84 Year Old Letters Emerge in Renovation of Tornado Damaged Building

For those who might have missed it, the Joplin Globe ran an article yesterday, September 28, 2011, on the discovery of four letters during the renovation of one of the historic buildings located at 18th and Main Street.

The former home of the long remembered 18th Street Bar was damaged by the May 22nd Tornado. The owner of the building, Randy Stanley, opted to renovate the building, rather than tear it down. In the process, four letters addressed to Ray Lavett “Herbie” Gano from individuals that ranged from loved interests to jailed friends from 1927. For more details, check out the article!

New Joplin History Book Honors the Past & Helps Rebuild the Future

Leslie Simpson, Director of the Post-Memorial Art Reference Library, has a new book coming out on Joplin history, appropriately titled, Joplin. The book is a history of Joplin as told “in hundreds of vintage images” and will be launched at an event at Hastings on September 24, this Saturday, at 10:00 AM. Profits from the first printing will go exclusively to the Joplin Chamber of Commerce Business Recovery Fund.   Once we get a hold of a copy, we’ll be posting a review.  Until then, please find the press release below concerning the event below!

New Joplin History Book Honors the Past &
Helps Rebuild the Future

Longtime Joplin resident Leslie Simpson is the author of a new history
book that tells the story of Joplin’s past in hundreds of vintage images.
Joplin, the newest addition in Arcadia Publishing’s Postcard History series,
will be available on Saturday, September 24 exclusively at the Hastings
store in Joplin.

Covering a span of more than 130 years, Joplin traces all aspects of the
city’s history through vintage postcard images. Author Leslie Simpson
describes the book as “My love letter to the city of Joplin!”

Local history publisher Arcadia Publishing and multimedia retailer
Hastings Entertainment, Inc. will donate proceeds from the first printing of
the book to the Joplin Chamber of Commerce Business Recovery Fund.

The CEO’s from both companies have been personally involved in the
project and hope the initiative will support Joplin’s ongoing business
recovery efforts.

“When a tragedy like this happens, no matter how far away it is, your
first instinct is to want to find a way to help,” said Arcadia Publishing
president and CEO Richard Joseph. “I’m glad we could do this,” he

Hastings Entertainment CEO John Marmaduke shared, “We are
pleased to have this book available at a time when locals truly need
something to be excited about.”

Joplin will be exclusively available at Hastings through October 2011.
Non-local residents can order online at www.goHastings.com, from the
publisher at www.arcadiapublishing.com, or by calling (888)-313-2665.

About Arcadia Publishing
Arcadia Publishing is the leading publisher of local and regional history in the United States. Books celebrate the
places and faces that give America its spirit and life. Distinctive sepia covers, local authors, and vintage images
present a curbside look and street level understanding of a town’s bygone times. Find your place in history at

About Hastings
Founded in 1968, Hastings Entertainment, Inc. is a leading multimedia entertainment retailer that combines the
sale of new and used books, videos, video games and CDs, and trends and consumer electronics merchandise,
with the rental of videos and video games in a superstore format. www.goHastings.com

Book proceeds to benefit Joplin local businesses

Author Leslie Simpson has
lived in Joplin for the past 32
years. She helped establish
Main Street Joplin and the
Joplin Historic Preservation

Postcard History Series
Price: $21.99
128 pages/ softcover
Available: September 24, 2011


Arcadia: Mrs. PJ Norlander, Director of Marketing
843.853.2070 x160 pjnorlander@arcadiapublishing.com


Phone: 417-659-9828

Joplin Book Launch Event
Saturday, September 24, 2011
10:00 a.m.


Come share your own stories.
Meet the author.
Take a walk back in time.

Hastings will host the author, Chamber of Commerce members,
community leaders, the publishing company, and any and all residents who
wish to attend.

A special launch event celebrating the publication of a new local history
book, Joplin, by Leslie Simpson.

Saturday, September 24, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon
10:00 a.m.
Welcome, Ribbon Cutting Ceremony,
Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Presentation
10:30 a.m.
Author Book Signing


Hastings located at 526 South Range Line Road.

Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the Joplin Chamber
of Commerce Business Recovery Fund.


Directions and event information can be found online at


Twisters, Cyclones, and Tornadoes of Joplin’s Past: Part II

This is the second half of our brief history on the cyclones, tornadoes and twisters that Mother Nature has visited upon Joplin in the past.   You can find the first part by clicking here.

