Federal Grant Money to Fund Efforts to Get More Buildings on Historic Register

Reported here in the Joplin Globe, Joplin has received $6,500 in federal grant money from the National Historic Preservation Fund.  The purpose of the grant will be to assist in getting the 800 and 900 blocks of Main Street listed as a historic commercial district.  A quick drive down Main Street will quickly bring attention to the fact that this stretch of downtown has the most complete section of historic buildings after the 400 to 700 blocks.

Such funding is essential in helping to preserve and restore Joplin’s architectual heritage.

The Demolition of the Joplin Hotel

Demolition of the Joplin Hotel

The demolition of the Joplin Hotel

Wooden sluice-like conduits extended from the windows of the storied Joplin Hotel like slides and ended on the packed dirt surface of the streets below. Considered one of the most popular hostelries in the city, it had been the home to many cigar smoke laden conversations and political planning. One corner of the hotel building had been dedicated for use by the Miners’ Bank, but it had recently relocated down Fourth Street to the intersection of Fourth and Joplin, several blocks away. Instead, the Joplin Hotel was fated for demolition. It was to be wiped away to make room for a new Joplin Hotel, one that would rise an additional five to six stories above Main Street to become the tallest structure in Joplin.

The demolition of the hotel which proceeded in June, 1906, attracted onlookers who made quick bets as to how fast the workmen could dismantle the venerable institution. The speed of which surprised many and likely cost a few unfortunate bettors their gambled money. For as quickly as the hotel was torn apart, care was not sacrificed during the process. The owners of the hotel, likely with the cost of the expensive new hotel in mind, did what could be done to salvage the bits and pieces of the hotel. Door and window lintels, fire escapes and iron railings, all were carefully lowered to the ground. The worth of which, the Joplin Globe speculated, was valued in the thousands. Everything else, torn from the structure with hammers, hatchets, and picks, was sent down the wooden sluices. The piles that accumulated were quickly lifted onto wagons by teamsters who drove the debris away to be dumped.

By the end of the summer, all traces of the Joplin Hotel were gone. In its stead, was the foundation of the hotel that was to become the Connor, an institution whose reputation and luxury outshone the building it replaced.

Source: The Joplin Globe

The Heaviest Men in Joplin

In 1896, the Joplin News Herald reported a friendly competition of one town deciding to best another in the size of their men.  As obvious by the measurements below, the term “heaviest” implied something more than just the width of one’s girth.

Weight Lifter from Turn of the Century

An example of a weight lifter from turn of the century

“Mr. W.L. Richards, noticing in a paper from his old town in Nebraska a list of seven residents whose height were six feet or over, with an aggregate weight of 1,318 pounds, set about to pick out a dozen citizens of this vicinity who excel in altitude and avoirdupois. A short canvas secured the following list, which he handed to the Herald:

J.R. Vancil 187 pounds

H.J. Vancil 198 pounds

G.L. Vancil 181 pounds

E.L. Vancil 187 pounds

E.S. Vancil 181 pounds

J.M. Vancil 207 pounds

W.R. Hacker 180 pounds

J.B. James 195 pounds

John Dill 209 pounds

Tony McCarty 200 pounds

Galen Spencer 220 pounds

H.H. Sansom 214 pounds

These twelve men are all six feet tall or over. The aggregate weight is 2,359 pounds, an average of a little over 196 pounds each. The venerable H.H. Sansom leads in height with six feet three inches. J.B. James comes next with six feet two and one-half inches. Each of the others is six feet or over.

The six Vancils are brothers. It is very rare that one family contains so many fine specimens of physical manhood.”

