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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.