In the summer of 1908, a small “funnel-shaped cloud dipped down out of the sky” just southwest of Joplin in the early morning. The tornado swept across an area estimated at a quarter of a mile in diameter and destroyed four mining plants: the Ruth, Eden, and Haggerty plants, plus one unnamed plant. Mrs. Jack Armil, who lived in Joplin Heights, told a reporter that she thought she was going to lose her house to the tornado. Although she and her home escaped unscathed, her landscaping was badly damaged. The twister did not raise much alarm in Joplin proper as the Globe failed to report on the event, leaving the News-Herald to publish a brief article noting the tornado’s brief appearance.

The next few years were quiet until the spring of 1911. On a fine spring evening a powerful rainstorm with heavy winds hit the area between north Joplin and south Webb City. The storm, prior to its arrival in Joplin, had already left a trail of devastation across Oklahoma and Kansas. Fortunately, casualties were light. Mrs. Almedia Shelley was killed when her home on Smelter Hill was destroyed by what was described as a “high wind.” Others were injured, including: T.J. Walten, Charles Vancourt, Claude Hankins, and a man named Adkins.

Several decades passed before Joplin was once again in the path of a tornado. On the evening of May 5, 1971, Joplin experienced its first significant tornado. Tornado sirens reportedly did not go off in time until the funnel was on the ground, catching many residents by surprise. The twister tore through the city causing damage along thirty-seven city blocks and took the life of Missouri Southern student Rick Johnson. Johnson was killed at his residence at the Anderson Mobile Trailer Court on Newman Road. His wife miraculously survived. The event was memorialized in a booklet succinctly titled, The Joplin Tornado. You can view the entire booklet online courtesy of the Joplin Public Library here:  http://www.joplinpubliclibrary.org/digitized/joplin_tornado_booklet.php

Two years later, on the morning of May 11, 1973, another tornado hit Joplin with winds roared through the city at an estimated 70 to 100 miles an hour. Mrs. Lea Kungle, head of Jasper County’s civil defense, told a Globe reporter, “They say you can’t have a hurricane here, but it was like a hurricane.”

Three residents were killed, over one hundred were injured, an estimated one thousand trees blown over, and at least $20 million in property damage. The West Side Trailer Court on West Seventh Street sustained heavy losses. Mrs. Roger Wisdom, who lived at the trailer court, remarked that “The sky was so black, and it seemed to come to a point and looked like it was coming in on you…it was so big.” A ten year old girl, Chris Day, woke up flying through the air on her mattress. She survived without any serious injuries.

Just as sudden as it had arrived, the tornado quickly moved eastward, not to be surpassed in the history of the city until May 22, 2011.


Sources: Joplin Daily Globe, Joplin News Herald, The Joplin Tornado.

Moslers Legacy Not Lost

A couple weeks ago, we discussed the loss of Murwin Mosler’s work in the form of prints and negatives due to Mosler’s daughter’s home being hit by the May 22nd tornado.  At the time, it was thought that every aspect of Mosler’s legacy had been lost, scattered across the city and Southwest Missouri.  It was recently reported that this was not so.  In an oddly termed “rescue” it was discovered that over 25,000 negatives had not been lost, but instead were actually buried in the rubble of the home.   At present, the negatives  are in the possession of the Joplin Museum Complex for the purpose of being “saved” by the permission of Mosler’s daughter.

What the “saved” process entails is the sorting and categorizing of the negatives, which involves documenting the names of the individual in the photographs that date from 1939 to 1986.  This will be done by the Museum Complex’s volunteers, who museum director  Brad Belk notes in the article, “have never done anything like this…”  and will have to create a database to allow for easy search and distribution.  In the end, Joplin residents who lost photographs might be able to find replacement photographs within this collection.  Belk stated he hoped that the process would take only three months.  We expect this is an optimistic timeline given the lack of experience of the JMC staff, despite having an extensive collection of historic photographs of Joplin.  What the JMC should do is reach out to the State Archives staff that Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has sent to Joplin.   The State Archives have extensive experience in the sorting,  cataloging, restoration and preservation of photographs, particularly those that have suffered damage.

We’re happy to know that the negatives were not lost and an effort will be made to catalog and document this important part of Joplin’s history.  We do hope that when the Mosler collection has been fully cataloged that it’s contents will be made available to the public at large.