Source: Joplin News Herald, Library of Congress

The Joplin Carnegie Library and the Origins of Joplin Public Library: Part One

One of the major institutions of modern day downtown Joplin is the Joplin Public Library located in the 300 block between the Third and Fourth streets.  The prior occupant of this site was the Connor Hotel.  Plans to purchase the block, demolish the Connor, and to erect a new library building began in the 1970’s.  The Connor collapsed a day before its scheduled demolition in 1978, and all but a few minuscule pieces of the grand hotel remained on opening day of the new library building in April, 1981.  Up until that spring day twenty-nine years ago, the Joplin Public Library had been housed in a Romanesque building, a columned temple of knowledge, a few blocks to the southwest.  The origin of it and Joplin’s library system began more than a century ago.

Undoubtedly, the idea to establish a city library came into being not long after Joplin began to establish its schools and a professional class.  The dust of the lead and zinc mines was shaken off by a city that pulsed with a passionate desire for progress.  In April 1893, a gathering was held at the Young Men’s Christian Association building.  It was the first formal meeting of the Joplin Public Library Association.  Hamilton S. Wilks was elected president, along with Christopher Guengerich as treasurer, the Reverend E.E. Wilkey as secretary, and C.W. Squire as vice-president.  In addition, an executive committee was established with the following women: Mrs. W.H. Picher, Mrs. Clark Craycroft, Ms. Henry Weymen, Lola Spear and Mrs. W.C. Weatherill.

The initial funds to assist in the creation of a library came from a charity event hosted by the Century Club.  The club, established only three years previously, was a women’s literary society. Its members embarked on a campaign to create a city library through education and outreach.  While a public reading room had been the original idea for the city’s library, it became obvious that an independent library building was needed.  The Century Club, and other Joplin literary clubs, claimed victory in the city election of 1901.  The months before the vote had been spent campaigning for an annual tax of ten cents for every one hundred dollars appraised for the care and maintenance of a library building.  The measure was overwhelmingly approved.

Sedalia's Carnegie Library

The Library Committee traveled to visit Sedalia's Carnegie Library, pictured here.

This tax was connected to a requirement to form a non-partisan board to oversee the construction and operation of the library.  Ten individuals were appointed to the board: William N. Carter, H. H. Gregg, J. D. Elliff, Henry Kost, E. L. Anderson, Reverend Paul Brown, O. H. Picher, Mrs. Ada Goss Briggs, Mrs. Emma Lichliter and Mrs. Hattie Ruddy Rice.  Elliff, the superintendent of Joplin’s public schools, was elected president by the board, while the position of board secretary was given to Rice.  Shortly after, the board created a committee tasked with overseeing the building and grounds of the future library.

Around May, 1901, that committee explored the possibility of contacting the capitalist Andrew Carnegie.  For just under twenty years, the Scotsman offered funds to cities for the construction of libraries.  Generally, these donations came upon the promise that the cities guarantee a specific amount of upkeep and continue funding of the institutions.  Not long after the president of the board, J.D. Eliff sent off a letter to Carnegie, a reply was received from James Bertram, Carnegie’s personal secretary. Addressed from Skibo Castle, Ardgar, Bertram wrote:

Dear Sir – Responding to your letter of May 6th—If the city of Joplin will furnish a suitable site and pledge Itself to maintain the library at a cost of not less than $4,000 a year. Mr. Carnegie will be glad to provide $40,000 for a suitable building.

Very Respectfully.

James Bertram. Private Sec’y.

The promised sum of $40,000 delighted the board.  The question then turned to what the library should look like and where that building should be located.

The discussion of location and design carried on through the months of 1901 and into the first quarter of 1902.  It was not until October, 1901, that the board finally came to a decision on the placement of the new library.  Proposed locations included the intersection of Eighth and Pearl streets, Cox Park (advocated by the people of South Joplin), and the intersection of Joplin and Ninth streets.  The two most popular sites, however, were the intersections of Fourth and Pearl and Ninth and Wall streets.  The former were owned by a man named Renfrow and the latter by Christopher Guengerich.  According to coverage by the Globe, the board’s primary concern was a location which benefited the entire population of the city.

