Guest Piece: Leslie Simpson – Joplin’s Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian House

In the mid-20th century, Frank Lloyd Wright invented the concept of “Usonian” houses, which were based on the utopian ideals of simplicity, economy, and convenience. The first step in constructing a Usonian house was to lay down a concrete platform with cast-in heating pipes. Next came a grouping of brick supporting screens, creating a chain of linked boxes. The brick supports were topped by a series of flat concrete roofs, with a higher roof over the living-dining area and lower ones over the bedrooms and bath. The difference in roof heights allowed extra light to come in through clerestory window strips. Light also streamed in through floor to ceiling windows, usually overlooking a garden or pool.

One of these Usonian designs was built on the outskirts of Joplin, ¼ mile west of Stone’s Corner on Highway 171. Joplin architect Robert Braeckel adapted Wright’s plans to construct this ultra-modern dwelling for Stewart and Naomi Ruth Stanley in 1950. All steel construction supported Carthage limestone walls and large expanses of glass. Copper tubing built into the floor provided radiant heat. The ultimate in modern living, the house also featured a pool and bathhouse.

Unfortunately, I had to use past tense in my description; the house was demolished May 3, 2012. It is ironic as well since May is National Historic Preservation Month. This month’s Preservation Magazine devotes the entire issue to Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and the efforts to preserve it.

This piece was adapted from Leslie Simpson’s “Little House on the Prairie” that was published in Joplin Souvenir Album, G. Bradley Publishing, 2001. Photographs courtesy of Leslie Simpson and the Post Memorial Art Reference Library.

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 Joplin: A Postcard History.

History in the News: Historic Home in Joplin In Danger

A historic Joplin home in danger of demolition.

This last weekend, the Joplin Globe published a story on the two story house on Schifferdecker Ave. The handsome house with a stone facade belongs to the late J.T. Goodman and his wife, Yvonne. The historic home, which likely dates to the early years of Joplin, was damaged by the May 2011 tornado. As seen in the above photograph, the home presently has no roof which is accelerating its danger of being declared condemned by the city. Joplin history expert and director of the Post Memorial Art Reference Library, Leslie Simpson, is presently trying to research the history of the home in an effort to help its preservation. So far, Simpson has discovered that it was on the property of Thomas Cunningham, one of Joplin’s wealthiest citizens at the turn of the century. Likewise, a mortgage deed indicates it might have even been built in 1873.

The historic home is currently before Joplin’s Building Board of Appeals. Unfortunately, due to the death of J.T. Goodman and a refusal by the Goodmans’ insurance company, the family has no funds to make the repairs needed to save the home. At the moment, Simpson is seeking to learn more of the home’s history which might translate to convincing the city Board of Appeals to spare the house more time to be repaired.

If you know anything about the house pictured above, located at 2725 S. Schifferdecker Avenue, please contact Leslie Simpson at the Post Memorial Library: (417) 782-7678. This is a piece of Joplin’s history, it needs to be saved!

The Number of Joplin’s Historic Buildings Decreased By One: Rains Building Lost to Fire.

The Rains Building circa 1902.

The next time you cruise down Joplin’s Main Street, you may notice that yet another of the city’s historic buildings has been lost. The Rains Building, located at 906-908 South Main Street, burned on Thursday night. The building, attributed to one of Joplin’s most prominent and prolific architects, August C. Michaelis, is a tragic loss.

Built in the Renaissance Revival style at the turn-of-the century for brothers Charles and George Rains, it brought an understated architectural elegance to the block.

Like many buildings along Joplin’s Main Street, it was home to several different businesses including the Miner’s Hardware Company, the Bullard-Bell Company, and the Roosevelt Hotel. By the 1970s, only the first floor was in use as an antiques shop. When the building was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, it was noted that little, if any, alterations had marred Rains Brothers Building original design over the years, unlike many other buildings.

Rains Brothers Building Image via, Rains Building circa summer 2010.

Here is a link to the Joplin Globe‘s coverage of the fire and here is a link to the National Register of Historic Places, a source for more detailed information on the building.

A Ride into the Past

A street car makes its way up Main Street

It’s that time again, the Polar Express, a restored streetcar is now offering rides up in Webb City’s King Jack Park, on Saturday. Tickets are required and this is the last scheduled Saturday to catch a ride on a piece of Joplin’s past (at least until it’s warm again!). A ticket will gain you a 12 to 15 minute ride. The event, which includes a visit from Santa Claus, runs from 4:30pm to 9pm.

