Got questions?

Is there a historical fact or myth about Columbia, Missouri you’d like investigated? Is there a house whose history intrigues you? Did you ever wonder if there is a rhyme or reason to the way our streets are named?

If you ask, I’ll try to answer in upcoming blog posts. You can also subscribe to this website so you’ll get a note every time I update it.

Here are some questions that came from the full-house audience at the 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 19 presentation at the Columbia Public Library. The presentation, “Columbia’s Hidden History,” covered secrets and myths about Columbia’s history.

You can email me your questions or leave them in the comment box below.

Question: The presentation debunked the idea that the Guitar mansion at 2815 Oakland Gravel Road should have ever been called Confederate Hill. Or did it? I’ll be looking for proof via historic newspaper articles, a book written on David Guitar and other sources. Got ideas or proof either way? I’d love to hear about it!

Question: Some research shows that Nadine Coleman, a historic resident of what some call the “Fairytale house,” at 121 West Blvd., North, has connections to the historic home in Booneville, “Ravenswood.” Here’s more information on Ravenswood in a 1973 National Register of Historic Homes nomination form.

Question: Winterton Curtis, the man people claim testified at the famous 1925 Scopes trial (except he didn’t), wrote a book called  “A Damned-Yankee Professor in Little Dixie.” I’ll look into whether I can link to a copy of the book so you can read his account of life in Columbia and the development of the Westmount area, an area some refer to as the Old Southwest. He writes about the early 1900s, describing the streets becoming muddy traps, the start of the city’s utility and of a trolly bus system that served the Stewart Road area.

Question: Changed addresses and street names facts wanted. You might know that some streets of Columbia have been renumbered which is why the historic home of Laura Matthews, Boone County’s first court stenographer, is now numbered 206 S. Glenwood but was once 104 S. Glenwood. So when and why were the streets renumbered? And how do streets get their names? Is there any system and/or list of Columbia’s streets?

Question: People wanted to know if the Haden House had ever been a house and who lived there.

Question: Where did author John Williams live? Author of John Williams who received his doctorate in English from MU in 1954 wrote a book titled, “Stoner.” Originally published in 1965, it has been translated into French and in 2013 it was seeing a resurgence of interest in Europe, according to this Oct. 20, 2013 article in The New Yorker. So where did Williams live when he resided in Columbia?

Question: Missing metal house? An audience member asked about Columbia’s metal house. I’ve learned it was a Lustron, a steel house, and I’ll be searching to find out where it was, where it is now and what its history was.

Question: Where did the economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen live? The scholar lived 1857-1929 and in Columbia from 1911-1917. One of his more well-known books was “The Theory of the Leisure Class,” and “Conspicuous Consumption: Unproductive Consumption of Goods Is Honourable.” Where did he live in Columbia?

Question: Log cabin? Some people mentioned that they’d heard the house at 1312 W. Broadway had a log cabin inside.

Here is information about the house provided by the City of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Commission:
“At the core of this late 19th century, house is a two-room log house believed to have been built in the 1840s.

“When the house was new, it was the center of a 150-acre farm on the western outskirts of Columbia. The original log house was probably built by Edward Camplin, a successful Boone County businessman who owned the property from 1828 to around 1848. The land and cabin had several owners in the late 19th century, including James and Mary Conley, who bought it in 1892. The Conleys built the present house around the original log house.

“E. B. McAllester and his wife bought the property in 1921. It served as their family home for many years and was later developed into a nightclub and restaurant called “Springdale Gardens,” after the springs that were located behind the house. Springdale Gardens was in operation in the 1930s and 1940s, and was described in a 1950s newspaper article as having been “a favorite dinner party spot for Columbians.” Historical sources differ on who developed the nightclub. It may have been done by the McAllesters, or by Mary Williams, who leased the property from them around 1938.

“By the 1950s, the Camplin House was in poor condition and threatened with demolition. In 1954, local architect Hurst John purchased the house and approximately 40 acres of the original farmland to the south. He made several updates to the house, and replaced an early one-story wrap around porch with the existing two-story front porch and columns. He kept an acre of land to go with the house and divided the rest of the property for the Spring Valley housing development.”