The board came to a decision on the location on October 21, 1901, when by a vote of 5 to 4, the Ninth and Wall location barely beat out the Fourth and Pearl site. Prior to the vote, attorney and amateur historian Joel T. Livingston offered a presentation, complete with a special map of the city that how the population of Joplin was concentrated.  Incidentally, while Livingston claimed to favor no specific site, his analysis of the city’s population placed the epicenter around Eighth and Wall streets.  If this swayed the votes toward the Ninth and Wall location, the site was further helped by the testimony of J.W. Freeman, who claimed the location would satisfy the people of South Joplin.  It was future Missouri State Senator Hugh McIndoe, as well as Freeman Foundry owner J.W. Freeman, Oscar and C.M. DeGraff, as well as Clay Gregory, who introduced the successful proposition.  Thus, the chosen site had strong and influential supporters.  As to what type of building would be built at the corner of Ninth and Wall, the discussion continued into the next year.

Cheyenne Carnegie Library

The Cheyenne Carengie Library design that William Carter favored and became the basis for Joplin's library.

The committee in charge of selecting the design of the library took their task seriously.  Initially, a question of whether the city would offer the local Joplin architects was debated.  One of the chief proponents against hiring local talent was William Carter, who when asked about the successful architect August Michaelis, sneered, “He learned his business in Joplin.”  Carter went on to point out that Joplin had no libraries or similar buildings, and as such, Michaelis had no experience in designing a library.  Another supporter of seeking a non-local architect was Ada Briggs, who read a letter written by the president of the Sedalia Library board.  Prior to this meeting, members of Joplin’s committee had visited the city to their north to view their Carnegie library.  In the letter, the president warned against allowing local architects to use Joplin’s library as an opportunity to learn how to design such a building.

Plans based on the designs of numerous libraries were pushed in an attempt to avoid hiring area architects.  One such architectural rendering was the Sedalia, Missouri, public library, which was quickly dismissed for a variety of reasons.  It was too big for the lot picked out previously; it failed to include a basement or a separate women’s assembly room; and it cost an additional $10,000 more than Joplin had budgeted.  Nevertheless, Ada Briggs described the building as, “beautiful simplicity.”

In lieu of the Sedalia design, Carter suggested the design of the Carnegie library in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Apparently, the news of Joplin’s library design search had spread, as the architect of the Cheyenne library visited Carter the week before to sell him on the design of that building.  Carter went so far as to suggest a trip to Cheyenne, similar to that which had gone to Sedalia, but the expense and length of the trip resulted in no support for such an adventure.

In the end, the committee opted to allow local architects to submit plans, based on the fact that a majority of the committee believed that they had already proven themselves with many beautiful buildings about the city.  It was even remarked that this was a difference between Joplin and Sedalia.  One city had remarkable architecture and the other did not.  The committee then reasoned that the advice of the Sedalia library board’s president to seek elsewhere for an architect could be ignored simply because Sedalia did not have any local architects of considerable skill. The plans of three firms were accepted to be voted upon.  The three were Garstang & Rea, I.A. Hunter, and August C. Michaelis.

August C. Michaelis, Joplin Architect

August C. Michaelis, one of Joplin's preeminent architects.

At 2’o clock in the afternoon on February 3, 1902, the committee selected the plan presented by Michaelis.  By specification, the design was similar to that of the Cheyenne Library, but not an identical copy.  This requirement was probably added to soothe those members, like Carter, who did not want to trust the design to local architects.  It featured three floors, a basement, first floor, and second.  Located in the basement was to be the men’s reading room, advertised as a place men could visit in or out of work clothes, as well go so far as to enjoy a smoke while perusing book or newspaper.  Filling out the basement was a coal room, toilets, and the boiler.  Upon rising to the next floor, the visitor found a main hallway of 33 square foot of marble flooring.

On one side of the floor the general reading room was placed connected by doorway to a reference room.  Opposite the general reading room was a reading room expressly for children.  In addition to a reference room, a room was set aside for librarians and contained a fire proof vault.  At the rear of the floor was located a circular stacks, which at the time was supposed to be filled with steel fire proof shelving.  The shelves were to be arranged in a circular fashion with the librarian seated in the center and thus with a 360 degree view of the room.  The stacks were expected to hold approximately 30,000 books.

