Demolishing James Apartments: More than the loss of one building

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.

 

 

121 Tenth St., historic building slated for demolition

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.

121 Tenth St. James Apartments

121 Tenth St. James Apartments

HISTORY

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.

 

MORE HISTORY

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.

DEMOLITIONS HAPPEN

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?