Dangers of historical research

I started off my work day planning to post the news about the bed and breakfast at 606 S. College heading for closure in December, part of MU’s budget cutting efforts.

While this bed and breakfast is set to close, the East Campus Bed & Breakfast  opened recently. Here’s a link to its website.

When I started to research the now closed B&B, before I knew it, four hours had passed and I’d spent the time learning about the roots of Columbia, MU and the East Campus neighborhood. The work also yielded three government documents including this 1995 East Campus Neighborhood Historic District National Register of Historic Places document, this undated East Campus Survey city document,  and this 1994 document Final Report of A Survey of the East Campus Neighborhood, Columbia, Missouri, Phase One.

These documents are filled with photos, maps and the 1994 document includes some oral history. The oral history is interesting because it reveals people’s attitudes and opinions, some of which we’d find objectionable today.

Here’s the news on the closure in case you want to learn more, too, without the four-hour rabbit hole of research!

  • June 15, 2017 — The Gathering Place will close in December due to budget cuts at MU, Columbia Missourian. Summary: The bed and breakfast at 606 S. College will be closed by MU. It has been operating since 1996. It has been owned by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources since 2008. The article states that MU expects to save $150,000 per year by closing the bed and breakfast, which was to have provided experience for MU hospitality students. The article cites the bed and breakfast’s website as stating that the house was built by Cora Davenport in 1906 and has been used as a fraternity house for Lambda Chi Alpha, Alpha Gamma Rho, Tau Kappa Epsilon and Sigma Tau Gamma.

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.

 

 

Lost Black history spotlighted on Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Black history will be the brought back to life on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 with the unveiling of a marker to highlight a place that once existed — Sharp End — will be highlighted. From 5:30 to 6:15 p.m., members of the Sharp End Heritage Commission and city and state officials will mark the unveiling of a historic marker near the REDI offices on Walnut Street.

This once vibrant entrepreneurial area filled with black-owned businesses including barber shops, restaurants, taverns and other firms filled the 500 block of East Walnut Street, now home to the Columbia Post Office and a city parking garage, according to this May 17, 2015 article by Rudi Keller in the Columbia Tribune.

Why is this important?

This site ColumbiaHistoricHomes.com stems from a desire to save and reveal Columbia’s history. Once a person dies, his or her life story can fade. But when there’s a building, that story can be sometimes be found again. For example, few people know that an early woman journalist once lived in the house at 121 West Boulevard North — or that she’d nearly been given up to a wealthy Boonville, Missouri family.

That’s why Tuesday’s event is so important. It will bring back to life history and lives that can’t be highlighted through the buildings and homes, which are all now gone, except for a few notable exceptions, such as J.W. “Blind” Boone’s home, Second Baptist Church and St. Paul’s Church. The history of these buildings is highlighted in this National Register of Historic Places document.

Looking for more of Columbia’s black history? Here are several links:

Black History Lessons by Kevin Walsh, Inside Columbia, February 2015.

Interested in doing your own sleuthing on black history? I can’t wait to dig into this collection at the State Historic Society: Boone County Black Archives Collection. It includes information on the 1923 lynching.

Looking for a great read? Here’s a review of Gary Kremer’s recent book, “Race and Meaning.”

As for me, I’ll be at the event on Tuesday, when Columbia marks history that I’m grateful didn’t fade once the buildings were gone.

Things that go bump in the day and the night

Interested in what you can’t see? That’s what you’ll learn about at these free downtown historic walking tours, with the first one slated for July 31, 2014. Given by members of the Historic Preservation Commission of the City of Columbia, the tours will focus on what you can — and can’t see.

All four of the upcoming tours start at 7:30 p.m. at the “Key” at City Hall at Broadway and Eighth Street. The first tour will cover Columbia’s brick streets, but not the part you can see. The other walks include an August 14 walk to view Columbia’s historic hotels and theatres, the Sept. 18 event will cover downtown worship centers and Oct. 30, the last walk, will take a look at places where ghosts and other scary tales lurk.

For the walk on Thursday, Patrick Earney, HPC member and project engineer at Trabue, Hansen & Hinshaw, Inc., will discuss the engineering under and around the brick streets of Columbia, Missouri.

What? Who cares? You should. Many of these streets are more than 100 years old and while they’ve lasted, those dips and ridges that make your car go bump in the day and the night when you drive on them are due in some cases to the poor foundation under the bricks.

As Earney noted in an email, “The take away for the average person is that a street laid 110 years ago is still viable and would still be performing well had they been maintained.”

There’s another value said Earney, one that not every one would recognize at first glance or first drive.

“Each brick was touched by at least two people — he who made it and he who installed it. They’re not all the same, and the rows aren’t exactly straight. There’s a human element to a brick street that another street pavement doesn’t possess,” Earney wrote in a recent email.

In this day and age of disposable, manufactured items, a hand-made, crafted item can hold value for those who see it.

