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.

Twain did it, now you can do it. See the 1867 Italianate Chancellor’s Residence

But will cost you $15, which will go to a good cause. The Chancellor’s Residence at 501 N. Ninth St., is on the Women’s Symphony League Holiday Homes Tour set for 1-4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 2, 3 and 4, 2016.

You can buy tickets at this website: Women’s Symphony League Holiday Homes Tour.

The Residence is one of five buildings on the tour, two at MU. The buildings are:

  • The home of Melissa and Josh Holyoak, 2709 Chapel Wood View
  • The home of Megan and Daniel Hoyt, 5307 E. Tayside Circle
  • Providence Point, University of Missouri President’s Residence, 1900 Providence Point
  • The Chancellor’s Residence, 501 S. Ninth St.,
  • Brouder Science Center, Columbia College, 705 Rangeline

Mark Twain dined in the residence in 1902 when he was on campus to receive an honorary degree, according to this MU document about the house. President Harry S Truman stayed there in 1950 and Eleanor Roosevelt stopped in for a rest there in 1959.

Now, the Foley family calls it home. But so does another resident, according to rumor and some accounts.

The house, documents recount, was finished in 1867, and is the oldest building on the campus of the oldest public university west of the Mississippi River.

In 1867, MU President Daniel Read moved in with his family and his wife Alice died there in 1874. This undated publication of the Columbia Missourian includes a video clip of Anne Deaton, wife of the former Chancellor Brady Deaton and a former resident of the Residence. She relates in the video an account of the grandfather clock that didn’t work chimed unexpectedly and the elevator would run without an occupant, incidents she attributes to Alice Read’s ghost.

The Residence, the article notes, is included in the recently book, “The Haunted Boonslick: Ghosts, Ghouls and Monsters of Missouri’s Heartland,” by Mary Barile.

Perhaps there are other hauntings. Until April 27, 2016, the Residence was occupied by R. Bowen Loftin, the chancellor who resigned the fall of 2015, ousted by student protests over what they called the university’s lack of response to racial incidents. His move out was covered and his sentiments highlighted in this June 27, 2016 Columbia Missourian article.

There have been other opportunities to take a peek at the resident of current Interim Chancellor Hank Foley and his wife Karin. They hosted an open house Sept. 24, 2016 with free admission.

But this weekend will give you a chance to see the Residence spruced up for the holidays and an opportunity to support music in Columbia. The proceeds from the holiday tour goes to the Women’s Symphony League, which supports the Missouri Symphony Society that brings a wide range of music to Columbia, Missouri.

It’s not as a nice a deal as Twain received with dining there and receiving an honorary degree, but it is an opportunity to see a historic home at its finest.

And that’s a good deal.

Why not nominate your home for Notable Properties designation?

Worried about restrictions? Think your home isn’t grand enough? Fearful of extra taxes? Shrinking from publicity? Fear not.

If these are reasons you are avoiding or someone you know is putting off nominating a property to the Columbia’s Notable Properties list, that’s balderdash.

Modest homes like a Cape Cod at 1252 Sunset Drive has been named to the list. Worried you’ll have to keep up appearances? Bah. The house on the list at Garth and Worley, a shotgun house, isn’t even at that spot anymore! Concerned you won’t be able to do as you like with your house? The Annie Fisher house at 2911 Old Highway 63 South was torn down in 2011, without nary a petition or protest to mark its passing.

2911 Old 63 S., Annie Fisher House, demolished 2011

2911 Old 63 S., Annie Fisher House, demolished 2011

Here’s a brochure about what it means to have a property listed.

So am I going to nominate my home? Yes, I just might, but it might not meet the criteria. My house is older than 50 years, at least part of it. An addition was added at some point, but this opportunity gives me a chance to do some digging, and as a journalist, that digging is what I love.

It might not meet the other criteria such as whether anything of local, regional or national note ever took place here, unless I can count starting this blog with its 43,488 followers. As for the unusual or notable architectural qualities, I think as a ranch style, one of the country’s most popular forms, that might make it worthy.

Think you might want to give it a try? Here’s the application form.

With less than two months for nominations to Columbia’s Notable Property list, this article in the Columbia Missourian frets that only one property has been submitted for consideration.

So what is holding you back?

 

Reincarnation, historic homes and a free festival

Did you ever notice that anyone who talks about a past life was always a princess or a pharaoh? Yeah, me too.

But I’m firmly convinced that if I did have a past life it was lived as a common laborer or simple farm wife. That’s why I’ll be in the Ryland House as a volunteer at this weekend’s free Heritage Festival.

The Heritage Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17 and 18 at Historic Nifong Park, 3700 Ponderosa St. This free event will include demonstrations, dancing, crafts and … yes! Tours of the buildings at the Village at Boone Junction, a sweet little collection of Boone County historic buildings including the Ryland House.

The Ryland House was built around 1880 and moved to the Junction in 2005. It’s a small place, about 800 square feet and was originally owned by a well off farm family, William and Maggie Ryland. They farmed about 358 acres near Sturgeon.