For a bit more history on the event, check out this Globe article.

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!

Review of “Joplin” by Leslie Simpson

Leslie Simpson, the director of the Post Memorial Art Reference Library, writes in the epilogue of Joplin, “This book is my love letter to the city of Joplin, of which I am proud to be a citizen!”

Simpson’s latest book is a wonderful love letter to Joplin, a fine work that covers the history of the city from its establishment in 1873 to the present day. It is a lavishly illustrated postcard history of the city accompanied by detailed, informative captions. The book provides readers with an understanding of the people, places, and events that shaped Joplin into the city that it is today. Simpson does an excellent job of balancing the past and present so that readers are taken through Joplin’s early years, subsequent growth, Route 66 years, up until the time of the tornado.

The book is helpfully divided into nine sections that cover different topics such as mining, industry, residences, schools, churches, and hotels. Although one might expect that because the book is postcard history the book might be poorly researched, it is not. The captions for each illustration are insightful, well written, and historically accurate. Each illustration has been carefully chosen and offer unique glimpses into Joplin’s social, cultural, religious, and architectural history.

Sadly, Simpson’s work illustrates just how many Joplin buildings and other landmarks have been lost to the ravages of time, benign neglect, or lack of vision. Our advance copy notes that “Profits from the sale of this book will be donated to the Joplin Chamber of Commerce Business Recovery Fund” so you can be assured that your money will go to a good cause. We also recommend that you might consider giving a donation the Post Memorial Art Reference Library.

Those who own Leslie Simpson’s prior works may recognize some, but not all of the images used, however all offer entertaining glimpses into Joplin’s past. For those who have and enjoyed the above mentioned Now and Then and Again, they have a great companion to Joplin.

Joplin is a well written and illustrated history of Joplin, Missouri. It is accessible to readers of most ages and is a enjoyable read for those who enjoy local history, the history of Joplin, and illustrated histories. Hopefully it will leave most readers with an even greater appreciation for the City that Jack Built.

Joplin, $21.99, Arcadia Publishing
Available at Hastings and through the publisher at

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, from the
publisher at, 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.

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


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

Joplin Metro Magazine: Issue 4 Volume 2

This month’s issue of the Joplin Metro Magazine has a number of Joplin history related articles.  First is a profile of Hannah Simpson, who is selling postcards printed with images of familiar iconic and historic signs of Joplin to benefit the Trees for Joplin Fund.  Next in the issue is the cover story, photographs of a number of Joplin landmarks relating to nearly every decade of Joplin’s history with brief histories.  The topics range from the Inn at Reddings Mill to Junge Field, as well as such familiar buildings as the Scottish Rite Cathedral.  Lastly, the issue wraps up its Joplin-centric history with a piece on the Mo-Kan Dragway.

For those interested, the Joplin Metro Magazine can be found about town, published by the Globe, and online here.

Powers Museum Needs Your Help

The Powers Museum of Carthage needs your help. Recently, the museum’s air condition system had a near catastrophic failure. The result is that only the main gallery and library are receiving air conditioning, while the storage area of the museum, home to many of the museum’s most valuable and climate sensitive items, is not.

As noted in the above linked Joplin Globe article, never in the museum’s 24 years has it requested public help, but the cost of replacing the faltering system is more than the museum’s usual sources of funding can support. Repairs are not an option, unfortunately, as the company which makes the needed parts is now out of business.

The Director of the Powers Museum, Michelle Hansford, stated in the Globe article, “Powers Museum has never solicited the community for operational or maintenance support before, but now we need their help to make this repair possible. Any gift, no matter what size, will be used for this purpose. At this point, anything would be appreciated.”

If you have never been to the Powers Museum, it is definitely worth a visit and a fine example of what a local history museum should be. Please show your support for local history and make whatever donation you can to help preserve Jasper County’s history.

First Church of Christ Scientists For Sale!

A drive past the intersection of 16th and Wall Street will take you by the First Church of Christ Scientist Church completed in 1906 and now the home of Faith Fellowship. A quick glance will also reveal a for sale sign next to the stately house of worship. It’s not often that 106 year old buildings in Joplin go up for sale, much less one that is a church. We took a few quick snapshots of the church and for those interested to learn a little more about the property, you can find the church’s listing right here.