Current Prospects for the Union Depot

Joplin Union Depot

A hotly debated issue silenced by the tornado of 2011, the restoration of Joplin’s Union Depot has quietly started to filter back into the conversation of the city’s future.  While the previous discussion was focused on turning the depot into a new home for the Joplin Museum Complex, an idea that the governing boards of the JMC were reluctantly being dragged toward accepting, the new round of talks has removed the JMC from the equation.  SPARK is the word now, “Stimulating Progress through Arts, Recreation and Knowledge of the Past,” which is part of the current plan by the city and Wallace Bajjali Development Partners to turn north downtown Joplin into a center for arts and recreation.

As recent articles in the Globe have stated, the new plan for the Union Depot is to renovate it as a home for restaurants, not for the museum.  In the current budget of the Master Plan, the city voted in late December, 2012, for the creation of a TIF district which would pay for some of the redevelopment projects,  to set aside “$68 million for a performing and visual arts center and Union Depot restoration…”   If you were wondering about the JMC, in the same process, money was planned to build a completely new museum home which would be somewhere in the vicinity of north Main Street.

Here at Historic Joplin, while we championed the move of the JMC to the depot, we are just as satisfied with this new idea so long as its implemented and one of Joplin’s most valuable architectural jewels is preserved for future generations.

To learn more about the Union Depot, read our five part history of the depot here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V.

The architectural drawing of the Depot.

Fifty Days of Sunday: The Preparations for Sunday

The Preparations for Sunday

 

While the ministers of Joplin were busy raising the tabernacle in advance of the arrival of Reverend Billy Sunday, other preparations were also underway.  Among those was the organization of women to help reinforce the religious teaching of Sunday’s great revival through “cottage prayer meetings.”  112 districts were created which encompassed the city with at least one woman per district.  While several meetings were expected to happen before Sunday arrived, thereafter, thirty-minute meetings would be held every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday after the Sunday services to follow up on the sermons.

Preparations also were afoot in the office of the mayor, Guy Humes.  At his behest, the chief of the Joplin Police Department, John A. McManamy, issued a notice to the department which read:

“To members of the police department: Gentlemen, I desire to call to your attention to the fact that boys are being allowed to shake dice in pool and billiard halls and saloons.  This must be stopped.  Second, that gambling houses are running in Joplin.  These must be closed or the proprietors put in jail.”

Five days later, under the order of Mayor Humes, the Joplin Police under the cover of night, swept through the district of the city between Eighth and Ninth Streets.  Their orders were to investigate “suspicious houses,” where a newspaper claimed “questionable resorts were being maintained in buildings” on the block.   The investigation netted two women, Bessie Cook and Anna Grimes, arrested on the charge of “lewd conduct.” (Both pled not guilty)  Before the specter of Reverend Sunday’s pending arrival, another raid was executed this time on “joints” on Main Street at nine in the morning on the 15th of November.  Three squads of Joplin Police officers worked their way through suspected locations and by noon had arrested over 68 women (similar arrests resulted in $10 fines and a charge of disturbing the peace).

Guy Humes, the crusading mayor of Joplin.

Since his election, Humes had struggled to rein in the vices of Joplin, but often had met with resistance.  One Joplin daily newspaper (which threw its political support to the party of Humes’ opposition) even made a habit of ridiculing Humes’ morality crusade.  Regardless, the fact that Billy Sunday was coming to Joplin had provided the mayor with a new well of support to achieve his goals.  It was with no surprise that with such a groundswell of backing that Humes selected the most (in)famous saloon in Joplin to personally raid, the House of Lords.

By law, alcohol was not to be sold on Sunday, a Joplin blue law.  It was also a law that newspaper articles implied was routinely flouted.  In his effort to ensure that he could catch the proprietor of the House of Lords in the act of breaking the law, Humes made the controversial decision to hire private investigators to go undercover to alert him of the time and practice of the violation.  Thus armed with said information, Humes personally lead a raid into the famed saloon accompanied by not just police officers, but also a newspaper reporter.  The result was outrage by some and congratulations by others and space on the front page of a Joplin daily.