The tour of the house won’t last long — it’s only three rooms. Yes, despite the fact that the family that owned this house had a nice sized, well-run farm, their house consisted of three rooms, a large kitchen, a bedroom, and a parlor used mainly when visitors came by.

I won’t be in the parlor during my time volunteering in the Ryland House. I’ll be in the kitchen, where I’m sure my ancestors and any former incarnations of myself would have been. And you can come visit me there, too, on Sunday morning.

But what if you were a princess or someone wealthy in a past life. No worries. You’ll be able to get a peek at the life of those better off in Boone County during a tour of the Maplewood House.

The fine two-story house was the home of Lavinia Lenoir and Dr. Frank G. Nifong. It was built by Miss Lavinia’s father, Slater Ensor Lenoir around 1877, and the nine-room house is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Maplewood, unlike the Ryland House, features a music room, a dining room, several bedrooms as well as a parlor, a kitchen and even a maid’s or sewing room.

So no matter what your inclination is about a past life, in the present you can straddle past and present at the Heritage Festival this weekend.

 

Danger of demolitions

Any DIYer or carpenter can tell you the importance of the adage measure twice, cut once. That applies to demolitions, too.

In 2013, several buildings were demolished, including a 1905 historic home, to make way for the Hagan Scholarship Academy, a residential college preparatory school for rural students. Three years later, despite the worthy plan, there is only a vacant lot — and the irrevocable loss of several historic buildings.

It may stay that way for a while. In this May 23, 2016 article, Construction of Hagan school in central Columbia delayed for second time” Mark Farnen, a spokesperson for Dan Hagan, who is the behind the foundation which is funding the project, said the building is “still in the design stages.”

What happened

In 2013, an article in the Columbia Daily Tribune proclaimed, “Old Stephens buildings to make way for academy soon.” Perhaps the problem was with the word “soon.”

The buildings destroyed included the1905 Altis/Chandler House at 1404 E. Broadway, a loss noted in this 2013 city of Columbia report decrying the loss of historic properties in our recent frenzy of destruction. This picture shows it was no beauty prior to its destruction and was in need of renovation.

1404 E. Broadway, Altis/Chandler Home prior to the 2013 demolition. Named to Columbia's Notable Properties list in 2007. Image credit: FitzImages Photography/City of Columbia Historic Preservation Commission.

1404 E. Broadway, Altis/Chandler Home prior to the 2013 demolition. Named to Columbia’s Notable Properties list in 2007. Image credit: FitzImages Photography/City of Columbia Historic Preservation Commission.

 

To make way for the Hagan Scholarship Academy, Stephens College lost an auditorium, a 1948, 2,300-seat auditorium, not that the college seemed to regret it. A Dec. 11, 2012 article in the Columbia Missourian, “Students, officials at Stephens College react to property sales,” quotes the college’s marketing manager Rebecca Kline as saying the building wouldn’t be missed.

Yet, in the same article, a Stephens student, Kirsten Izzett called the building the “old Jesse,” referring to the University of Missouri’s Jesse Hall, an anchor of the university’s historic quad. This July 1, 2013 article in the Columbia Missourian noted the building had not been used in 20 years.

Hillcrest Hall, another building demolished, the article notes, was used as a residence hall since it was built in 1965.

Loss or progress?

I can’t denigrate Stephens College for selling the buildings to fund other projects.

I do take umbrage against  society’s country’s inability to reimagine buildings. While traveling in the United Kingdom in 2015, I saw churches turned into restaurants, bed and breakfasts, taverns and bookstores. In Europe, I know of a family who visits their old ancestor’s home in Germany which now includes the family’s old barn. I’ve seen pictures and you can’t tell it’s a house/barn combination.

In Columbia, we’re familiar with reusing buildings. At Columbia College, for example, Williams Hall in 1848 was the home of Dr. James H. Bennett, a leading Columbia physician, according to information provided by Columbia College as a part of the nomination process for the city’s Notable Properties list. “Williams Hall is the oldest college building in continuous use for educational purposes west of the Mississippi River,” according to the Columbia College Web site.

Perhaps when we finally see the true cost of demolition including the cost of filling up our landfill with building rubble and the loss of soul when an old building is gone, we as a society will choose differently.

For now, there’s a large vacant area on Broadway that we can only hope will someday house hopeful students on their way to college where I hope they’ll learn a better way to use our resources rather than rip down and dispose of buildings rather than reuse them.

True losses from demolitions

Once again, historic houses look like they are slated for the wrecking ball, and the public has little recourse. Both Victorian houses at 1312 Bass Ave., and 1316 Bass Ave., have had demolition permits applied for, according to this May 6, 2016 article in the Columbia Missourian.

So what can the public in Columbia, Missouri do? Nothing. Unless the development planned would violate zoning permits or cause harm to public safety, property owners have the right to do what they like to their property.

Who is behind the destruction of these historic buildings in Columbia, Missouri?

It’s good to recall these things happen because someone wants them to happen. These are not strangers coming to Columbia to destroy our historic homes, but people just like you and me who decide they’d rather have a different building on their property. In this case, those people are Elizabeth Crawford through her firm CCD Investments. According to public records, CCD Investments is an eight-year-old firm headquartered in Columbia.

