Apartments, Black History, Columbia Historic Preservation Commission, Events, Get involved, Historical Homes

Meeting Saturday: Saving my father’s bookcase

On Saturday, April 6, you’re invited to help write Columbia’s action plan for historic preservation at a meeting from 10 – 11:45 a.m. It will be held in the historic J.W. “Blind” Boone House at 10 N. Fourth Street. Free coffee and snacks will start the event at 9:45 a.m.

It’s a chance to be heard by the Historic Preservation Commission members and help write how we as residents of Columbia want to preserve our history.

So, what do you think should be the city’s priorities? How do you think historic preservation could benefit you? Reply here or on the city’s Historic Preservation Commission’s Facebook page.

Why this is important: My father’s bookcase

For me, historic preservation comes back to my father’s bookcase. When my brothers and I were cleaning out my mother’s house, long after my father had died, one of them held up this battered bookcase/table combination. It didn’t look like much. It was painted a generic white. Clearly, it had seen better days. But just before my brothers tossed it into the dumpster, I said, “I think Dad made that in shop in high school.” We all stopped. “Really? I didn’t know that,” one of my brothers said. “Yeah, I think so,” I said.

We kept it. That’s what historic preservation is all about to me. It wasn’t the bookcase itself. There are lots of small white bookcases in the world. But it was the fact that my father made it — and trust me he wasn’t a master craftsman when he made that bookcase. It gave us a chance to remember and talk about a man who loved and cared for his family the best way he knew how, working long hours, two jobs and repairing everything himself.

Columbia’s bookcases

    • If you were around in 2000/2001, you may remember we almost lost Stephens Park to development. Instead, a city government-citizen partnership provided the push and funding to allow the purchase of this land for one of our city’s most beautiful parks.
    • Or maybe you recall the near loss in 2013 of the Neidermeyer Apartments
    • We’ll be holding the meeting one of the city’s most important historic preservation wins, a journey that took 16 years, the J.W. “Blind” Boone House.

If we’d lost the Boone house, we would have lost the reminder of a man who was born in 1864, the child of a contraband former slave and a Union army bugler. Boone went on to tour the country as a classical and ragtime composer and musician becoming one of the richest men in Boone County before his 1927 death. 

What “bookcases” in Columbia do you want to save? How can the HPC better serve you? What partners should the Commission be seeking?

Let’s have coffee on Saturday and talk about it. I’ll be there to tell you more about my Dad.

2010 photograph of 10 N. Fourth St. by Deanna Dikeman. Use on this website granted by Deanna Dikeman.
Black History, Events, Historical Homes, National Register of Historic Places, Notable Properties List

An exhibit, the Boone home and black history events

I love the Beatles. It’s hard for me to believe that it might be possible someday for people to not know the names of John, Paul, Ringo and George.

But that could happen and that’s what might have happened to the musician J.W. “Blind” Boone  (1864-1927) if the residents of Columbia and the city hadn’t saved the house at 10 N. Fourth St.

And you can take a peek at the inside of the home that took six long years to bring back from near demolition. From 5:30-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12 and Thursday, Feb. 14, you can view copies of portraits of 19 portrait reproductions of members of the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. Those portrayed include Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, Maxine Moore Waters, a U.S. Representative, and Jesse Louis Jackson Jr.

The works were painted by John F. Dyess, who has created works for national firms such as the National Geographic Museum and the St. Louis Baseball Cardinals.

Frankly, the exhibit is a two-fer — an opportunity to see portraits of family civil rights celebrities and an opportunity to see the Boone house that has been meticulously restored to literally reflect the wealth of one of the richest men in Columbia at the time.

Boone’s accomplishments stand out because he succeeded against the odds. Boone was the offspring of a former slave and a Union bugler. His eyes were removed at six months old to save him from “brain fever.” Then as a youth, he was sent to a school for the blind, but at one point the headmaster decided that instead of providing the blind with a fair, equitable education, the students would be taught to make brooms.

Yet, Boone’s natural talents and hard work helped him overcome the many obstacles he faced. He learned to play and compose music, touring throughout the U.S. and Canada for much of the year from the 1900s until about 1924, only three years before his death.

And it’s home that saves Boone’s story. But his isn’t the only story we need to hear about our black history. For more information on our history, see this notice from the Columbia Missourian.  It includes events such as a documentary on historically black colleges and universities, a lecture on how the enslaved undermined slavery and a local leadership panel discussion with Inclusive Impact Institute Director Nikki McGruder, First Ward City Councilman Clyde Ruffin and Stephens trustee Anita K. Parran.



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.

Historical Homes, Kit homes

Sears homes remain

The verdict is in: Sears is closing its stores and declaring bankruptcy. But Sears homes — and more importantly the legacy of kit homes made famous by Sears will live on.

Sears wasn’t the only firm that offered kit homes, but the term Sears home for kit homes has become widespread.

Do you own or know of Sears homes in Columbia? I’d love to hear about any kit homes so I can start a list of them in our town.