Wonder where those brick streets are? Here’s a map that shows where they are exposed and hidden.

Map showing brick streets, covered and uncovered and the core area of concern. Historic Preservation Commission map used with permission.

Map showing brick streets, covered and uncovered and the core area of concern. Historic Preservation Commission map used with permission.

Are those bricks or bucks under your feet?

Just as important, these brick streets may end up costing — or saving — you money some day. Proponents of brick streets cite the fact that they last. Remember the part above that mentioned some of them are more than 100 years old? Advocates for spiffing up and even uncovering some of the brick streets say the reason they were covered during the 1960s and 1970s is because they weren’t maintained. They also point out that asphalt streets must be repaved every 15 or so years, making the apparent savings of covering brick streets instead of repairing them a false frugality over time.

On the other hand, some people point to the cost of repairing the brick streets, pointing out that when the brick street were laid, labor costs were a fraction of today’s costs. Repaving using bricks calls for craftsmen and craftswomen, not just rollers.

Like it or lump it, on March 17, 2014, the City Council passed a Brick Streets Policy Resolution PR 229-13 that says the city will not remove covered or exposed brick pavement within a “Core Brick Street Zone,” and may be given a budget to uncover some brick streets over the next 20 years, “after a successful demonstration project.”

Brick streets good or bad?

What? Not a fan of brick streets. Well, you are not alone. Some folks decry the bumpy ride they provide, while others point to that same rumbling road as a good thing. A city document cited a case study of Winter Park, Florida that showed traffic fell on one of the main brick streets by nearly one-third from 8,500 to 6,000 cars ,with the average speed taking a nosedive from 41 mph to 29 mph after a 1996 brick street restoration. That’s called traffic calming and it can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your perspective.

Others complain that spending money fixing or uncovering brick streets is a waste just for the sense of place and historic ambiance. That view is countered, of course, by those who say brick streets can save money in repaving costs.

But whether you are for or against brick streets, here’s a chance to learn more for free and find out why you might want to care about the part of the brick street you can’t see.

Tips on making the past present

It is so easy for the past to slip away, a building gets a new tenant, a new use or a new name and bingo! The past is gone. But in Cape Girardeau, Lindsey Lotz, a Southeast Missouri State University, has created posters to bring history into the present for  four downtown buildings.

The buildings Lotz picked to highlight include the one at 19 N. Spanish. It used to house an A&P grocery, which was part of the country’s first supermarket chain. The article notes that Lotz’s project drew together four different organizations to help her create the posters.

The posters will be up through May 31 and feature these locations: 20 Broadway, 120 Broadway, 19 N. Spanish St. and 7-19 Spanish St., which will take you on a stroll past the home of the founder of Cape Girardeau, a city 3 1/2 hours from Columbia, Missouri.

The project is part of celebration of National Historic Preservation Month.

Read the article about the Lotz and her work here.

 

Learn how to uncover history

Have you ever wondered about the history of your home, neighborhood or one you drive by or see often?

Here’s your chance to learn how to uncover the history all around you. Deb Sheals, an architectural historian and historic preservation consultant will be giving a free talk at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at the Columbia Public Library in the Friends Room.

The library’s calendar notes she’ll explain what records to look for to date historic houses and identify their early owners and occupants and where to find records online and locally.

The talk is called, “If Walls Could Talk.”

For example, this house is Wilson Avenue, which used to be Keiser Avenue. The name of the street was changed following the anti-German sentiments that arose following World War I, according to documents nominating the East Campus Neighborhood for placement on the Register. The document notes, “Wilson Avenue was once named Keiser Avenue, perhaps named after J. P.Keiser, who owned land in the area in the late 19th century. The name was changed in the late teens or early twenties, as a result of anti-German sentiments following WWI. The new name could be after Thomas C. Wilson, an early resident of 1507 Wilson, who served as the secretary to the Board of Agriculture in 1912…”

1516 Wilson Avenue, built 1916, photo courtesy of Historic Preservation Commission and FitzImages Photography

1516 Wilson Avenue, built 1916, photo courtesy of Historic Preservation Commission and FitzImages Photography

This talk could help you unearth equally interesting information about your own area.

What kinds of historic things have you learned about your home, neighborhood or areas you frequent? What records did you use or uncover?

Take a historic tour of Columbia’s highlights

There’s no time limit on taking this historic tour. Here’s a link to a PowerPoint presentation that basically offers a tour of Columbia’s historic highlights. This presentation was presented by Deb Sheals, a historic preservation consultant, in May 2011 at a public meeting of the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission.

I love taking these kinds of historic tours from the comfort of my easy chair and laptop!

The meeting where this was presented was held to highlight the work on a map project being done by Sheals for the HPC.

Enjoy the tour via this pdf of Columbia historic highlights.

What online tours have you found in Columbia of historic places, structures or areas? Share about the historic resources you’ve found on line.