Guest Piece: Chapters Erased from Joplin’s Architectural History – Leslie Simpson


By Leslie Simpson

caption for photo: Carl Owen house at 2431 Porter. Built ca. 1911. Destroyed by tornado May 22, 2011 via Post Memorial Art Reference Library

I am having a difficult time knowing what to say.  In fact, I hesitate to even write anything about brick and mortar, when human life, hopes, and dreams are what really matter.  However, since I have written so much about Joplin’s architecture through the years, I feel compelled to say something.  I have had several CNN reporters contact me for interviews, but I have not wanted to talk to them.  First of all, I had not personally seen all the damage.  It is impossible to get around, and I did not want to get in the way of emergency workers nor be a voyeur.  Secondly, I just did not think I could articulate what has happened to my beloved Joplin.  So now I will attempt some general (and unofficial) impressions of Joplin’s historic identity and how this incomprehensible tragedy has affected it.  Also, rather than catalog specific buildings that have been lost, I will focus on three historic residential areas.

I begin with the historic town of Blendville in southwest Joplin, which was established in 1876 as “Cox Diggings.”  The prosperous little community incorporated as Blendville, so-named because of the huge amounts of zinc blende in the ground.  Thomas Cunningham owned the residential area, which he divided into lots and sold at low rates so that miners could afford their own homes.  The city of Joplin extended its streetcar line to Blendville, with lines going south on Main to 19th Street, west to Byers, south to 21st Street, west to Murphy, then south to 26th.  In 1892, Joplin annexed the village.  Thomas Cunningham donated “Cunningham Grove” as Joplin’s first city park.  The tornado took out most of the original Blendville area, including Cunningham Park and the historic water plant with some of the original equipment preserved inside.

The next area of historic significance is “Schifferdecker’s First Addition”, a residential area developed in south Joplin beginning in 1900.  The Joplin Globe referred to the area lying south of 20th Street and fronting on Wall, Joplin, and Main Street as “a beautiful new addition affording the most desirable building property” to be found anywhere in the city.  A second addition continued development south of 20th on Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania Avenues as well as along 21st, 22nd, and 23rd Streets to the east and west.  The residential district continued to expand to the south throughout the teens, twenties, thirties.  The homes in the region ranged from high Victorian styles to bungalows and eclectic Tudors, Colonial Revivals, Spanish mission, etc.  Tragically, this charming old neighborhood has been wiped out.

After World War II ended, Joplin families faced a housing shortage.  Some Camp Crowder buildings were moved to Joplin, while others were dismantled to provide construction materials.  Hundreds of small efficiency houses were mass-produced for veterans and financed through FHA.  Many of these were built in the Eastmoreland area.  As people prospered in the 1960s and 1970s, they built more substantial brick homes east and south of the new high school at 20th and Indiana.  Although most people do not think of these homes as historic, they do have their own place in Joplin’s architectural history, and their loss is devastating as well.

Entire chapters of Joplin’s history have been forever erased.  I have not even touched on the loss of churches, schools, medical buildings, and businesses.   Again, I am not relating the loss of our buildings to the loss of our people.   Joplin will rebuild.  It has already begun.   During the first week after the tornado, I saw a business being rebuilt in the midst of the war zone surrounding West 26th Street!

Porter House following Joplin Tornado. Photo by Leslie Simpson

Porter House following Joplin Tornado. Photo by Leslie Simpson

Porter House following Joplin Tornado. Photo by Leslie Simpson

Leslie Simpson, an expert on Joplin history and architecture, is the director of the Post Memorial Art Reference Library, located within the Joplin Public Library. She is the author of From Lincoln Logs to Lego Blocks: How Joplin Was Built, Now and Then and Again: Joplin Historic Architecture. and the soon to be released, Joplin: A Postcard History.

Restoring Joplin’s Memories

In the wake of Joplin’s tornado, homes were destroyed and the possessions within them literally scattered to the wind.  While much that was lost, furniture or clothes, can be replaced in one way or another, photographs cannot.  They are our way of capturing a moment in time be it a special event or simply the image of a loved one.  If lost, there is no way to recapture with a camera that passing moment.

One such photographic horror story concerned the photographs of Murwin Mosler, who photographed Joplin and her people over a span of decades from the 1930s to the 1960s.  Mosler’s life work, organized into a collection, was lost when the tornado destroyed his daughter’s home.

Some are not willing to let these lost photographs remained lost as numerous facebook sites, such as Joplin’s Found Photos, sprung up to attempt to reunite owners with their memories.  In turn, a website, Joplin Rescued Photos, collects these links and offers to be a central location for the effort to save photographs and return them home.  Joplin is not alone, either, as  Operation Photo Rescue is on its way to the city sometime soon.  Operation Photo Rescue consists of volunteers who will scan in damaged photographs, then digitally repair them and send the restored images to the owners for free.

While the days have passed since the storm and the clean up well under way, keep an eye open to a bent piece of paper lodged beneath a branch, it might well be someone’s memory and with the help of the people above, it might even find its way home.