Again, send me your questions by email or in the comments below and I’ll answer them in the future.


CoMo’s hot dog-historic home connection

Columbia has a connection with a hot dog of a historic home in Evanston, Illinois — a long way from here even in a Weinermobile.

Here’s the connection: The Oscar Mayer plant of Kraft Heinz opened in 1985, according to this March 8, 2018, article in the Vox magazine of the Columbia Missourian. The plant made 161 million pounds of hot dogs in 2017 and employed 482 workers.

That’s a lota hot dogs!

A $2 million house connection to CoMo

This $2 million historic home was once home to Oscar Mayer Sr., the son of the founder of the meat-processing and weiner-making firm. The six-bedroom house in Evanston, Illinois was featured in the “What you get for $2 million,” section of New York Times on March 18, 2018.

Oscar Mayer Sr. lived in the home up from 1927 until his death in 1965. As president of the firm from 1928 until 1955, he took the company from $4 million in sales to $300 million in sales, while the workforce grew from 200 workers to 8,500. Here’s more information about him via his NYTimes obituary from March 5, 1965 here.

You can take a peek here inside the three-story, Victorian brick, 7,401-square-foot house.

You might want to snap it up at its current price. Newly renovated in 2016, it was listed at $2.95 million, according to this article in Curbed.com, an online shelter publication. This link lets you see it after the renovation, unfurnished.

CoMo’s hot dog connection

The local Oscar Mayer plant on Waco Road is the only Kraft Heinz plant that just makes hot dogs, according to this March 8, 2018, article in Vox magazine of the Columbia Missourian covering 200 years of Columbia’s history.

The article states the plant opened in 1985, employs 482 people and made 161 million of hot dogs in 2017. It’s one of CoMo’s largest employers and donates 60,000 hot dogs to the Central Missouri Food Bank, the article notes.

But the hot dog business has had its challenges here CoMo

In 2015, the Oscar Mayer plant won a tax break from Columbia taxing authorities.

But first, some background. By 2015, the Oscar Mayer plant harkened back to the first Oscar Mayer in name only.

The hot dog processor was owned by Kraft Heinz. The changes in ownership had started in 1971, when Oscar Mayer merged with Kraft in 1971, according to the Oscar Mayer website.

In 2015, Kraft and Heinz merged, resulting in North America’s third-largest food and beverage firm with $28 billion in annual revenues, according to this July 8, 2015, Columbia Missourian article.

The merger wasn’t all good news for Columbia.

Analysts expected the new firm to cut workers and costs, according to this March 22, 2015 Reuters article embedded in the July 8, 2015, Columbia Missourian article.

The new hot dog plant owners threatened to move operations elsewhere and wanted a 75 percent break in personal property and real estate taxes on a proposed $100 million upgrade of new equipment and addition, according to the July 8, 2015, Columbia Missourian article. The rest of the firm’s taxes would be unaffected by this agreement.

The article points out that even with this tax break, Kraft Heinz would cut about 50 workers due to the new and improved equipment.

Local taxing authorities agreed that some jobs were better than losing the 400 jobs and agreed to the 75 percent tax break on the project, as reported in this July 10, 2015, Columbia Missourian article.

Still, CoMo has a connection to the house in Evanston. The local plant is still making hot dogs and the Oscar Mayer house has been renovated and is up for sale.



See an Eero Saarinen in Columbia, Missouri

Don’t get in the car! I mean it! No need to drive six hours to see an Eero Saarinen designed building or even two hours to see one.

While I’m embarrassed to admit I just got around to reading the Winter 2016 edition of Preservation magazine, I was rewarded for this tardy reading by finding an article about a gem of a house designed by Eero Saarinen. What? Who’s Eero Saarinen and what does he have to do with historic sites in Columbia, Missouri?

