Downtown Areas Up For Historic Designation

Today’s Joplin Globe features an article on the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and its consideration of several areas in downtown Joplin for historic district status.   The two areas that the city wants to join the Sunshine Lamp District include an area located between Joplin and Wall and 1st and 3rd streets and would be known as the Joplin and Wall Historic District, the other would be the South Main Street Historic District, an area on the west side of Main Street between 1st and 2nd Streets.   If the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation signs off on these nominations, they would then be forwarded to the Federal Register of Historic Places.  If placed on the register, buildings in the districts could qualify for Federal and state tax credits.

Here’s a link to a draft of the Joplin and Wall Historic District nomination.

The draft describes the historic area:

“”The Joplin and Wall Avenues Historic District (Photos 1‐11) consists of an approximately three square‐block 5‐acre area in the northern reaches of the central business district of Joplin, which is in Jasper County, in southwestern Missouri. The district is topographically flat and contains a total of 13 buildings dating from c. 1900 through the 1930s, all of load‐bearing masonry construction, flat‐roofed, and ranging in height from one story to five stories; no residential buildings are in the district. (continued below…)

Joplin Supply Company building

Joplin Supply Company building is included in the Joplin and Wall Historic District

“(continued…) The nominated area is located along a grid of three blocks of Joplin and Wall Streets which run north‐to south and are intersected by West First, West Second, and West Third Streets and unnamed alleys running both north‐south and east‐west. Of the 13 buildings in the district one, the Joplin Supply Company (Resource No. 13; Photos 3, 6), was previously listed in the National Register (NR 2007). Of the remaining 12 unlisted buildings, 11 contribute to the character of the district and one is a noncontributing element with reference to the district as a whole. The overall appearance of the district is entirely commercial, lacking landscaping and characterized by a grid of paved streets and alleys, concrete sidewalks, with most buildings built flush with one another. Some buildings have associated surface parking; the largest vacant parcel is associated with a 1936 former bus depot (Resource No. 5); this parcel was used historically for bus parking.”

Hulbert Chapel 2010

Hulbert Chapel, next door to the Joplin Supply Company building is also part of the nominated Joplin and Wall District

The draft provides a list of the properties, a brief description of each, as well some history.  Such recognizable buildings are the Joplin Supply Company building, the Greyhound Bus Depot across from the library, and the old court house post office building.

Here’s the link to the draft for the nomination of the South Main Historic District.

The draft describes the area as:

“The South Main Street Historic District (Photos 1‐8; Figs. 1‐4) is located in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, in southwestern Missouri. This one‐block long linear district encompasses less than one acre and occupies all of the west side of South Main Street between West First and West Second Streets and consists entirely of commercial architecture dating from the turn of the twentieth century through c. 1910. The district is located at the northern periphery of the central business district and contains ten buildings of one and two stories in height, all of load‐bearing masonry construction. Two buildings are non‐contributing elements within the context of the district as a whole and the remaining eight are contributing.

The district retains the characteristic dense concentration of development which typifies most downtown areas, with all buildings constructed without front‐lot setback. Rear‐lot setbacks vary
from building to building, and surface parking is provided behind most properties. All but two of the district’s buildings are built flush with one another; two adjacent buildings are separated by a narrow walkway. The district fronts on South Main Street, West First and Second Streets form the district’s north and south boundary, respectively, and an unnamed alley establishes the district’s western boundary. New construction and vacant lots are immediately adjacent to the nominated district, and the Joplin and Wall Avenues Historic District, nominated concomitant with this district but distinct in its own right, is to the west.”

Miles Block circa 1902

The Miles Block as it appeared around 1902.

The district primarily concerns the strip of beautiful buildings on the west side of Main Street from 2nd street up that include the striking Miles Block.

Miles Block 2010

The Miles Block, as it appears today, is included in the South Main Street District nomination

For those of you interested in learning more about the architecture used in the construction of these buildings, as well as for some brief histories, we encourage you to read the drafts in greater detail.  The Council will meet this Friday to discuss the nominations.

The Keystone Hotel – Before and After

As you drive north up Main Street and come toward the intersection of 4th and Main Street, you may find yourself blinking from the sun in your eyes.  The sun is there because the tall and towered Keystone Hotel is not.  Below is a photograph of the Keystone (which was built prior to the turn of the century – HJ will be writing up a post on the hotel later) from before 1913.

