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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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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 “
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.
- to March 2, 2016 — Preservations scour hotel, apartment buildings for historic gems, Columbia Missourian. Summary: Efforts to remove features from the James Condominium or Winn Hotel at 121 S. Tenth St., prior to demolition set for later in March 2016.
- March 2, 2016 — Group surveys historic downtown hotel before demolition, Columbia Daily Tribune. Summary: Documentation of items in and to be removed from the James Condominium or Winn Hotel at 121 S. Tenth St.
- Here’s a link to a 2006 document for a designation for a National Register of Historic Places.
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.
The James Apartment building is slated to be demolished to make room for more student apartments. Yes, today, the James Apartment is a slightly seedy looking apartment building, but it wasn’t always. And contrary to what the developer says in this Columbia Tribune Feb. 7, 2015 piece, that buildings can’t be repurposed, indeed, the James Apartment is on its third — or perhaps second first use.
What do you think? Would you rather this house with its quirky apartments of a 10-story apartment building for college students?
Here is media coverage of the upcoming demolition and plans for that lot and other adjoining plots.
Feb. 14, 2016 — Council members split on 10-story apartment building ahead of Monday vote, Columbia Daily Tribune.
Before it was the future site of a 10-story apartment building, the James Apartment building was the home of the Elks Club and before that it was the Winn Hotel, according to an article published in the 1980s in the Columbia Daily Tribune. The article was written by Midge Crawford and Francis Pike, which is part of the Midge Crawford collection now owned and housed by the Boone County Historical Society.
The article outlines how the building to be demolished was built by Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Winn as the Winn Hotel in 1903 and then became the Elks Club’s second home in 1910. That year, the Elks’ membership 600 and the organization bought the hotel.
If you like the idea of George Washington lived here, you might want to give the building at 121 Tenth St. a second look. Those who lived there after the Elks added rooms at the rear and began renting out the upstairs rooms to members included John Hickam, Boone County Collector, and, the article notes, “L.E. Slate, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce; R.H. Hill, a dentist at 813 A East Broadway; Joe Morris, manager of the Railway Express Co., A.R. Troxell, an attorney; Slater Bouchelle; and Wilson Hall.”
But the Great Depression took its toll on the Elks and in 1932, the Elks sold the property to pay off the mortgage. “The members realized $12,000 from the sale, enough to pay off their debts and have a small profit,” the article states.
The building became the James Apartments.
All over Columbia and the world, buildings are changed and rehabilitated. A warehouse on Walnut now houses an art gallery, a gym and luxury apartments in an award-winning renovation. Other warehouses have become art spaces. Senior Hall at Stephens College has an 1841 house at its core, according to this National Register of Historic Places document.
So, in contrast to the sentiment expressed by the developer who seeks to demolish the apartment building, many buildings are repurposed.
Of course, buildings do get demolished. Many would be surprised to find out there was a house where the magnificent Missouri Theatre now stands, in fact it was a house where a relative of Mary Todd Lincoln’s resided. But few would argue that one house on the lot where the Missouri Theatre now stands would be a better use for that plot.
Yet, I’ve heard the James Apartments are filled with built-ins and unusual features such as louvered doors, the answer to ventilation prior to air conditioning. So do we want to lose our history for a 10-story building? Is that a better use of that land than a retail store, a bar and the James Apartments?
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.