Missouri Preservation: State's Most Endangered Historic Sites in 2013 (PHOTOS)


The Book House. - VIA
  • via
  • The Book House.

What historic properties in Missouri are most likely to face demolition? The Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation has released its annual list of the state's most endangered sites, which this year includes the Book House, a beloved store in Rock Hill that recently got its eviction notice as developers look to tear down the structure to make way for a storage facility.

"This is a way to call attention to endangered historic resources statewide," Holly Peterson, administrator for Missouri Preservation, tells Daily RFT. "What is in the most imminent danger of either being demolished or is just in very terrible condition? How historic is the nature of the building and would it make a huge difference if it wasn't able to be saved?"

The group announced the most at-risk properties last week at the Henry Miller House, a historic site in Bloomfield that is on the 2013 list.

The purpose of the list, Peterson says, is to raise awareness about the properties that need help and to try and boost the local efforts to save them. "Sometimes, they are in need of support in city council. Other times, it's about finding an owner -- somebody who is willing to come in and purchase a property and renovate it."

The group has been doing these lists since 2000, typically unveiling them in May, which is National Preservation Month.

Here's the 2013 list. (All photos courtesy of preservemo.org unless otherwise noted. The list is loosely organized based on geography, not on any particular ranking. As noted in this post, the historical summaries come directly from Missouri Preservation.)

9. The Phillip Kaes House Sherman, St. Louis County


Via Missouri Preservation:

The land on which the Kaes house sits was part of a Spanish land grant to Samuel Pruitt, who was one of the first English-speaking settlers west of the Mississippi. By 1862, most of Pruitt's holdings had been divided between the Lewis, Kaehs (Kaes) and Coons families. The house was sited on land belonging to the Kaeses. There is still a private cemetery on the property bearing Kaes family inscriptions. The house is designated a St. Louis County Landmark and is now part of Castlewood State Park. It suffers sorely from lack of maintenance. Acquired by the State Parks Department in 1980, one year later the first proposal to pay for its restoration started through the bureaucratic maze. Finally in 1986 $172,000.00 was allocated by the state legislature for the house, but officials shifted money to other needs at the park. In the ensuing years, time has not been kind to State Parks budgets and the house has continued to fall into disrepair. It is hoped that this nomination will call attention to the need for increased funding for Missouri's State Parks and historic buildings that have been acquired into the State Parks system.

8. The James Clemens House City of St. Louis


Inside the Clemens House, published here with permission via local blog keepstlouisfree.blogspot.com:


Via Missouri Preservation:

This house, completed 1859-60 was designed by architect, Patrick Walsh and constructed for James Clemens, who was a highly successful businessman and cousin to writer Samuel Clemens. The house is listed on the National Register and is a St. Louis City Landmark. This imposing Palladian-style villa with extensive cast iron ornamentation represents one of the most intact antebellum mansions in the St. Louis area. After the death of the illustrious owner in 1888, the house and furnishings were sold to the Sisters of Carondelet, a chapel addition was constructed, and the property became the Convent of Our Lady of Good Counsel. The Sisters enlarged the property to include a dormitory and a Georgian Palladian chapel, which was designed by Aloysius Gillick and completed in 1896.

Beginning in 1949 the buildings were used by a number of Roman Catholic communities and charities, and in 1987 it was sold to the Berean Missionary Baptist Association and then in 2005 to the Universal Vietnamese Buddhist Association. In these recent years, the complex has been used as a homeless shelter and the buildings have received little or no maintenance. A 1984 inspection report suggested that the cast iron used in the façade had become cracked and brittle, allowing water to be trapped behind. The quoins at the corners of the building were reportedly in bad condition, were missing fragments and cracking at the anchor bolts. A conservative price tag for repairs needed at that time was $100,000.00. Since then the building has transferred hands a number of times, the most recent being to the developer of the proposed "NorthSide Regeneration" project. Representatives of NorthSide Regeneration removed the cast iron façade of the house years ago when it was promised the building would be renovated. Since then, nothing has been done to preserve or stabilize the house or additions, and the roof of the nearby chapel has collapsed. It is hoped that this nomination will encourage NorthSide Regeneration to complete rehabilitation of the Clemens House and to include preservation as a focal point of its future plans in the NorthSide Regeneration area.