August Michaelis' winning design for Joplin's Carnegie Library

August Michaelis' winning design for Joplin's Carnegie Library

Also located on the first floor was a wide double staircase that rose to the second floor.  On this uppermost floor was located a room for the women’s club with attached rooms and bathroom.  A statuary hall mirrored the hallway below and at the time was thought to be an ideal display area for mineral examples. Separate rooms were set aside for art and for trustees, as well a private reading room.  The rooftop was shingled in zinc, though a brief controversy arose when someone claimed architect Michaelis had said otherwise.  Michaelis confirmed that the library would indeed have zinc roof tiles. The library was heated indirectly with steam.  The library was filled with oak furniture and countertops.

A plan in hand, all that remained was for construction to begin.  Part Two will continue the history of the Joplin Carnegie library.

Sources: Joplin News Herald, Joplin Globe, “A History of Jasper County, Missouri and its People,” by Joel Livingston, and Missouri Digital History.

Life as a Hello Girl

In 1910, the Joplin News-Herald ran a story about the advantages of working as a “Hello Girl.” The News-Herald remarked that while it might not be fun to “sit up to a switchboard and come in contact with the varying dispositions of several hundred people each day” there were “some things about the work of the central girl at the Home Telephone company’s office in this city that probably come to no other working girls in town.”

Hello Girls operating the telephone board

Hello Girls operating the telephone board

Despite hearing about “heartless corporations” the News-Herald assured readers that this was not the case with the Home Telephone Company located in a building on Joplin Street.  Since 1906, girls were treated to an on-site “culinary department and lunch rooms.” The News-Herald reporter, unable to curb their enthusiasm, gushed, “A lunch room and a kitchen in the telephone plant!” On “pleasant days” a light lunch was served, but when the weather turned bad, regular dinners were served that were, “equal to those of the best restaurants in town.” Girls were guaranteed a free lunch twice a day.

When the operators were at work on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays, the company served large dinners in the company dining room so that the girls could at least have a hot dinner during the holiday.  Empty stomachs and “improper food”, the company believed, could affect an employee’s disposition.  Lunches and holiday meals meant, “congenial employment, pleasant surroundings, and the saving of considerable money in the course of a year.”

Even more astonishing, at least at this time in history, was the fact that the company also had “baths, individual lockers, and a rest room, or sitting room” that was overseen by a “regularly employed matron.” Should a girl seem exhausted or ill, she would be sent to the rest room or home.  Mrs. R.L.Whitsel, the company’s matron, was hailed as, “experienced and efficient.”

A telephone operator circa 1911.

This unnamed telephone operator from 1911 is representative of telephone operators of the time.

If the weather was nasty, the company paid for closed carriages to pick up girls at their homes to bring them to the office.  Once their shift was over, a carriage would transport the girl safely back to her home.  The company’s management realized that “healthy, happy, and well cared for girls are more likely to be cheerful and pleasant to their patrons and more prompt in service than girls who are overworked and neglected.” Wet clothes were considered “hard on the disposition and health of the girls and the telephone company prefers to have its employees happy and cheerful, even if that means occasional bills for carriages.”

Given the number and types of jobs available in Joplin at the time, it appeared that if a young woman could secure a job as a Hello Girl, she found herself with a relatively comfortable means of income.  It also represented a time period when society felt that young women deserved an extra amount of protection from the theoretical evils of the business world, where vicious characters lurked to take advantage of young, innocent women.  Never the less, this legacy of care from the Victorian world seemed to offer some of the women of Joplin a safe and inviting place to work.

Source: Joplin News Herald, 1910

Remnants of the Connor

When Joplin’s finest hotel and one of her great architectural gems vanished from the cityscape in 1978, it did not mean the complete disappearance of all traces of the fabled institution.  For those wishing to find glimpses into the Connor’s architectural past, there are at least three pieces of the Connor spread across two locations in Joplin today.  They are decorative pieces of the exterior of the Connor, which like the interior, were stripped from the hotel prior to her expected demolition.