Keystone Hotel circa 1913

The Keystone Hotel at the busy intersection of 4th and Main Street

And here is today’s occupant of the same bit of earth.  We suppose it’s a step up from simply being a parking lot.

SE corner of 4th and Main Street

The new occupant of the southeast corner at 4th and Main Street

The Keystone Hotel was demolished in the late 1960′s under the “progressive” wave of urban renewal.  Joplin has lost too many of its historic buildings to allow anymore to follow a similar path.

Review of Now and Then and Again by Leslie Simpson

Historic preservation in Joplin cannot be discussed without mentioning Leslie Simpson.  The director of the Post Memorial Art Reference Library, Simpson is a long established expert of Joplin’s architecture and historic past.  She is credited with initiating the push to preserve Joplin’s remaining historic buildings and homes. Simpson has played an instrumental role in the creation of the Joplin Historic Preservation Commission and Main Street Joplin.  She has produced numerous slide shows on the city’s past and published a pamphlet titled, From Lincoln Logs to Lego Blocks: How Joplin Was Built.  Such is her impact that the city proclaimed a day in her name and the Missouri General Assembly honored her achievements.

One of Ms. Simpson’s most well known works was a fascinating slide show presentation entitled, “Extreme Makeover: Joplin Edition,” that compared historic photographs of Joplin buildings and homes to present day photographs of the same locations.  In December, 2009, she published her latest book, Now and Then and Again: Joplin Historic Architecture Now and Then and Again is the published version of her popular lecture on Joplin’s architectural past.

Any fan of American architecture from the late 19th Century to the early 20th Century will both adore and loathe reading Ms. Simpson’s latest work.  Readers will love it for the photographs of grand old buildings and majestic finely cut stone homes that once populated Joplin.  It will, however, make the reader grimace at the lack of foresight and vision that cost Joplin some of its finest architectural masterpieces.

Now and Then and Again is written somewhat categorically, beginning with photographs of many of its former homes and buildings that represented the first several decades of the city’s prosperous growth.  This may well be the most painful part for those who mourn the loss of Joplin’s finest buildings. as it reveals the devastation of the period of Urban Renewal.  During the 1960s and 1970s, Urban Renewal oversaw the destruction of many of American’s turn of the century architecture under the belief that their replacements would spark economic growth and development. Sadly, such was not the case with Joplin. Downtown Joplin became a vast wasteland of empty parking lots and neglected store fronts.

Despite her passion for Joplin’s lost history, Ms. Simpson maintains a neutral tone, letting the devastation of Urban Renewal speak for itself. Buildings such as the Connor and Keystone hotels, the Worth Block, and other crown jewels of Joplin’s past were lost to the wrecking ball.  By the time the reader finishes with this first part of the book, he or she can begin to dry their tears with the knowledge that some buildings survived, though are now hidden behind more modern facades.   One example is the home of the Joplin Globe whose gaudy outdated facade belies the fact that it still has the bones of a century old brick building underneath.

Now and Then and Again opts for an ending on a happier note.  The last two sections of the book are devoted to those structures still standing decades after their construction, and in a somewhat smaller part, those buildings which have recently been renovated.  Now and Then and Again is not entirely made up photographs.  Each photographic subject is accompanied with a paragraph or two of information which generally consists of the history of the building or house, the architectural style, and the individuals who owned them.  Conveniently, Ms. Simpson provides two indexes, one by name and the other by address.

In the unfortunately limited pantheon of resources for those seeking to learn more about the history of Joplin, Ms. Simpson’s Now and Then and Again is a welcome addition.  It serves as a wonderful reference for both the trained and untrained to a past built by stone, brick, and beam.  Any collection is better for its inclusion, and knowledge of its contents most certainly help to bring alive the Joplin of the past, and to discover its wonder in the present.

The cover of Leslie Simpson's work, "Now and Then and Again: Joplin Historic Architecture."

The cover of Leslie Simpson's work, "Now and Then and Again: Joplin Historic Architecture."