Continue for more historic sites in danger in Missouri.

7. The Book House Rock Hill, St. Louis County


Via Missouri Preservation:

The "Book House," as it is known by the business that has been located there for the past thirty years, is a center hall Gothic Revival Style house, and was likely constructed in the early 1860s. The property switched hands among early French St. Louis settlers and eventually ended up in the hands of noted Mississippi River Captain George C. Keith, who was most likely the owner at the time that this building was constructed. The style that Captain Keith chose for the home he built on Manchester Road became popular in the early 1800s beginning with the works of Maryland architect Alexander Jackson Davis, who published a design book in 1832 entitled Rural Residences. His guide book featured the romantic, picturesque Gothic Revival houses as the ideal style in which to construct a country house. American landscape designer, horticulturist and writer Andrew Jackson Downing promoted the Gothic styled house as perfect for the country, with its wide, often double-gabled front and expansive porch. It may be that, if Captain Keith were the house's first owner, that the style might have also been derived of the "Steamboat Gothic," which was used for many of the river boats he encountered, with their wrap-around galleries decorated with ornate wood "gingerbread" trim. Buildings in the Gothic Revival Style are quite rare in Missouri and especially in St. Louis County where this building is located, and this is possibly the oldest Gothic Revival style house in St. Louis County.

And as we've reported, developers from out of state are in the early stages of seeking approvals for potential development.

The plan at this time is to build a storage facility on the site.

6. Greenwood Cemetery Hillsdale, St. Louis County


Via Missouri Preservation:

Greenwood Cemetery was established in 1874 as the first commercial African-American cemetery in the St. Louis area. After emancipation and before the establishment of Greenwood, the majority of African-Americans in this area did not have a choice of burial location for their deceased family members - due to Jim Crow laws the potters fields and other city-owned cemeteries were the final resting places not only for indigents, but also for people of color no matter what their circumstances or status. Greenwood, with its rural location, park-like setting and 31.85 acres of beautiful well-kept grounds was a welcome change for the small but growing black middle class.

Maintenance at the cemetery seems to have ended in the 1980s, as the cemetery showed a drastic loss in revenue due to decreased burials. In 1993 burials ceased at the cemetery due to deteriorating conditions and eventually vegetation was allowed to grow wild in all of Greenwood's 31.85 acres, making it an impenetrable wilderness. Due to the many decades of neglect, the situation at Greenwood is grim. Much of the cemetery has been used as a dump site, the roads are impassable, stones have been toppled and buried, and shrubs and trees have now become impenetrable overgrowth. Despite current conditions, this site has potential as a cultural and historical resource. It has enormous potential for education, African-American genealogical research, and could be restored for hiking, biking and other activities.

RFT deemed it best cemetery in 2012:

While St. Louis is certainly graced with its fair quota of elegant cemeteries, Greenwood Cemetery arguably does the best job of epitomizing St. Louis' tenacious character. As an un-endowed cemetery serving St. Louis' African American community since the 1870s, Greenwood has been forced to fend for itself. A small team of volunteers has managed to beat back at least some of the 31.89 acres of brambles and vines covering the graves of such St. Louis luminaries as Dred Scott's widow, Harriet; bluesman Walter Davis; U.S. Colored Troops veterans; and Lee Shelton, of "Stagger Lee" fame. These volunteers have managed to get the cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places, but the uphill struggle seems endless. A 78-year-old man saved up $350 for a modest granite marker for his grandmother, lugged it in on a dolly himself and has come regularly to mow around her grave. His children and grandchildren, he says, have all moved away. A few yards away, the weeds and grasses obscure homemade headstones, but he has taken it on himself to tend all the burials in his grandmother's row. A small strip, at least, resembles the manicured cemeteries St. Louis is known for.

