Historical Homes, University of Missouri, Women

Romance, mistakes and hidden history

Watch out guys! If you think getting your beloved flowers is going to cut it after this, you might be mistaken.

The house at 206 Bingham Road is going to put you to shame. Built in 1928, the Tudor Revival features the intertwined initials of architect Harry Satterlee Bill and his wife Florence Harrison Bill. Yeah, their love is literally built into the house. Chocolates ain’t gonna compare to that.

But this is also a blog post about another kind of mistake — mine.

When I listed the historic homes on this page, I mistakenly listed the owners as Harry Satterlee Bill and his wife Florence Henderson Bill. Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader, I was alerted to the mistake and corrected it today. But the great news about making mistakes is you get to learn from them and I did. According to this website Find a Grave, Bill wasn’t even Bill’s name. The document on Find a Grave states that Bill’s original surname was De’Bill. Further, the website includes the information that he was born  “Harrie Satterlee De’Bill, according to the census records of 1880-1900 and his 31 May 1900 passport application.”

And that is what I love about research. Just when you think you’ve found the truth, more information is uncovered which puts things into perspective.

That brings us to some hidden history. It probably wasn’t just romance that made the Bills put their initials into their home, it was reality.

While Harry Satterlee Bill’s accomplishments are documented in, well, documents, and buildings, his wife’s contributions are less well known. In some cases, even her first name gets lost when she’s referred to as Mrs. Bill, as was traditional at that time. Note Harry Satterlee Bill lived from 1876-1946, and Florence Harrison Bill lived from 1879-1958.

As for Mr. Bill’s accomplishments, he was one of the city’s most prominent architects. His work includes his home at 206 Bingham as well as the home at 211 Bingham and the addition to the Central Dairy building at 1104 Broadway. He was also a professor of architecture at the University of Missouri for 17 years and helped to found the Mid-Missouri Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Yet, his wife did more than keep the home fires burning. According this 2017 document created for Columbia’s Historic Preservation Commission, Florence Bill took care of the construction details for their home. If you’ve ever even done a kitchen renovation (yes, this is the voice of experience), you know how many details there are in any construction project, so this was no little task.

But there’s more. According to information found on the Missouri Historical Society website, the collection of the Harrison Family Papers includes nine manuscripts for publications in the Bulletin of the Missouri Historical Society.

So as we head into the Valentine’s Day season, along with appreciating the people you love in your life, you might give some thought to the women who went before and didn’t get the gratitude they deserved. And maybe you want to keep it to yourself that Harry Satterlee Bill went way beyond candy hearts in proclaiming his love for his wife Florence Harrison Bill.

No way any of us can beat that.