The city’s crusade was not without violence and bloodshed, either.  In the midst of the prior raid on suspicious women, one police officer was killed and another wounded by William Schmulbach, when an attempt was made to arrest his wife.  Schmulbach escaped and became one of Joplin’s most notorious and wanted men.  High rewards failed to turn others against him and Joplinites claimed to have spotted him at one time or another across the breadth of the nation.  Chief McManamy blamed the municipal judge, Fred W. Kelsey, who had ordered the raid for the officer’s death.  Judge Kelsey, likewise accepted responsibility, but fired back that “No officer should shirk the responsibility of a raid made in an effort to enforce the law…”  The severity of the conflict by Humes against the vices of Joplin soon garnered the attention of the Kansas City Star, which sent a reporter to Joplin to report on crackdown.

In the outsider peering in perspective offered by the article that ensued, the true state of the recent events took on the incredible air of a city government divided.  In one corner was the mayor, whom the article referred to as supported by “those who desire to see the laws enforced.”  In another, the long time and often re-elected chief of police, McManamy, who purportedly was lobbied by the ne’er do wells to simply allow the city to be policed as it had before the pre-Sunday enforcement push.  In the third corner, the municipal court judge Kelsey, who in contrast to Humes, wanted an even stricter crackdown on criminals.  Additionally, the city council of sixteen was also divided along even lines of support for and against the law enforcement effort.

Police Chief John A. McManamy, the target of lobbying by the “open town” supporters.

It all, the paper claimed, was due to the eventual arrival of the Rev. Billy Sunday.  His arrival, “caused a shiver to run through the camp of the lawbreakers.”  Purportedly, such was the concern of those on the wrong side of the law that a meeting was held at the House of Lords where a temporary agreement was made “…The gamblers agreed to leave town for a while and the saloon keepers decided to close their places on Sunday while the revival was in progress.”  Thereafter, as soon as the revival and the excitement it generated ended, the gamblers would “slip back again.”

The House of Lords was, the paper described, “The central point of attack of the law enforcement contingent and the place around which the defenders of an open town are rallying…[It is]…the pioneer saloon, café, pool hall and rooming house in Joplin.  It is the headquarters of many of the politicians, and the stronghold of those who do not like to see old conditions disturbed…”  The House of Lords was a place of “red paint and expensive furnishings” which separated and distinguished the saloon from any similar business in Joplin.  Humes, after the raid, refused to sign the liquor license and vehemently swore the House of Lords would be permanently closed.

Joplin Main Street

On the left, the House of Lords, located at the very heart of Joplin’s financial district and the alleged heart of those who supported an “open town” policy for Joplin.

Rev. Sunday also brought fear to those who indirectly supported unlawful activity.  “Some of those “church goers” who had been renting their buildings for rooming houses of questionable character and for dens of vice, took fright and demanded that their tenants vacate.  The Rev. Mr. Sunday has a way of collecting local information and announcing publicly the names of offending church members.  There was a general stampede for righteousness among that class of church members…”

The Reverend Frank Neff, formerly assistant pastor at the Independence Avenue Methodist Episcopal church in Kansas City, and then president of the Ministers Alliance of Joplin, stated to the reporter, “We expect a great clean up in the city, but it will be in the nature of a religious awakening which will result in a permanent clean up and will come from a sincere desire of the people.”  Neff went on to offer his support for Mayor Humes’ activity and granted him credit for attempting to clean up Joplin since he was elected.

The pending arrival of Billy Sunday shook Joplin to its core.  For some, it was the opportunity to save the city from vice once and for all through an up swell of religious fervor.  For others, it was a direct attack on the customs and habits, if not livelihoods, of a city that had persisted since the birth of Joplin as a rough mining camp in the old Southwest.  While factions fought, compromised and fought even more, all sides waited in one form of anticipation or another for the reverend to arrive.

Fifty Days of Sunday: Billy Sunday and the Building of the Tabernacle

Fifty Days of Sunday

Billy Sunday and the Building of the Tabernacle

In the days leading up to the 2nd of November, excited rumors had filled the streets and the pews of Joplin with the pending arrival of one of America’s most pre-eminent Evangelical preachers, Reverend Billy Sunday.  Rumors and promises had been many, but the hushed excitement burst into complete reality with the arrival of his manager two weeks earlier, Albert P. Gill, to make all necessary arrangements for his employer’s future arrival and to oversee the construction of a tabernacle.  Construction began early with a volunteer work force on a vacant plot of land on Virginia Avenue between Sixth and Fifth Streets.  Under Gill’s watchful eye and non-too hesitant barking voice, the volunteers, many local preachers and ministers, began the process of building the future home for Reverend Sunday’s meetings in Joplin.

