The Architectural Legacy of Garstang & Rea: Barbee Park’s Grandstand

Edward Knell is credited with bringing the first “bred” race horse to Jasper County (as well the “art of embalming”) in 1889. The lucky equine was named “Ben McGregor” and cost Knell an estimated $3,000 dollars, quite the figure at the time. However, as early as 1872, even before Joplin came into existence, a race track was built just south of town that ran a half-mile long. Another race track was built in 1879, along with stables, an agricultural hall, and a grandstand. Gilbert Barbee, one time owner of the Joplin Globe, House of Lords, and Democratic party boss, bought this park and named it Barbee Park. The grandstand featured in both images was designed by Garstang & Rea for Gilbert Barbee’s “driving park” for a price of $6,500.

Barbee Park was home to countless horse races, but also served as the venue for such events like the Firemen’s Tournament that was held on the grounds in 1908. It was at the park where Joplinites got their first real glimpse of the speeding prowess of some of the first motorized fire engines in the nation, as well one of the last fire engine horse team races in the city’s history. Unfortunately for Barbee, in the middle of an April night in 1909, the grand stand caught fire and was a complete loss, despite the best efforts of Joplin’s fire department. The grand stand was never rebuilt and in the 1920s, Barbee’s son leveled the track area to develop a neighborhood.

As Joplin history expert Leslie Simpson writes in her book, Now and Then and Again: Joplin Historic Architecture, “He built the Barbee Court addition right on the old race course, preserving the graceful oval of elm trees that once surrounded it…The outline of the old race track can be traced by looping around from 17th to 19th Streets from Maiden Lane to the alley between Porter and Harlem Avenues.”

Harlem Avenue today.

Joplin’s One-Armed Bandits

Gambling has been endemic to Joplin since the city’s foundation in the 1870s. However, it legally came to an end, at least in the form of slot machines, in 1952. Slot machines had been part of Joplin’s gambling past not that long before, when they formed part of the focus of a grand jury investigation into Joplin’s police chief and mayor in the 1930′s (based on officials “overlooking” their presence in Joplin businesses). After a state law came into effect, simply possessing the gambling devices became illegal. As a result, “approximately 3,000 pounds of “junk”" was collected by one local company. The Joplin Eagle Club, likewise, surrendered eleven machines to the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, the total value of the machines estimated at $3,000. An article about the end of the slot-machines implied that at the time they were also familiar devices in Joplin’s other private fraternities and organizations, as well.

A Joplin slot machine on its way to be destroyed.

The Comet Parties of Joplin

A photograph of the comet in 1910 via Wikipedia.

The year 1910 witnessed the passing of one of America’s greatest authors and one of the galaxy’s most famous celestial events. Missourian and celebrated author Mark Twain was born in 1835, the same year that Halley’s Comet made an appearance, and by sheer coincidence, he died shortly after the comet graced the heavens once again in 1910. The comet’s brief appearance sparked interested across the world and Joplinites took note.

The comet, which only returns every 75 to 76 years, was quite the big deal and Joplinites were not going to miss out on enjoying it. Invitations were sent to friends and family that stated, “You are cordially invited to attend a Halley comet party which will be held on the roof of our home tomorrow morning at 3:30 o’clock,” or so the Joplin Daily Globe claimed in the May of 1910 in its coverage of the once in a lifetime event. The same article noted that comet gazers had an extra treat in the presence of a spectacular Venus, the “celestial celebrity.” The paper claimed hundreds of Joplin residents were awake for the opportunity to see the visitor, which became visible around 3:45 am and grew brighter over the next thirty minutes. The Halley’s Comet parties were, the headline proclaimed, “the Latest and Most Popular Functions.”

The last time Halley’s Comet visited Joplin, as well the rest of the planet, was 1986. For those who missed it they will have to wait until 2061.

Joplin Miners: 1910 Western Association Champs

Our next photograph in the Joplin Miners series is the 1910 Joplin Miners.

1910 Joplin Miners: 1) Richard Rohn, 2) Marc Hall, 3) Ralph Bell, 4) George Watson, 5) Bruce Ross, 6) Harry Ellis, 7) Howie Gregory, 8 ) Ed Hawk, 9) W. Burton, 10) Earl Hamilton, 11) Thomas Harlow, 12) Lowthers, 13)Joe Kelly, 14) Bert Lamb.

In 1910, the Joplin Miners finished first in the Western Association and played their games at Cox Baseball Park. Richard Rohn, aka, Dick Rohn, was a hold over from the 1907 team. Ed Hawk, from Exeter, Missouri, made it to the St. Louis Browns in the Majors. While Joe Kelly went on to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and the Boston Braves.

