get the work done as efficiently as possible. Dan Cullimore, Kelly Veach, Douglas Jones and Mark Wahrenbrock will lead teams in de-construction, door and hardware removal, fixture removal and a handful of us will assist Habitat’s ReStore with our appliance dollies in getting the 21 refrigerators, several of the stoves and a new, still in the box, water heater out the door and to their truck.

Though we can’t save the building, we can save many of the items that are uniquely the James. I’ve attached both our most recent flyer and a photo array of many though not all of the items we seek to remove safely for re-purposing. Please spread the word.

If you have a few hours to participate, please use our sign up tool; we look forward to greeting you inside the front door of the James.

Best,

Pat
573-256-6841 (text and voice)

P.S. I’m to visit with Simon and Renee on KFRU’s Morning Meeting on Friday, 10:00 ish. Tune in. A press release is in the works, watch the local coverage on Thursday wink emoticon

Seeing inside the James Apartments before the demolition

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The 1903 James Apartments, once known as the Winn Hotel and the Elks Lodge, is set for demolition, but not all is lost. These articles summarize how Historic Preservation Commission member Pat Fowler organized a group of people to swarm, document and brainstorm how to save the best pieces of the building.

A date for removal will be set and an electronic sign up sheet will be posted soon.

Below is a gallery of photos and then a list of the recent articles about the upcoming demolition of the building at 121 S. Tenth St.

But if you’d like to get a peek inside now, before the crowbars get going, here are three views of the building, including that of an MU law student who plans to work with officials to get zoning put in place to stop the loss of other historic buildings and to support affordable student housing downtown.

I attended this documentation, list-making event, and here are pictures from that event, Tuesday, March 1, 2016.

March 2, 2016 — Law student starts petition to preserve historic downtown, The Maneater. Summary: Grace Shemwell, a second-year MU law student started a petition to save the James Condominium, the former Winn Hotel, at 121 S. Tenth St. While the petition with 2,636 signatures can’t save this building set for demolition, she plans to work with city officials to create zoning to protect historic buildings and incentivize affordable student housing.

Demolishing James Apartments: More than the loss of one building

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Why should we care about one building being demolished? One building older than 100 years doesn’t seem like much to lose. We have lots of buildings, right? Yes and no.

This Feb. 16, 2016 article by Brittany Crocker with photos by Mikala Compton published in the Columbia Missourian explains why the loss of one building can do so much harm. Zip down to the part where Deb Sheals, a historic preservation expert, is quoted.

The article quotes Sheals saying, “The thing about a historic district is it’s a collection. Each property by itself may not be the most historic building, but together they’re a pretty important grouping. As we keep chopping away at our downtown, we’re losing that character.”

Sheals goes on to note how the Niedermeyer was saved several years ago. Columbia City Council couldn’t say no to someone using the property and the land in whatever way he or she wanted. Instead, a local person bought the property and is restoring it.

In this case, the owners of the James Apartments said they had an offer from a developer that was too lucrative to refuse. So after gaining rents from the building for years, a profitable offer came and they took it. There’s no way to ask the former owners of the building how they’ll feel about Columbia once it is all high-rise apartments. Whether they’ll go downtown to shop or eat when they’re so sunshine able to make its way to the sidewalks.

And there will be no way to go back to the quirky look of Columbia once it’s all high-rise buildings and franchise eateries. Because that character, that look, those historic buildings will be lost.

Perhaps something better, grander, more interesting will be in its place. Certainly, whatever was there before the Tiger Hotel was there is gone, and who doesn’t love the historic Tiger Hotel. But I’m not personally convinced that a 10-story apartment building is going to be the treasure that the Tiger or the Missouri Theatre have become.

But I need to be willing to wait and see because the James Apartments will soon be history.