Alfred W. Rea: An Architect’s Portfolio

Unity Baptist Church (African-American), Joplin Missouri.

One of the joys of researching the past is serendipitously stumbling across a wonderful discovery, but sometimes a wonderful discovery finds you. We are excited to announce that a relative of preeminent Joplin architect Alfred W. Rea contacted us last week and informed us that he will generously share photographs of roughly seventy-six different buildings that Rea and his partner, Charles E. Garstang, designed during their time in Joplin.

Alfred Willemin Rea was born on August 12, 1869, in Decatur, Illinois. He attended the University of Illinois and graduated with a B.A. in 1893. Rea worked as a draftsman in several architectural firms, including Wigg & Mahurin (Ft. Wayne, Indiana); J.W. Ross (Davenport, Iowa); Reeves & Baillie (Peoria and Decatur, Illinois). He later partnered with Charles E. Garstang and established Garstang & Rea in Joplin in 1901. The firm later relocated to Los Angeles, California, where Garstang and Rea continued to design buildings until their retirement in the 1940s.

A.H. Rogers Building

The whereabouts of the papers and portfolio of Garstang are currently unknown, but Rea’s portfolio is comprehensive. Fortunately, because Rea labelled the majority of the photographs in his portfolio, we believe that the photos and their labels will provide the most complete list of Garstang & Rea’s work known to date. The firm, it turns out, not only designed buildings in Joplin, but designed buildings in Monett and Nevada, Missouri, and Winfield, Kansas.

We will work to place these photos online so that others can enjoy them and celebrate the work of two of Joplin’s finest architects. The images will appear on Historic Joplin and on Flickr with the permission of the owner.

Joplin Tobacco Company building

If you have photos you would like to share with Historic Joplin, let us know:

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3 Responses to “Alfred W. Rea: An Architect’s Portfolio”

  • Comment from Larry Cebula

    What a great find! Well done.

  • Comment from Roger Stinnett

    I don’t think the AME Church you have pictured that’s still on West 4th was ever called Unity. Unity Baptist is off east 7th and these are two entirely different churches.

  • Comment from Brown

    Hi Roger,

    The photograph featured in the post is one of three African-American churches built by a donation of the Joplin philanthropist, Thomas Connor. The one on West 4th Street is one of those and the last one standing. We have some photographs of it taken last summer that we can share on the website.

    A second church, Trinity Chapel (Methodist), was located at 4th Street and Kentucky. This church no longer stands as noted by Leslie Simpson in her book, Now and Then and Again.

    For detailed information on the one that Rea’s firm designed and pictured above, we turn to The History of Black Baptists in Missouri:

    “In 1901 the Unity Baptist Church was formed by uniting two churches, which had been established in approximately 1881. One of these churches was known as the Second Baptist Church with the late Rev. H.H. Curtis as its pastor, and located at 7th and Kentucky Avenue. The other member of this union was the St. John Baptist Church, that was located on East 2nd Street with the late Rev. W.S. Blake as pastor. After the unification of the two churches, the name Unity Baptist was suggested by one of the charter members, Mr.s Ida Murray. Worship services were held at the 7th Street location until a storm demolished the building. Services were held for some time in the Jasper County Court House building until a new edifice was erected at 511 East 7th Street in 1904, as a gift of Thomas Connor. In 1939, the church was rebuilt at its present location of 615 Minnesota when 7th Street became a marked U.S. Highway.”

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