Dining in the House of Lords

Made dinner plans yet?  If you happened to be strolling along Main Street north of Fourth and Main one hundred and twelve years ago, you might decide to find a bite to eat inside one of Joplin’s most famous (or infamous) dining places, the House of Lords.  Below are two menus from August, 1899, which undoubtedly satisfied some Joplinite’s hungry stomach. At the time, the House of Lords was operated by Louis N. Rahn, hence, “Rahn’s House of Lords.”

 

The Lady in the Window

If you have ever lived in  Joplin, you have undoubtedly heard about the House of Lords.  Usually one hears a story that goes like this: Bar on the bottom floor, gambling on the second floor, and a brothel on the third floor.  After reading years of Joplin newspapers, we can honestly say that yes, there is truth in the story. There were slot machines, there were countless rounds served at the bar, and yes, there were prostitutes working the building. This excerpt from a letter describes what one resident saw one day while working downtown:

Joplin Main Street

On the left, the House of Lords, on the right, the Joplin Hotel. Neither quite shared the same clientele.

“Two weeks ago last Saturday night, I, stood in front of the Joplin Hotel, and such a sight as was seen on the opposite side of the street cannot be forgotten.  A drunken, brazen, disgusting prostitute stood in front of a window in the third story of the House of Lords as naked as when she came into the world, in plain view of the hundreds of people walking up and down the street, and not an officer with the courage or decency to prevent it.  Ladies were obliged to turn their faces or leave the street; and I am told that the proprietor of the hotel cannot assign a lady a front room because of the character of the occupants in the building across the street.  Sodom and Gomorrah were never sunk as deep in the depths of infamy and vice as this, and the prayers of the wives and mothers of Joplin will be answered.”

Joplin Glee

A hundred years and two months ago, Joplin’s gleeks were promised what was said “to be the best musical production ever given by high school students.” Fair enough, the fans of the Joplin High School Glee Club probably never fathomed of the title “gleek”, a term fans of the television show Glee, have given themselves, but there appeared to be a strong following of the high school chorus group. An article which announced the May event noted that last year’s performance, “Julius Caesar” was a “decided success” and that the “house was crowded and interest never lagged.”

While it seems that Joplin High no longer has a dedicated Glee group (please let us know if this is otherwise!), the program in 1911 was a large one with 22 members. It was also considered the oldest organization in the school, established in 1905. The annual production planned for a May Thursday evening was a one act comedy, “Hector.” Preceding the play, the audience was to be treated to an all boy performance of  “solos, duets, quartets and choruses,” the product of several months of preparation.  Mr. L.S. Dewey was credited for preparing the singing, while Miss Edna Hazeltine was credited with the instruction and coaching for the play.

Undoubtedly, for one night in May, Joplin had a glee ol’ time.

Source: Joplin News Herald

Have a Safe and Sane Fourth of July!

Have A Sane Fourth of July

A century ago, Joplin adopted the idea of promoting a Fourth of July that was both safe and sane.  The illustration above offers a glimpse at this campaign and below, a familiar company advertising in Joplin on the Fourth.  The idea of promoting a safe Fourth was supported by an article noting the harm already received by the dangerous fireworks.  One case involved a boy, whose friends involved in a fight, found his hand badly burned when the firework he was getting ready to throw went off prematurely (the boys quickly made peace after this casualty).  Another boy, it was reported, suffered terribly burns on the neck and hands while shooting off “fire crackers” and two men, Roy Loving was shot in the hand by a blank gun cartridge and another, Earl Van Hoose severely burned by a “cannon cracker” which went off as he was throwing it.

Needless to say, have a fun, safe, and “sane” Fourth of July!

Spring in the Ozarks

The Riverside Inn, Elks Spring, Missouri

As the spring and summer months approach, we think back to days when Joplinites fled the city for a few leisurely days spent alongside a cool, clear Ozark stream. Outsiders had started flocking to the Ozarks early on, as documented in Lynn Morrow and Linda Phinney Myers’ book Shepherd of the Hills Country Tourism Transforms the Ozarks, 1880s–1930s. But while many from St. Louis and Kansas City traveled to the Shepherd of the Hills and Arcadia areas of the Ozarks, Joplinites had their own oasis just down the road.

McDonald County, home to Indian Creek, Elk River, and the Little and Big Sugar rivers, became a popular destination for Joplin residents seeking relief from the heat of spring and summer. One of the most popular resort destinations was W.H. Fleming’s Riverside Inn located at Elk Springs, Missouri, forty-five miles south of Joplin. The inn was established circa 1905 and offered rooms for $1.50 a day or $9.50 a week.

Guests with recent catches

A lady and her fish

Guests could expect a tastefully appointed inn and rustic cottages awaiting their arrival after stepping off of a train from the Kansas City Southern Railway. Fishing, boating, and bathing in Elk river were among the activities that guests could enjoy while at the resort. The more adventurous would find “surrounding mountains covered with heavy timber” which afforded “plenty of opportunity for exploring parties, and a number of caves” that were within a half hour’s walk from the inn.