Front Row: Rev. C. L. Parker, First Congreational church, Rev. George H. Williamson, Bethany Presbyterian church, A.P. Gill, “advance man” for Billy Sunday, Rev. Sherman, North Heights Presbyterian church, Rev. W. M. Cleveland, First Presbyterian church. Back Row: Rev. Frank Neff, First Methodist church, Rev. E.W. Eayer, Byers Avenue Methodist church, Mr. Gravette, Secretary of YMCA, Rev. R.C. Walker, East Joplin M.E. church.

By 1909, Billy Sunday was already on his way to reaching height of his popularity in the United States.  Born a poor farm boy in Iowa, William A. Sunday had first reached the national spotlight not from behind a pulpit, but on the baseball field.  A successful National League player, Sunday had thrilled crowds with fantastic speed which resulted in amazing catches in the outfield and to stealing bases in the infield.  In the late 1880s, however, Sunday quite literally found religion when he came across a street side singing mission group and began attending church services.  Upton Sinclair of The Jungle fame and pointedly not a fan of Sunday, described him in his essay “Profits of Religion,” as:

“And here is Billy Sunday, most conspicuous phenomenon of Protestant Christianity at the beginning of the twentieth century. For the benefit of posterity I explain that “Billy” is a baseball player turned Evangelist, who has brought to the cause of God the crowds and uproar of the diamond; also the commercial spirit of America’s most popular institution. He travels like a circus, with all the press-agent work and newspaper hurrah; he conducts what are called “revivals”, in an enormous “tabernacle” built especially for him in each city.”

For over fifty years, Sunday roamed from one city after another, preaching a message against the vices of the day, and passionately against alcohol.  One of the strongest proponents of Abolition, Sunday wrote in his pamphlet, Get on the Water Wagon, expressing his position on alcohol:

“I am the sworn, eternal, uncompromising enemy of the Liquor Traffic.  I ask no quarter and I give none.  I have drawn the sword in defense of God, home, wife, children and native land, and I will never sheathe it until the undertaker pumps me full of embalming fluid, and if my wife is alive, I think I shall call her to my beside and say: “Nell, when I am dead, send for the butcher and skin me, and have my hide tanned and made into drum heads, and hire men to go up and down the land and beat the drums and say, ‘My husband, “Bill” Sunday still lives and gives the whiskey gang a run for its money.’”

Sunday saw liquor as as a “degrading influence upon the individual, upon business, upon public morals, upon the home…” and its continued existence in many communites founded upon local alcohol taxes, which prompted otherwise “dry” individuals to allow it to remain around rather than be abolished.  At the same time, Joplin was a city where saloons were even with the number of churches, if not exceeding them, and a mecca for many from surrounding communities to travel to with entertainment and good times on the mind.  Never had such a conflict between host and guest existed in Joplin since a visit by bar busting and axe wielding Carrie Nation several years earlier.

Reverend Billy Sunday

Reverend Billy Sunday

Requisite to any Reverend Sunday meetings was the tabernacle.  A temporary, but sturdy construction designed to keep attendees dry and warm while listening to Sunday’s passionate preaching, such buildings sprang up in every city that he visited.  Gill, his manager, on the morning of November 2nd, was questioned whether he and the volunteers could build the structure in five days.  The manager quickly and confidently boasted that they could build it in four.  By the end of the day, the skeleton of the building had been completed  and the larged beamed construction towered over the former vacant lot.

Wednesday morning saw the arrival of volunteers in even greater numbers, the men “covered the building like ants and the sound of hammers could be heard for blocks.  Men who came to look on absorbed the enthusiasm of the moment and joined in the work.”  The men began that morning the process of building the tabernacle’s walls and roof, a process that carried on through to Friday.  Communal dinners were served and followed by inspiring speeches to encourage and to thank those who worked.  Old men who lacked the strength but not the will to help walked under the heat of a warm November sun from worker to worker with buckets of water to relieve their thirst.  By the end of the day on Friday, all but the stage and seating inside the tabernacle had been completed.  On average, fifty men and boys worked at any one time on the structure.  Their ages spanned from 16 to 80 years old, and had to Gill’s proclamation built a tabernacle of its size in four days that had previously taken others ten to twelve days.

First day volunteers to build the tabernacle.