The first two pieces can be found in the same location that they arrived at around 1907, when delivered to the Connor to be placed upon her exterior.  They are at the Joplin Public Library at 3rd and Main.  The Connor property was purchased by the city in the 1970’s with the express intent of demolishing the hotel to build a new library on the spot.  It’s regrettable that the Connor could not have been renovated for the same task.  As a tribute to the marvelous building that the library replaced, two friezes from the exterior of the Connor were set on the west facing wall of the library on the parking lot (Inside, the library devotes a glass cabinet to the history of the Connor).

A frieze from the Connor Hotel

A frieze from the Connor Hotel

The frieze is joined by another, which at first glance appears identical.  However, closer scrutiny will show slight differences between the two pieces of artwork.

One of the two friezes from the Connor Hotel

One of the two friezes from the Connor Hotel

Below is a close up of the Connor prior to the addition of its annex.  Note the friezes above the windows.

Close up of the Connor Hotel

Close up of the Connor Hotel with friezes over the window.

The third subject of this post is a lion’s head located across town from the Connor’s location and can be found on the campus of Missouri Southern State University.  Specifically, the lion’s head, which snarled above the main entrance of the Connor, is placed on a short brick wall in front of the Spiva Art Gallery.

A lion's head from the Connor Hotel

A lion's head from the Connor Hotel

And now a full frontal view of the lion, which would have been seen by the men who affixed it to the exterior of the Connor, as well as those who took it down.

A front on view of one of the Connor's Lions

A front on view of the Connor's Lion Head

Know of any other remnants of the Connor?  Please feel free to comment or write us to let us know!

Joplin’s First Organized Baseball Team – The Colts Who Became the Miners

By the turn of the century, baseball had an established presence in Joplin in the form of amateur teams, both black and white.  However, what Joplin did not have was a professional team and the Joplin Base Ball Association was created to change this fact and to “promote the great national game in this city.”  The lead men behind the club was Arthur C. Cox, treasurer, Don W. Stuart, secretary and a manager of the Club Theater, and John A. Campbell, president.  Joplin was to play in a six team league called the Missouri Valley League, the other teams involved were from Jefferson City, Springfield, Sedalia, Coffeyville, and Iola.

The Joplin Miners

The Joplin Miners of 1902

The Colts, as they were initially named, had their first home at Cox Park and were watched by cheering fans in a brand new grandstand that seated 1,500.  The grandstand featured special boxes for the scorekeeper and the press, plus 12 private boxes for those willing to pay for the privilege of a good seat.  A good seat was needed as apparently for the first time in Joplin baseball history, only the players and umpires were allowed on the field.  Under the grandstand, locker rooms complete with showers awaited the teams before and after the games.

The team was managed by Claud A. Marcum, considered locally as a seasoned baseball veteran who oversaw a “galaxy of stars.”  Outfitted in uniforms ordered from Rawlings Sporting Goods of St. Louis, the team won their season opener against Springfield at Springfield, 11 to 6.  Unfortunately, the Colts promptly loss their home opener against Springfield a few days later.  By the end of the season, two notable events had happened.  Joplin had failed to win the league pennant or even place in the upper half of the league and the Colts had changed their name to the Miners.  From the end of 1902 and for many decades to come, the Miners provided Joplin with a team to cheer for and a pastime to enjoy.

Featured left to right in the photograph above are: Top Row – Wright Wickizer, catcher; an unnamed pitcher; Bert Dunn, pitcher; Claud Marcum, manager; Arthur “Rip” Reagan, pitcher; Peck Harrington, catcher and outfielder; and Lefty Greer, pitcher.  Middle Row – Earl Taylor, pitcher, Don Stewart, secretary of the club; Arthur “Art” Cox, treasurer of the club; and William “Dolly” Gray, first baseman.  Bottom Row – Bert “Monk” Senter, shortstop; Jimmie Underwood, outfielder; Fred Tullar, third base; and Dick Bayless, outfielder.

