Historic homes + facts = amazing stories

I love historic homes because inside of them — inside every home — is a story. No need to add color, make anything up, each house offers a tale worth telling.

The aptly named “Fairy-tale” house at 121 West Blvd., North is no exception. But until last year, the story got one big fact wrong. No fewer than five published reports tell the tale of Arch McCard felling the trees to build the little log cabin inside this Tudor Revival cottage.

121 West Blvd historic picture of log cabin with ladder. Courtesy of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Commission and FitzImages Photography.

121 West Blvd historic picture of log cabin with ladder. Courtesy of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Commission and FitzImages Photography.

Unfortunately, that isn’t true — and the truth is even better. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever know who built the log cabin, but documents show that it is likely that Arch McHarg and his wife Blanche McHarg renovated the log cabin into the lovely little cottage we know and admire today. However, my research shows that McHarg did not own the property until after 1911, so it is unlikely he felled the trees to build the log cabin — no matter how many articles say he did!

There is a photo, however, of what it might have looked like prior to the McHargs turning it into the cottage it is today. By the way, today the house is called Creekstone Cottage and is a vacation rental owned by Leigh and Sean Spence. Check it out on this Facebook page.

What new found truths have you found out about historic homes in Columbia?

Now, we know the McHargs owned the home because a 1941 buyer of the house said so — in print. Nadine Coleman was a feature writer before journalism was equally open to men and women and in 1990, she wrote about the four homes she owned and renovated in Columbia, Missouri, including the house at 121 West Blvd. N. She had a full-page spread in the Sunday, Dec. 16, 1990 Columbia Daily Tribune (p. 33) and told how she and a friend were walking by the house and decided to ask Mrs. Harg for a sprig of ivy. Coleman learned the house was for sale for $1,500 and recounts that soon she’d bought the “little neglected log house, which had no kitchen when we bought it…”

In addition to Coleman’s article on the house, this deed conveying the property in 1941 confirms her memory of the name of the owners.

Yet, in between 1941 and the house becoming the long-time home of Herb and Betty Brown, the information about Nadine Coleman and the McHargs was lost, and that’s too bad. Because that’s what I truly love about historic homes, they are places where the stories of our community are saved and loved, so we can savor later these stories of the past.

The best part of uncovering the truth isn’t that we now know McHarg probably didn’t cut down the trees for the log cabin inside the house. The best part is recovering a story about a woman who nearly passed out of the historic records of this house. And a story of a woman who made her mark in houses and in journalism. For a journalist like me, passionate about historic homes, it just doesn’t get any better than that … until the next story I find inside a historic home.

What stories have you found inside historic homes? Leave me a comment above so we can all learn the stories these homes carry inside.

Skyscrapers, preservation and development

Can preservationists learn to love skyscrapers? Sure. Because it’s not the height, the location or how old a build is that matters — it’s quality and how the building will serve people.

In this article in the New York Times, “Sure, Build it in My Backyard,” the website of Nikolai Fedak is highlighted. The name of the site? New York YIMBY – which stands for Yes in My Back Yard, versus NIMBY, not in my back yard.

So what’s a pro-development site like New York YIMBY doing being mentioned — even mentioned — on Columbia Historic Homes, a site dedicated to well, historic homes, ones you might presume I’m trying to preserve.

This article notes that Mr. Fedak says not all development is good, but that development is part of the economy and can be good. Note it can be good. Not that it is always good. The article outlines where and when he’s been critical.

It’s been said the best way to preserve a building is to put it to work. School buildings become homes. Former grocery stores become art galleries, gyms and luxury apartments. Yes, I’m talking the building on Walnut owned John Ott, mentioned in this Columbia Tribune article in 2008 and the one I wrote for the Columbia Business Times in 2010.

So where have you seen preservation work — and where have you seen it be misguided? For example, is it preservation as when as on campus they kept the shell of Walter Williams Hall?

And could skyscrapers ever be the answer? Who would want to say no to the Flat Iron Building in NYC? Yet, some of the student-oriented high-rise apartments in Columbia look unlikely to stand the test of time. Or did they say that about the Beverly and Dumas Apartment buildings?

So what’s it gonna be, Columbia? NIMBY or YIMBY? Share your thoughts on the ups and downs, pros and cons.

 

See history yourself and save a historic road

On Sunday, May 2 p.m., a public forum on a stretch of the historic road, the Boone’s Lick, will take place. The meeting will be in the Midway Locust Grove United Methodist Church at 2600 N. Locust Grove Church Road.

So why plan on attending this event and what does it have to do with Columbia historic homes? I’ll outline a few of my ideas, but want to hear from you. Why do you think this event and the Boone’s Lick Road matter? And what connections have you found from historic homes to trails, roads or other modes of transportation?

Why attend: You’ll have a chance to see a stretch of “road,” that Daniel Boone and many pioneers traveled — the Boone’s Lick Road. The meeting is about a tiny stretch of that road that once stretched from St. Charles to Franklin, Missouri, and was the headwaters, so to speak, of the Santa Fe Trail. The history of the trail is spotlighted by the Boone’s Lick Road Association, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the trail, telling its story and gaining federal recognition of the road as a National Historic Trail.

The portion of the road under discussion is one of the best preserved remaining part of the road that crowds — yes crowds! — of pioneers, traders, merchants and settlers traveled. It is a place where you can see what Missouri and the trail once looked like. But it may not last. Many parts of this trail are now roads, streets or even lost in the woods or fields.

The portion of the former Boone’s Lick Road was given to Boone County by the Sanders and Powell families according to this May 1, 2014 article in in the Columbia Missourian headlined “Public forum to discuss preservation of Boone’s Lick Road Historic Area.”

Columbia’s historic homes:

Roads are lifelines, and the Boone’s Lick Road bears this out. This house at 1312 W. Broadway, is the former Booneslick Inn, and was once on the pioneer trail, the Boone’s Lick Road.

This house at 1312 W. Broadway, is the former Booneslick Inn, and was once on the pioneer trail, the Boone's Lick Road. It was named to the Columbia, Missouri Notable Properties List in 2004. Image used with permission. FitzImages Photography/City of Columbia HPC.

This house at 1312 W. Broadway, is the former Booneslick Inn, and was once on the pioneer trail, the Boone’s Lick Road. It was named to the Columbia, Missouri Notable Properties List in 2004. Image used with permission. FitzImages Photography/City of Columbia HPC.

It is a private home now, but once you know it was once an inn, can never not see that past reality again. The Gordon home, now gone, destroyed by fire, was where Stephen’s Lake Park is now. These homes were along what were the major highways of that era. While today, many people value a home built from from traffic, historically homes or taverns on a main road were more valued. At that time, the main modes of transportation were walking, horseback or via wagon. A home or inn along a well-traveled trek got the news, the goods, and in terms of a tavern, the commerce first.

Today, we value being out of the way, back then, they valued being on the way.

So, do you think we should preserve the Boone’s Lick Road? What is about the road that is valuable — or isn’t? Any roads you’ve found preserved you’d like others to know about? Drop me a note or comment below.