Home for the Holidays
It’s like HGTV meets the History channel. Home for the Holidays, a tour of historic homes in Joplin, is inspirational and educational – and a tad voyeuristic, allowing our curious eyes to peek inside the walls of these well-crafted, one-of-a kind structures.
Held every other year, Home for the Holidays is organized by Historic Murphysburg Preservation, an organization that holds various events throughout the year at historic locations, opening them up to the public so that people can experience the richness of Joplin’s history in an immersive way.
This year’s Home for the Holidays tour was held on December 14 and included nine residences plus the tour headquarters, which was housed at Unity of Joplin – another historic structure. Tickets were available online or at Unity of Joplin, and participants received an informational brochure and map.
The tour included three different Joplin neighborhoods: Murphysburg, North Heights, and downtown Joplin.
The tour ran from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., a reasonable amount of time to walk through the houses, listen to the history of each location, and travel between stops. I started the tour about 2 p.m., and I was pushing it to finish by closing time. There’s just so much to soak in.
Here’s a breakdown of the 2019 Home for the Holidays Tour:
Unity of Joplin, 204 North Jackson Avenue
Serving as the headquarters and ticket location for the tour, this building represents the Spanish Mission architectural style, and was built in 1911 as Calvary Baptist Church.
The Woman’s Club of Joplin moved into the building in 1930, and Unity of Joplin purchased it in 2012 and continues to occupy it today.
What struck me most about the interior are the timber ceiling beams and the breathtaking stained-glass windows, which fill the worship area with natural light.
The following four homes are located in Murphysburg, the first residential neighborhood established by the founders of Joplin. Many architectural styles are represented in this picturesque, 53-acre neighborhood, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (If you would like to explore this area in depth, here is a walking tour to use as a guide.)
Henderson House, 518 South Sergeant Avenue
Charles G. Henderson, President of S.C. Henderson Wholesale Grocery Co., built this home in 1917. With its dentil molding on the roof line, and gabled dormers, this home is an example of the Colonial Revival style.
These decorative windows added an eye-catching element to the main stairwell.
Frye/BaSom House, 318 South Sergeant Avenue
I have to admit that this has always been one of my favorite homes in Joplin. It just seems to exude pride in its alluring beauty.
Can you believe that it was built for just $5,000 back in 1891? That would be about $141,000 in 2019, and considering the craftsmanship I observed inside, that’s quite a steal, even by today’s standards!
The architectural style of this house is Second Empire, also known as Modern French, which was popular from 1865 to 1900. The home was built by Charles C. Frye, who moved to Joplin from New York to invest in the mining industry. In 1898, it was purchased by attorney Fred BaSom, who later organized Joplin Telephone Co., the first phone company in the city.
While there are many aspects of this home that I love, the coolest feature is the staircase hidden behind this mirror in the main hall.
Fischer House, 315 South Sergeant Avenue
Built by Julius Fischer in the 1880s, this is the oldest home in Murphysburg.
The original structure is a simple farmhouse style, and Tudor elements were added later. These photos show the different exteriors over time.
Here’s a notable (yet not-so-grand) fact about Julius Fischer: In 1890, he lost the Jasper County Clerk election to Mrs. Annie Baxter, making her the first female county clerk in the United States – and an important Joplinite. (Interesting coincidence: I’m typing this at the Joplin Public Library right now, and I just looked up to see a bust of Mrs. Annie Baxter in the Post Memorial Library section.)
Geddes House, 301 South Sergeant Avenue
This ornate beauty is an example of Queen Anne architecture.
It was built in the late 1890s by James I. Geddes, a newspaper owner and publisher, as well as an attorney, and an investment broker. Geesh! That’s one busy man. I hope he had time to enjoy the intricately detailed woodwork in the many rooms of his grand home.
I sure did.
The next three homes are located in the North Heights neighborhood, located north of the Murphysburg district. Development in this residential area began after 1891, when this land was sold to the City of Joplin by the Granby Mining Co. (Every year in October, this charming neighborhood holds the popular North Heights Porchfest, a laid-back musical festival, which you can read more about here.)
Rogers House, 536 North Wall Avenue
Designed by esteemed local architect Austin Allen, this home was built in 1905 by Frederick H. Rogers, who worked in the lumber business, then moved to Joplin to become involved in the mining industry.
The interior of the home contains spectacular examples of hand carved woodwork throughout, including the stunning staircase,
and the mahogany ceiling beams and paneling in the dining room.
Beckham-Richardson House, 603 North Pearl Avenue
While the original owner and date of construction of this home are unknown, the current owner has embraced the unique interior elements of this home with a sense of whimsy.
It was fun exploring the nooks and crannies of this home and discovering surprises.
Cotton House, 602 N. Wall Avenue
Built by John A. Cotton in 1918, this house offers a fine example of a craftsman interior.
I liked how the current owners’ clean, modern decor paired well with the simple, yet exquisite, woodwork throughout the home.
The next two residences on the tour were apartments located in downtown Joplin.
R&S Chevrolet Building, 214 East 4th Street
This building, constructed in 1909, is an example of Late-19th/Early-20th-Century Revival architecture.
It was built by Century Auto Co., which became R&S Motors in 1926 (owned by Bill Robertson and Winston Spurgeon).
When you see the apartments inside the building today, it’s hard to imagine that a motor company once operated here. Apartment #1A on the ground level was opened up for the tour, wowing visitors with its chic, urban interior design.
It truly looked like something from the pages of Architectural Digest.
Empire Block Building, 524 South Main Street
The next residence was a palatial two-story apartment which occupies the second and third levels of the Empire Block Building, located in the Joplin’s Downtown Sunshine Lamp Historic District.
Designed by architect Thomas R. Bellas, it was built in 1900 by brothers Charles and Oscar DeGraff, operators of Empire Mine.
The highlight of this apartment was the glass inserted into the floor of the upper-level walkway, allowing the light from above to filter through to the lower level, creating a bright space throughout.
It’s such a neat design concept, although I admit I felt a bit disoriented walking on a see-through floor.
I thoroughly enjoyed getting the opportunity to explore these homes, each of them brimming with history, and I’m already looking forward to the next Home for the Holidays tour.
Learn more about future events in Joplin’s historical districts on Historic Murphysburg Preservation’s website by clicking here, or on its Facebook page by clicking here.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.