Sources: The Joplin Globe, “Angling in the Archives” by Charles Gibbons.

Follow Up On the Defeat of Proposition A

Prop A

One of the local news channels recently ran a story about the recent defeat of Joplin’s Proposition A.  Perhaps the most troubling line from the story was, “Museum workers believed Proposition ‘A’ was something voters would approve so they did not come up with Plan B.” This is disheartening if true.  The museum now finds itself the focus of public ire at a time when it needs the support of the community if it is to keep its doors open.

Perhaps even more disheartening was the footage of the museum’s disorganized and chaotic museum collection.  This, as we have said before, is simply unacceptable.

According to the website Save Memorial Hall, the current Joplin Museum Complex budget is $150,000 (another source cites $216,000).  Unfortunately, the website does not break the numbers down farther than that, and because we’re not journalists here at Historic Joplin we have made no attempt yet to find out how the money is spent.  Therefore we do not know how much money is dedicated to staff salaries in comparison to archival materials such as Hollinger boxes, archival sleeves, and shelving.

The Joplin Museum Complex charges visitors $2.00 per adult, $5.00 per family, and offers free admission on Tuesdays.  Free admission on Friday is sponsored by Freeman Health System.  Why not raise the price of admission a dollar, even two dollars?

It certainly will not raise the amount of money that the museum is currently seeking but it may help at a time when the Joplin Tri-State Business Journal reported last month, “[Director Brad] Belk said the museum is currently struggling to remain open because every dollar coming into the complex is earmarked to be spent, and financial reserves are being accessed to pay for annual operations.  He also said the complex is limited in resources within its current building in Schifferdecker Park.”

In the story reported by KOAM-TV, Joplin Museum Complex volunteer Anne Jaros was quoted as saying, “When we were working there last fall a huge donation was brought in – just huge – and I don’t know where it all is.”  If we had to guess, the financial gift Ms.  Jaros mentioned is probably already spent.  The question is, was it spent wisely?

Well I Never!

During the summer of 1917, Joplin Police Desk Sergeant Walter Finch answered the telephone to find an upset woman on the other end of the line.  The woman demanded that the police immediately send officers to her neighborhood.  Finch, puzzled, asked the caller what the emergency was.  He was informed that, “There are some women near here who are wearing trousers and I want the police to stop it.” Sergeant Finch, not knowing what to do, asked Joplin Mayor Hugh McIndoe for advice.  McIndoe responded, “Well, this is a new era for women, and if the garments are not improper I see no reason why the women should not wear them.” Detective Charles McManamy and Police Sergeant Ezra Hull were sent to “censor the garments.”  Upon their arrival at the residence, the two officers observed two women in overalls.  The two men conferred.  McManamy was agreeable to women in pants; Hull disagreed.  McManamy won out and the two women were told “they could continue to attire themselves in the ‘new era clothes.'”

Woman in Overalls

By the Second World War, it'd become quite more socially acceptable for a woman to wear overalls.

Source: The Joplin Globe, Library of Congress

Developments on the historic Saginaw Round Barn

Last month, one of the historic barns of the Joplin area, a round barn located just south of the city near Saginaw, was severely damaged in a spring blizzard.  We covered the article on the barn then, and now bring to you a new development.  At the time, the owners of the barn had believed the structure had been fatally structured and all that remained in its future was a bulldozer.  Since then, the owners have been in contact with the State Historic Preservation Office about it nominating the barn for the National Register of Historic Places.  If this were to happen, the owners would eligible for tax credits which could be put toward restoring the barn.  Granted, being listed on the National Register is not a magic cure all.  Joplin’s most impressive and perhaps, most fabulous building, the Connor Hotel was also on the National Register, after all.  For now, we can only hope for the best.

See this link for the Globe article on recent developments, as well an antique picture of the barn.