5. The Frizel-Welling House Jackson, Cape Girardeau County


Via Missouri Preservation:

The Frizel-Welling House was begun in 1818 by Joseph Frizel as a modest Cape Cod style house. That same year Mr. Frizel married Sarah Bollinger, the only child of Frederick Bollinger of Whitewater Missouri, where the now famous Bollinger Mill had been built. They owned the house only until 1820, when it was purchased by a Mr. Von Phul, and yet another owner before being purchased by Charles Welling in 1838. Mr. Welling purchased it as a new home for he and his bride, the former Elizabeth Frizel, daughter of original owners, Joseph and Sarah Frizel. The Wellings substantially enlarged the house, adding a large two story front-gabled Greek Revival structure. A skirmish occurred in Jackson during the Civil War, and a bullet in a wash stand which remains in the house. In addition, a "mini-ball" was found in the side yard. In 1864 the First Presbyterian Church was organized in the parlor of the Frizel-Welling home. The family's generosity is well-known throughout the town's history, and for a time the parlor also served as the home for Jackson's first public library. The descendants of the Frizels and Wellings still hold title to the property. Over the years, generations of the family have brought and left personal belongings in the home. The house's history is evident today as you walk through the house. Every room appears complete as it did many years ago, with well-aged books filling the bookshelves and remarkable pieces of history at every turn, with pieces of history found simply by opening a drawer or storage chest.

The building has recently been put up for sale and there has already been one major threat to the Frizel-Welling House. A sales contract for the asking price was received by the family by an interested party who had sought to demolish the house for a parking lot. Knowing this, the family rejected the contract. The State of Missouri has been approached about perhaps acquiring the property for a State Historic Site, given the extraordinary collection of books, furniture and other family belongings at the House, as well as its family connection to the nearby Bollinger Mill SHS. The Most Endangered designation would bring further recognition to this site and to the need for timely action to save and preserve the building as well as its amazing collection of artifacts, and may even convince the State to acquire the building as a State Historic Site.

Continue for more historic sites in danger in Missouri.

4. The Henry Miller House Bloomfield, Stoddard County

Bill Hart, Missouri Preservation field services representative announcing the list last week.
  • Bill Hart, Missouri Preservation field services representative announcing the list last week.

Via Missouri Preservation:

This house was constructed some time between 1845 and 1849 for Henry Miller, a civic leader and merchant who was prominent in the early swamp land reclamation movement in Southeast Missouri and was also involved in the creation and promotion of the Cairo & Fulton Railroad Company in the 1850s. Known architecturally as an "I-House," it is believed to be the oldest in Stoddard County and one of the oldest houses in Southeast Missouri. The interior of the house retains much of its original material, with the exception of minor repairs. The house was used as a residence continually from the time it was constructed until about 1979 and has been vacant ever since. The house has since fallen into general disrepair from neglect, some siding is missing, and the porch collapsed and was removed. A $200,000.00 grant was received several years ago to restore the house, but after one of the contractors failed to produce, the grant was forfeited. Student volunteers from the Historic Preservation Association at Southeast Missouri State University have been working to stabilize the Miller House. It is hoped that Missouri's Most Endangered List will bring added recognition to this historic place, that the building can be listed on the National Register of Historic Places and that it will be able to once again garner economic favor through a broader system of support.