Kit homes bucked racism

The Sears homes were also called radical according to this Forbes article published Oct. 23, 2018 article.  Sears homes bucked the racist procedures at the time that attempted to prevent African Americans from buying homes. The application to buy a Sears home didn’t ask what race the buyer was. The ownership of the land itself was considered proof of a person’s solvency.

See this from the Forbes article: “The terms were easy, requiring a down payment of 25% of the cost of the house and lot, as little as 6% interest for 5 years, or a higher rate for up to 15 years. More radically, the application form asked no questions about race, ethnicity, gender or even finances. This made home ownership possible for thousands of buyers who were not welcome at their local banks.”

Want more information?

You can see more Sears homes in this Washington Post article which shows the catalog photo and the actual house in Elgin, Illinois.

Here’s more in-depth information from this Jan. 29, 2013 article on This Old House online.

I’m betting Columbia has plenty of Sears homes and other kit homes. Do you live in a kit home or even a Sears home? Do you know of any kit homes in Columbia? Let me know. I’d love to catalog and track Columbia’s kit homes!


Events, Historic Hours, Historical Homes

Jefferson City home tour Sunday, Sept. 23

Here’s a nearby opportunity in Jefferson City to see inside some historic homes. This historic homes tour will be 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018. Tickets are $15 the day of the event and can be purchased at the Historic City of Jefferson City tent at 1122 Moreau Drive, Jefferson City. (Note: Only cash or checks will be accepted.)

Take a drive and take the tour — then let the readers of know in the comments if there are any similar homes in Columbia.

A watercolor painting of a house annotated The Dean Smith House 1982 signed by Margaret Hoyback
Historical Homes

Help me find the Dean Smith house

Do you know where this house is? The annotation says “The Dean Smith House,” and it is signed by Margaret Hoyback or Margaret Hoybach, the last letter isn’t clear.

A watercolor painting of a house annotated The Dean Smith House 1982 signed by Margaret Hoyback
A watercolor painting of a house annotated The Dean Smith House 1982 signed by Margaret Hoyback

An audience member at a recent talk I gave sent me this photo of this house and asked me if I could find its location. She bought the painting some years back in a little shop in Fayette. The seller said she’d bought it at an estate auction in Columbia, which is why we think it might be a Columbia home.

City directories – no luck

I put on my researcher hat and checked the Columbia city directories for 1981 and 1982

I found a Dean Smith, but he lived on Bonny Linn Drive and none of the houses on that street look anything like the painting.

I checked everyone listed as D. Smith, hoping it might be someone using his or her initial in the directory. No luck.

Researcher note: City directories can be a great source of historic information. The directories list every person by last name, first name. Lists of the streets are in another section with every resident listed under each street. For example, if you want to know who lived in your house in 1983, you can simply look up your street in the city directory.

The Columbia Public Library has city directories dating from 1936-2017, with some gaps in there. The books are in the reference area.

Telephone books – no luck again

I checked the telephone books and again, no one with the name Smith lived on a street with homes that looked like that. I took the addresses with Smith and Googled them to see what the homes looked like on those streets. It was old-school research using real paper telephone books from the 1980s combined with today’s technology which lets you see what a neighborhood looks like.

Researcher note: Telephone books can be a peek into history when people listed their address and telephone number is publically accessible published formats. The Columbia Public Library has telephone books from 1955 to 2013. The 1955 volume is 150 pages.

Google stuck out

I Googled it from every angle I could and I finally found a Dean Smith — as in a dean at the University of Missouri named Smith.

Not so fast. After some researching, I learned that Dean Smith didn’t become a Smith until 1986. I found an obituary of her husband noting their marriage date of 1986. That means it is unlikely that Dean Smith, Bea Litherland Smith, the 2018 Athena International Leadership Award winner, is the right person.

Artist search

Google turned up an artist by the name of Margaret Hoybach, but she’s headquartered in South Carolina. I did send her an email because the painting does look like her work. However, her website says she focuses on the East Coast, and Columbia doesn’t qualify for that. However, I’m hoping that Dean Smith, whoever he or she was, might have been a friend or family member and she did the painting out of kindness.

Can you help find the location of this house?

So now I’m hoping someone can look at this picture and let me know where it is. Come on social media, I’m rooting for you to help us find the story behind the Dean Smith House.



Areas, Historical Homes, Resources - Reports

A 1994 view of East Campus

On Monday, Columbia City Council OK’d the creation of a new East Campus neighborhood association. But on this website, I like to look into the past.

Here’s a report from February 1994 that will let you take a peek at the past in the East Campus area. The document includes a 1931 map of the area and an explanation of how the area grew.

Below is a link to coverage of the July 16, 2018 city council meeting.

July 17, 2018 — Council approves new East Campus neighborhood association. Source: Columbia Missourian. Summary: City Council voted to recognized a new neighborhood association for the East Campus area. The new association is the East Campus Traditional Neighborhood Association, made up mainly of landlords. The older organization, the East Campus Neighborhood Association is an older organization made up mainly of homeowners, according to the article.