Eero Saarinen was the designer of the St. Louis Arch — and the Firestone-Baars Chapel on the campus of Stephens College right here in Columbia, Missouri. So you can drive two hours to see his work or walk over to Stephens College.

The college is the site for the Unbound Book Festival which will be held April 19-21, 2018. The chapel has been used for various activities at the Unbound Book Festival in the past.

Just gotta get in the car? OK, OK, here’s the scoop on another Eero Saarinen-designed building that’s a six-hour drive from Columbia, Missouri. The Miller House was a collaboration of architect Eero Saarinen, “interior designer Alexander Girard, and landscape architect Dan Kiley,” according to the Preservation magazine article. Take a peek to see if you can find a resemblance.


Historical Homes, Uncategorized

503 Westwood Avenue

So what’s a historic home? Does a 1950 home in a historic neighborhood count? I’d say so. When I saw that the house at 503 Westwood Ave. was up for sale, I knew I had to take a peek. Here’s your chance to do the same via the House of Broker’s site.

Note, I don’t usually focus on buildings that aren’t on either the Columbia, Missouri Notable Properties list or the National Register of Historic Places, but this is a gem and if I wasn’t adverse to packing up my life, I’d move there in a minute.

Enjoy taking a peek at a historic home!


Favorite historic building fireplace?

This Saving Places blog post highlights photographs and information from six famous fireplaces from the nonprofit’s Preservation magazine.

Sadly, not one of them is from our part of the country, Missouri, also known as the fly-over zone.

But I’m betting people in Columbia, Missouri have their own favorite fireplaces from historic buildings. I’d love to see them and I’m sure all of us in these chilly days would love to see any warm you can provide!


Get your Pinterest on – salvage sale in November

Start perusing Pinterest now! Nov. 4 and 5, 2017 are tentative dates set for a salvage sale of items snagged from buildings before they were demolished.

The event is being planned by the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission according to this Oct. 5, 2017, Columbia Missourian article.

Items include cattle gates, rows of seats and reclaimed barn wood. So what can you do with cattle gates? This link to Pinterest shows everything from fencing to trellises to greenhouses and hoop gardens.

Rows of seats? This Pinterest link shows a great idea for your entryway.

Radiators will be plentiful. This link shows using two radiators to make a table. This might be great news for me since I still haven’t used the massive, solid wood door I bought at last year’s sale, the first held by the Historic Preservation Commission.

Last year’s sale drew a crowd and was named to this top 10 things to do for the weekend. It was held at the Rock Quarry Park, 2002 Grindstone Parkway

And if you aren’t a crafty person, well, you could even use these items offered for sale for cattle gates, seats or even radiators.

Commercial, demolition, Uncategorized

Bull Pen Cafe set for salvage and demolition, looking for stories and help

Pat Fowler of the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission is looking for help to salvage parts of the Bull Pen Cafe, a local eatery that was open for 60 years prior to its closing in 2007. Salvage efforts are planned for 9 a.m. Saturday, March 25. The Bull Pen is at 2310 Business Loop, Columbia, Missouri.

She and the commission are also looking for stories about the Bull Pen Cafe. For more information, contact Fowler at fowlerpatj@gmail.com, call or text (573) 256-6841.

As Fowler wrote on her Facebook page, and I’m posting her with her permission:

“You may have heard the Bull Pen Cafe will be demolished in the coming weeks. If you grew up in Columbia and attended a livestock auction, you’ll remember the amphitheater seating immediately behind the restaurant. We’d like to remove as many of those seats as we can muster volunteers for. There are also some other cool amenities inside that space we’d like to remove and put in the salvage barn for an upcoming city sponsored sale. Message me here, or on the HPC FB page if you can help. There are lots of great stories to ‘show and tell’ about the Bull Pen Cafe. We’d like to hear them.”

The upcoming demolition was covered in this March 10, 2017 Columbia Missourian article headlined, “Bull Pen Cafe building will face the wrecking ball.”

Here’s a link to a July 20, 2008 Columbia Missourian article about the Bull Pen. The headline is, “Cafe irreplaceable to regulars.