3. Camp Zoe Round Spring, Shannon County


Via Missouri Preservation:

Camp Zoe is sited on a hill overlooking Sinking Creek, a tributary of the Current River. The 350 acres on which the camp is located abuts the Ozark National Scenic Riverways where Sinking Creek meets the Current. Camp Zoe was opened in 1929 as an all girls summer camp and eventually was made coed. Original buildings dating to 1929 include the Lodge, where activities were held (included a library), the Dining Hall, the "Old Shelter", a mostly open air shelter where activities were held, the Stables, Cabins I, II & III and several service and out-buildings. The lodge was the most significant structure, sited at the top of the hill overlooking the camp grounds and constructed of native Ozark stone and timbers harvested from the site. Over the years four other cabins were added. Camp Zoe closed as a summer camp after the summer of 1986 due to escalating insurance costs and associated rises in camp tuition, which had begun to cause the number of campers to dwindle in the early 1980s. After a few years of renting the camp for retreats and large camping groups, longtime owners Jack and Lois Peters sold Camp Zoe to a religious organization. That organization made little to no changes to the camp and grounds, using it primarily for summer retreats through the 1990s.

In 2004 members of the Grateful Dead tribute band The Schwag purchased the camp. By this time, many of the buildings were beginning to become run down due to deferred maintenance. The Schwag addressed some issues and made simple repairs to the cabins and showering facilities. The Schwag cleared some ground north of the main camp for their annual "Schwagstock" music festivals, but the camp itself largely maintained its original integrity. In early November 2010 the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency raided the camp after the final show at the annual "Spookstock" music festival. Following the raid court documents were filed alleging that the music festivals at Camp Zoe were the site of widespread, rampant use and sales of illegal drugs. Camp Zoe was seized by the federal government. While the historic camp is not in immediate danger of destruction, it faces an uncertain future brought about by the federal seizure. Many of the historic buildings, which have suffered from deferred maintenance and partial repairs are in a fragile state. It is hoped that listing Camp Zoe on Missouri's list of Most Endangered Places could bring wider attention to a place that could be lost to neglect but has the potential of once again functioning as a camping/lodging or retreat facility offering visitors an escape from the daily barrage of our busy lives.

Continue for more historic sites in danger in Missouri.

2. The Ozark Community Building Ozark, Christian County


Via Missouri Preservation:

Constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Ozark Community Building was dedicated in July of 1933. The material used for the exterior walls of the building is native fieldstone, referred to locally as "giraffe stone." The Community Building became obsolete when the City opened the new Ozark Community Center in 2009. While the building has a sensitive owner in the Christian County Museum and Historical Society, it has now been vacant for a number of years. Several areas of its fieldstone walls are in need of re-pointing, and the roof is compromised and leaking. Lack of interior environmental control has caused moisture and humidity to create an unhealthy atmosphere. A fundraising drive to fix the roof, plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning has begun so that the Museum can eventually get an occupancy permit. It is hoped that listing on Missouri's Most Endangered will develop a public awareness of the challenges to this property and emphasize to former and current residents of Ozark the importance of restoration/renovation of this important historic resource.

1. The Poage-Arnold House "Three Gables" Kansas City, Clay County


Via Missouri Preservation:

This house originated as a simple two-room building constructed ca. 1824, and the substantial brick addition was added in about 1860. The building is a center hall Gothic Revival style house, and is a rare example of this architectural style both in this community and statewide. Located outside Liberty Missouri in Clay County, it is actually situated within the city limits of Kansas City and is possibly the oldest structure in the Kansas City area. As part of the country's bicentennial, Three Gables house was listed as one of Clay County's seventy-six most significant historic buildings. Since its sale in 2000, the surrounding farmland has been developed for residences, apartments, and commercial enterprises. The owners from 2000 through 2013 had intended to raze the house and sell the land for development. Thus the house has not been maintained for over a decade. These owners recently lost the land through foreclosure, and the property was sold at private auction. The new owners, a real estate conglomerate from California, are investigating demolition. Due to its location in a dangerous curve on Missouri 291 Highway, and to the surrounding residential development that has occurred in the last decade, it is unlikely that the property could now be sold for commercial development. It is hoped this nomination will help the new owners understand the importance of this structure and call for its preservation in future development plans.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.


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