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.

Apartments, Events

See art and the Niedermeyer Apartments

I’m a historic voyeur, always looking for opportunities to peek inside the historic buildings I write about. Surprisingly, not everyone welcomes me into their home or building to see the historic inside. Sometimes I find real estate videos or photos, but now here’s a unique chance to see the Neidermeyer.

From 5-8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, there will be a pop-up show featuring the work of 10 UMC artists, according to a Coming Up notice in the Nov. 27, 2017 Columbia Daily Tribune.

Yes! It’s a winner. Art and history!

1907 photograph, when the Niedermeyer Apartments were the Gordon Hotel. Photo from the Missouri State Historical Society, with the notation of no known copyright restrictions.
1907, when the Niedermeyer Apartments were the Gordon Hotel. Photo from the Missouri State Historical Society, with the notation of no known copyright restrictions.

But it’s also a miracle story. If you’re new around Columbia, you might not remember 2013 fight for the Niedermeyer’s existence.

At that time, there were rumors, then plans, then news that a company was going to buy the Niedermeyer, raze it and build a student-focused apartment building there. This Feb. 10, 2013 Columbia Daily Tribune article,  “If walls could talk”, outlines the history of the building.

The article written by Andrew Denney states it was the site of the Columbia Female Academy from 1837 until about 1854. The building was rented out as a residence from 1865 until 1895. From 1895 until about 1911, it was operated as a hotel. For a period of time, it housed the MU Department of Domestic Science. In 1921, it reopened as the Niedermeyer Apartments, the article continues.

The Niedermeyer was saved from destruction by Nakhle Asmar, who planned to buy and renovate the buildings, according to this Columbia Daily Tribune March 13, 2013 article, “Buyer plans to start with basic fixes.”

This destruction and construction boom even caught the eye of the New York Times, which published this article on June 13, 2013, “In Student Housing, Luxuries Overshadow Studying.”  In summary, it highlights the downtown student housing boom, and includes statements from various people expressing concern about the area being overbuilt, how students may or may not be spoiled by all the luxuries at the new housing, as well as one comment which called the new apartments “soulless” compared to the Niedermeyer Apartments.

Here’s another way you can get a peek, even without attending Friday’s event. This blog put together by the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission, Planning Department and City of Columbia has this post on the Niedermeyer with lots of inside photos!

You can get a view of the outside and some history in this City of Columbia video made to commemorate the building’s addition to the 2013 Most Notable Properties list. Forward to 3:03 and watch until 4:42, unless you really like the music.

Here’s the Columbia Missourian article about the Neidermeyer when it was named to the 2013 list.

But you don’t have to rely on newspaper articles or videos to see the Neidermeyer on the inside with Friday’s event. See you there?