A newspaper account reported that every pastor and minister in Joplin had in some way worked on the tabernacle and for many of them it was an experience heavy on symbolism that reminded them of the temple that Solomon had ordered built in the Old Testament.  The effort put into building such a structure of temporary nature was seen as a civic effort to build a foundation for a “moral temple which will last forever.”  The practice of carpentry for several pastors was an experience that allowed them to relate better to the common working man and even more importantly, as one preacher noted, “…the deeper underlying thought that I was having a share in a movement that was going to mean happier homes, a re-adjustment of life on the part of many and a better Joplin…”

However, neither was the experience reflected on without humor from the preachers of Joplin who made the following quips to a reporter:

“The building of the tabernacle proves that the preachers of Joplin are capable of working their hands as well as working their jaws.”

“Personally, I’m glad that I was permitted to contribute something to the building of the tabernacle even if I did hit one nail too many – my thumb.”

“I freely confess that after the first half hour of the first day the glamor of the thing began to wear off…”

After the last nail had been hammered, the roof properly water proofed with tar paper, and the final board set in place, the tabernacle sported impressive figures for such a temporary structure.  It was 175 feet long and 140 feet wide.  Approximately 125,000 feet of lumber was required to construct it and over 12 kegs of nails needed to hold the timber together.  Capacity was expected to be 6,500 seated attendees before a stage designed to feature a loft for a 500 member chorus of singing souls, space for pastors and their wives, and of course, a podium for the Reverend Billy Sunday.  The cost was approximately $3,000 with free labor and reduced prices for the supplies or close to $70,000 in 2012 dollars.

The tabernacle featured an entrance and exit at every corner of the building and two more additional exits on each lengthy side of the building.  A roof, remarked as low but excellent, was built with ventilation that also extended to the sides of the building, 200 square feet of it overall to insure fresh air was ever present.  Remarkably, the tabernacle was heated by natural gas via a pipe laid around the inside of the structure with gas stoves set strategically about  to burn and provide warmth.  Gas was also used on large lights which hung from the ceiling among 350 electric lights.  The road and alleyways outside the tabernacle were illuminated by “brilliant” arc lights.

It stood complete and empty, a condition that would soon be replaced by an almost never ending procession of religious fever, fervor and passion.  For many, Joplin’s redemption was close at hand, a chance to save families, souls and to create a better city.  Silent with the promises of salvation, the empty tabernacle awaited its formal dedication two weeks away, a visible reminder to all who walked along Virginia avenue that Billy Sunday was just over the horizon.

Stay tuned for more in an ongoing series about Billy Sunday’s visit to Joplin and the consequent battle over Joplin’s destiny as a dry or wet town.

Note: A thank you to a work colleague for the title of the series (which is an approximation of Sunday’s time in Joplin).

Newsboys from Joplin’s Past

In Joplin’s early history, at any one time there were at least two city newspapers, if not more, fighting for the attention of Joplin’s residents.  Crucial to this battle for attention spans, were the foot soldiers of the papers, the newsboys.  We have previously covered Joplin’s oldest newsboy, and today we bring you three photographs of newboys who belonged to the Joplin News Herald at the turn of the century.  The three boys photographed below were the top three winners in a contest to sell the most newspapers in a two week period.  The winner was ten year old Allen Harris, who lived at 411 Pennsylvannia Ave and was described as “the happiest boy in Joplin.”  Reportedly, there was no ill will against Harris, who was the youngest contestant, and had loss two fingers to a dynamite cap explosion the previous fall.  Harris sold 580 papers to win.  Second place went to ‘newsie’ Shiloh Patton, who sold 579 papers, and third place went to Harry Bacon, who sold 561.  For his victory, Harris won a brand new watch and his photo in the paper.

Allen Harrison, the winner of the contest.

2nd place winner, Shiloh Patton.

Third place winner, Harry Bacon.

 

 

 

The Architectural Legacy of Garstang & Rea: Junge Baking Company Cracker Factory

Today’s update to the Architectural Legacy of Garstang & Rea series is the Junge Baking Company Cracker Factory building. The Junge Baking Company was once one of Joplin’s jewels of industry and it comes to no surprise to find that one of Joplin’s premier architectural firms was hired to help expand the factory. Built at a cost of approximately $16,000 in 1904, or the equivalent of near $372,074 in today’s dollars, it was part of a 1904 expansion by the Junge family to increase their capacity and to capitalize on their success. While not every building legacy of the Junge Baking Company remains, the Cracker Factory survives as the current home of the Sebastian Equipment Company at 18th and Main Street.

The cracker factory not long after its construction.

The factory building survives today in the 1800 block of south Main Street.