For information about purchasing a copy of Ms. Simpson’s work, follow this link to the Post Memorial Art Reference Library websiteNow and Then and Again consists of 95 pages, sells for $17.95 and is published by the Winfred L. and Elizabeth C. Post Foundation, Joplin, Missouri.

Growth of A City – Fourth Street Looking East

At the height of Joplin’s boom days, the intersection of Fourth and Main streets was the beating heart of the city’s commercial district.  It was no coincidence that the city’s two greatest hotels, the Connor and Keystone, faced one another from opposite corners, or that Democratic party boss, Gilbert Barbee owned the House of Lords on another corner.  Along Fourth Street, particularly that west of Main, was prime real estate.  One venturing down west Fourth Street found themselves passing the Club Theater, as well the Elks Club lodge and the home of the Miners Bank.  In the next few photos, we’ll examine the change to the street over just a few years.  In addition, with a nod to Leslie Simpson’s latest book, Now and Then and Again: Joplin Historic Architecture, a present day view of the street.

A view of Fourth Street looking east - sometime before 1906.

A view of Fourth Street looking east - sometime before 1906.

In this first view there are several clues to time the photograph was shot.  First, visible to the right is the steeple roof of the Club Theater.  The Club Theater was completed in 1891.  The conical roof further down the street marks not only the Keystone Hotel, built in 1891 and completed a year later, marks the intersection of Fourth and Main.  On the left side of the street, a block down and hardly noticeable is the old Joplin Hotel.  What is not in this photograph is the Connor Hotel, an eight story building that was built where our squat Joplin Hotel now stands.  The Joplin Hotel was razed in 1906.  As such, we know this photograph dates from before that time.  Speculatively, sometime from 1891 to 1906.

View of Fourth Street looking east sometime after 1908.

View of Fourth Street looking east sometime after 1908.

In this view we have some familiar faces.  The Club Theater on the right, the Keystone down the block, and on the immediate right, the once Elks Lodge and offices of the Joplin Water Works.  The main difference is now the reverse of our previous photograph.  Where the old Joplin Hotel stood, now stands the Connor.  Its presence lets us know that this photograph was taken after its completion in 1908.  Note the change in design of the automobiles on the street and the lack of horse drawn wagons or carriages that were present in the previous view.

Fourth Street looking east - sometime before 1913.

Fourth Street looking east - sometime before 1913.

Our third view of Fourth Street.  The Connor and the Keystone are both present.  The steeple roof of the Club Theater is conspicuously absent, though you can see the roof line of the club’s western side.  Incidentally, by this time, the Club Theater, despite a renovation in 1905, had lost its status as the finest theater in town to the Shubert Theater which was located several blocks down to the south.  The vehicles are a little more modern and a subtle aspect is the switch from one set of trolley tracts to two.  Also different, which allows us to place this photograph as more recent, is the addition of electric signs to the facades of the buildings.  Now, we state that this photograph is dated as having been taken before 1913.  How did we come to that number?  In this case, its simply knowing your source.  This photograph came from a booklet published in 1913 to publicize the city, which allows us to place that hard date.

Fourth Street looking east - present day.

Fourth Street looking east - present day.

This photograph, taken on March 13, 2010, is not for the faint of heart for those who love the architecture of bygone days.  All that remains from the previous photographs is our friend the one time host of the Elks and Joplin Water Works building on the immediate right.  The row of buildings on the left are gone, though a few halfway down the block disappeared in the 1920′s when the Connor built an annex further down the block from its Fourth and Main location.  The Club Theater is gone, the front of a car, marks the parking lot that now remains in its place.  On the left down the block is the Joplin Public Library, situated where the Connor Hotel stood until 1978.  The Keystone, destroyed several years before the Connor, is gone.  The building visible beyond the library is the Joplin Globe office, visible only because the Worth Block was demolished (taking with it the House of Lords).  On a bright note is the tall building at the end of the block on the right side.  It was built around 1923 and managed to survive the devastation that was “Urban Renewal.”

If any comfort can be taken from this view of modern day Fourth Street it is that the City of Joplin has embarked on a mission to restore and recognize the city’s remaining historic buildings.  A drive down Main Street reinforces the belief that while a lot has been lost, that which remains will be saved.

Sources: Historic Joplin collection, Missouri Digital Heritage.