Another person involved owns Connell Architecture, and public records show the owner of this firm is Brian Connell.

Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that real people are taking real actions we may or may not like, as in this case. But the reality is that owners of property can do what they like with their property, unless public funds are involved in some way such as when historic preservation tax credits are used for renovations.

The article outlines that once again, the proposed use of the land, after the two 1910 circa homes are destroyed, will be apartments. Apparently, both Crawford and Connell think the needs of Columbia, Missouri would be better served by a three-story apartment complex with 48 bedrooms than two Victorian homes.

So what are we losing?

1316 Bass Avenue

The house at 1316 Bass Ave., is described as “The most obvious remnant from the Victorian age,” according to the National Register of Historic Places document for the East Campus National Historic District. The document continues, “the ca. 1898’Wm. T. Bayless house at 1316 Bass Avenue, an archetypical Queen Anne house featuring a curved wrap-around porch, corner tower, patterned shingles, stained glass windows, and polygonal corner bays.”

1312 Bass Avenue

Here’s what the NRHP document says about the 1312 Bass Ave. house:

“One early house in the northern part of the district displays such a mixture of styles. Directly east of the Bayless house, at 1312 Bass Avenue, is a large residence built by William Cochran around 1910. It displays an interesting mix of stylistic elements, some of which look ahead to twentieth century houses and others which are straight out of the Queen Anne era. The house has a solid rectangular form and Classically inspired decoration typical of Colonial Revival houses, and shaped exposed rafter ends and textured brick wall surfaces common to Craftsman houses, but also has decorative shingle work of the front gable end, and many multi-paned windows which are more representative of Queen Anne dwellings of the late nineteenth century. It appears that Cochran simply chose what was for him, the best of both worlds.”

The real loss

But I think the real loss of these homes is not the stained glass windows, the textured brick walls or event the decorative features of these Victorian homes. No, we’ll lose the story of the people who lived there. Who recalls William T. Bayless? Perhaps no one. But William Cochran may have been the man who helped organize the Presbyterian Church, according to this April 12, 2009 article in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Once the house is gone, no one will go looking for the history of Mr. Cochran or of Mr. Bayless. Perhaps offspring will come by and look for their memorial stones, but there will be no space, no living room, no bedroom, no garden, no bricks and mortar where their ancestors lived and perhaps died to look at, to see how they lived. And that is the real loss of any home.

So now, Columbia, Missouri and the East Campus Neighborhood will gain eight four-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom apartments.

Might be a fair deal, but that’s not our call. It’s not for the public to say, but for the owners of the development firm, Elizabeth Crawford and those at the construction firm Crawford Construction and the architect, Connell Architecture to say. It’s their call, but Columbia’s loss.

Why historic homes matter

Why should we save historic homes? Why do I care about historic homes? Because those walls of wood or brick encapsulate the stories of the people who lived in them, stories which could become lost without those nail and mortar reminders.

How do I know this? A recent article headlined “Ceremony celebrates black Union veteran,” published in the Nov. 9, 2015 Columbia Daily Tribune outlines the placement of a headstone in the Columbia Cemetery. The writer Rudi Keller outlines how Wallace Lilly lived — died, buried without a headstone and nearly forgotten.

Lilly deserves to be remembered. A former slave, he fought as a soldier in the Union army, enlisting on April 13, 1864, notes Keller. All soldiers who fought for their country, many would say, should be remembered. Lilly was promoted twice before being mustered out and then worked to establish the Union veterans group and a black Masonic lodge.

The local Sons of Union Veterans spent four years researching the former slave, the article notes. He was in an unmarked grave since his death in 1932 until this week. The man’s life and memory could have been lost, as he’d died without children and other relatives would be hard pressed to find his grave. As the article notes, “Census records don’t give the names of slaves…”

But because he served and because there are Union soldier organizations and members who care, the name of Wallace Lilly lives on.

Math tells us historic homes matter

Contrast that with a house that exists and so we have the story of another black man and his success. Many in Columbia know the name of J.W. “Blind” Boone because his home remains on Fourth Street, awaiting the completion of its renovation. In his heyday, he was an internationally renowned musician, playing and composing ragtime and classical music. It’s estimated he and his entourage played 7,200 to 8,400 concerts from 1880-1915. The National Register of Historic Places document that outlines why the house which marks his life should be on this national register notes that it’s estimated Boone and his crew made $150 to $600 per concert. The math tells me that this would equal roughly $23.3 million in 2014 earning power, according to Measuring Worth, a website that converts historic dollars to modern dollars.

Born in 1864 to a former slave, Boone died in 1927. His home changed hands and fell into disrepair. At one time, it even looked like his his home might be demolished. But without that house, the story of the multi-millionaire musician might have been lost.

So why should we care about his story? Or the story of Wallace Lilly? Because without these stories of people who overcame adversity, our world would be a poorer one. Not in dollars but in spirt.

And that’s why I think historic homes are important. They keep the stories of our ancestors who strove and succeeded alive for all of us.