 

Dinner time at the inn.

The inn was also known for its delicious fried chicken as one guest, W.E. Nesom of Shreveport, Louisiana, wrote the following poem to commemorate a meal:

“A Chant of Friend Chicken

If you are of that jolly bunch
Which loves a gastronomic hunch,
Just saunter down Missouri way
And place your money for a way
With proper show of honest pride
On yellow-legged chicken fried
At Fleming’s Inn at Riverside

You may affect the flash café,
Where night usurps the place of day;
Where one if flouted if he dines
Without the aid of vintage wines –
But, tell me, have you ever tried
A yellow-legged chicken fried
The way it’s done at Riverside?

You may, with tourist’s license, boast
Of clam-bakes on the Eastern coast,
Or dwell on some outlandish dinner
They stung you for in old Vienna-
Soft pedal, brother, till you’ve tried
A yellow-legged chicken fried
The way it’s done at Riverside

If, in punning sense, you know
The “chickens” of the summer show,
And oft at Johnnies’ door have met them,
The quickest way to quite forget them
Will be, to take a little ride
And sample sure ‘enough chicken fried
At Fleming’s Inn at Riverside

Without, a crust that’s golden, dreamy;
Within, a flesh that’s tender, creamy;
Then, add a certain juicy sweetness
To bring the picture to completeness
The Ozarks’ boast, Missouri’s pride
A yellow-legged chicken fried
At Fleming’s Inn at Riverside.”

A view of the river below the inn.

All one had to do is catch a train headed south from Joplin and soon find themselves in the midst of an Ozark oasis. Years later the inn burned down, but for a brief period it offered a respite from the ills of city life for many a Joplinite.

 

Cottages at the inn.

For those interested, the Riverside was located three miles west of Pineville on what is today Highway H.

The Elks’ Present Their Imperial Minstrels

A Joplin newspaper cartoon referring to the Elks' Minstrel Show.

A Joplin newspaper cartoon referring to the Elks' Minstrel Show (click to access larger version)

“Business men in blackface can be more amusing than professionals, especially when they strike a happy medium between the elite and the ridiculous.”

So began a review of the minstrel show put on by Joplin’s Elks Lodge, No. 501, in mid-January, 1909.  Since the 19th Century, the minstrel show had been a steadfast form of entertainment based upon humiliating and stereotypical depictions of African Americans, often by white men with black makeup on their face.  Generally, the performers adopted comical dialects exaggerated to effect laughter and ridicule.  Entertainment in the shows ranged from comedy skits to song and dance.

In an example of the acceptability of racism at the time in American and Joplin society, the minstrel show was produced by the Elks Lodge, a social organization of Joplin’s businessmen and reputable members of the city’s society.  One advertisement for the minstrel show specifically noted the participation of Edward Zelleken, a member of one of Joplin’s most distinguished and wealthy families.

A cartoon of Prof. Edward Zelleken's anticipated black face appearance.

A cartoon of Prof. Edward Zelleken's anticipated black face appearance.

A small article that ran before the show promised an entertaining show and an opening which “should not be missed.”  Tickets, the article claimed, were going fast, but good ones could still be reserved.  An advertisement that ran near the article promised, “Ten Dollars’ Worth of Enjoyment For the Price of One.”  The “Imperial Minstrels” as the Elks called their cast performed in the Club Theater.  A follow up article the day after headlined, “Elks’ Minstrel Creates Furor Among Society” with the subtitle, “Business Men In Blackface Score Tremendous Hit.”

An advertisement for the Elks' Minstrel Show

An advertisement for the Elks' Minstrel Show (click for larger version)

The jokes in the show ranged from the plain comedic to pokes and jabs at local businessmen, like the owner of Donehoo’s pharmacy, which was located at the busy intersection of 4th and Main.  Other jokes were political in nature such as one about William Jennings Bryan recalled by a minstrel who claimed he had just stepped into an elevator in Chicago when he saw, “Mrs. William Jennings Bryan come running down the corridor waving her hand for the elevator operator to hold the car until she arrived. ‘You need not have hurried to catch the car,’ the elevator operator is said to have informed Mrs. Bryan, ‘I’d have waited for you.’  ‘Oh,’ replied the Commoner’s wife as she breathed heavily. ‘ I just wanted to show you that there was one member of the Bryan family who could keep in the running.’”

Another sign of the acceptability of the lampoon was the audience that turned out for the event.  A reporter from the Joplin Globe described them, “Society turned out in all its finery to see something rich and rare…”  Indeed, as the reporter noted, “And to a thousand, auditors giggled, laughed and te-heed until their faces ached while Joplin Lodge, No. 501. B.P.O. Elks, presented their Imperial Minstrels at the Club Theater last night.”

Source: Joplin Globe, 1909