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.

The Tour

 

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.

 

Murphysburg

 

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 roofline, 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.

 

 

Ta-da!

 

 

 

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.

 

North Heights

 

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.

 

 

Downtown Joplin

 

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.

Paint a Picture

Discovering art and culture in Missouri

by Flash Parker

 

I came to Joplin expecting an outdoor playground on the plains—what I found was an arts and culture oasis. Joplin is home to an active live theatre scene, and serves as a community arts destination of the highest order. As a regional creative hub Joplin is both inspiring and exciting—who knew? For me, my visit was one surprise after another.

 

Change of plans

The open road brought me to Joplin—both figuratively and literally. I came to Missouri to experience historic Route 66 and to kick start a trip along The Mother Road. But almost immediately upon arrival, my plans changed. I popped into the Red Onion Café to refuel, and overheard a pair of visitors discussing Joplin’s art scene. Interest piqued, I finished my delicious bleu moo sandwich (an artistic achievement in its own right), and headed off to visit Joplin City Hall, home to several of the city’s beloved murals.

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Route 66, Joplin, Missouri, completed in 2010 by artist Anthony Benton Gude, captures what is essentially the spirit of an entire era in one bold masterpiece. The mural is nostalgic and whimsical at once, and an incredible counterpoint to Joplin at the Turn of the Century, 1896–1906, the remarkable visual fable crafted by Thomas Hart Benton, Gude’s grandfather. These pieces are but two of Joplin’s more than 25 murals (12 of which are in the downtown core), each serving as a colorful ode to time, place and a sense of community.

 

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Public displays of reflection

Buoyed by this pretty town’s sense of artistry, I continued searching for masterworks—and found them in quite a few varied forms. At 8th and Main I found artist Garin Baker’s remarkable “Celebrating the Performing Arts,” an ode to Joplin’s arts scene, and a tip of the hat to how that scene has changed over the years. From ballerinas to early 20thCentury street panoramas to a majestic turn-of-the-century theatre, Baker’s work is a celebration of the artists’ world.

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At the northwest corner of 15th and Main Streets I found muralist Dave Loewenstein’s Butterfly Effect, an uplifting story of the notorious tornado that ravaged Joplin in 2011. Public art projects like this were a coping mechanism and healing tool for the people of the city, instituted as a way to bring local communities closer together to create something beautiful out of random chaos.

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I stopped next at the beautiful George A. Spiva Center for the Arts (don’t miss the mesmerizing Geometrically-Inspired Mural #1 adorning the façade at the corner of 3rdStreet and Wall Avenue), where an exhibit showcasing entries in the annual PhotoSpiva photography competition caught my eye. Founded in 1977, PhotoSpiva is the longest-running photography event of its kind in the country, and a showcase for truly sensational regional and national photographers. I also caught an exhibition called Uncommon Threads: A Dozen Shades of Gray, where quilted panels tell the story of aging. I made a mental note to challenge my grandmother to quilt me something creative next Christmas.

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In nearby Schifferdecker Park, I found the Joplin History and Mineral Museum, where I shook hands with dino bots on the front lawn, and wrapped my visit by exploring the Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum, the crown jewel of the museum complex. The Mineral Museum includes a world-class collection of zinc and lead ore, as well as other spectacular mineral specimens mined from the Tri-State District, as well as illustrations and exhibits showcasing geochemical and mining techniques dating from the 1870s.

 

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In the neighborhood

Inspired by Joplin’s dynamism, I wandered down Sergeant Avenue, into the Murphysburg Historic District, where 19th– and 20th-century architectural treasures have been lovingly restored. Stunning examples of Queen Anne, Dutch Colonial, Prairie Style and Colonial-Revival homes stand proud along the tree-lined boulevards, while wrought-iron fences, spiraling staircases, grandiose grotesques and marble water features call to mind a time when horses clopped over cobbled streets, families gathered to perform Sunday afternoon vignettes and the home was the center of the universe. So caught up in my trip into the past, I pondered if any of the home owners would allow me to book a ticket for the evening’s Heartland Opera Theatre performance via the electric telegraph.

 

HOT stuff

I heard of Heartland Opera—or HOT, as it is colloquially known—at the Spiva Center for the Arts, and decided to take a flyer for a night at the theatre. Coincidentally, “HOT Scandals” was on the docket, a cabaret-style show that’s naughty in all the right ways. Heartland’s productions are earnest, honest and above all else, local—it is truly thrilling to watch skilled talent take on the complex works of masters like Gilbert and Sullivan, Lucy Simon and Stephen Sondheim. I came away amused and impressed.

Another noted theatre in Joplin is the Joplin Little Theatre. Housed in a cozy stone citadel it is an artistic treasure in its own right. Built in 1939, the Little Theatre is the oldest continuously operating theatre west of the Mississippi. I saw more of Joplin’s artistic side in a few hours than I could have possibly imagined, and by day’s end I had scribbled a list of at least a dozen other attractions in my notebook, confident that Joplin was no longer simply part of the journey, but a destination in and of itself.

 

 


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Driven by art

 

The next morning, before setting back out onto the open road, I visited the Route 66 Mural Park, and remembered why I had been drawn to Joplin in the first place. The collaborative mural is actually two pieces of art—an upper piece commemorating Joplin’s place on this most historic of thoroughfares, and a lower piece composed of a US map and flashy ’64 Corvette. Just one more artful reminder of why I’ll someday soon be cruisin’ back to Joplin.

 

Discover the best of Joplin’s arts and culture.

The Joplin Undercurrent

Destination marketing can be challenging, especially for a locations such as Joplin that lacks a signature event, or is known for a highly traveled to themed attraction. While unique, smaller towns are becoming a rising vacation trend, advertising to the traveler, in both print and digital formats, takes creativity to stand out among similar advertisements for like destinations.
 
Through a partnership developed a little more than a year ago, the Joplin CVB has been working with local photographer Mark Neuenschwander (9Art Photography) and writer Lance Schaubert on a new concept that the trio hopes will spark interest to bring visitors to Joplin.
 
Using a genre for the digital age, Neuenschwander and Schaubert introduced Joplin to the concept of a digital photonovel through their first joint venture, Cold Brewed, in 2012. A photonovel is a story told through dramatic images and text, but the reader’s experience unfolds like the adventure of reading a novel, combined with the visual excitement of a graphic novel. The techie will appreciate reading a captivating story with just the roll of a mouse.
 
On January 19th the JCVB will be unveiling the photonovel tourism marketing project, entitled The Joplin Undercurrent, with a storyline which combines historical accuracies as well as fiction, otherwise known as faction. Composed in the same vein as films we love such as The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure, The Joplin Undercurrent photonovel will depict some of what Joplin is best known for, while intertwining both real-life citizens and fictionalized characters.
 
Unlike traditional tourism marketing this project will not directly say, “Visit Joplin.” We hope this more understated approach, geared to people entrenched in the digital age, will spark an interest in visiting Joplin because of a desire to immerse themselves in the story’s location, similar to the way that novels or movies bring destinations into pop-culture and become tourist attractions. Communities such as Forks, Washington created special tours for visitors who flock there to put themselves into the fictional settings of the Twilight Saga, and why after 27 years, baseball enthusiasts still travel to Dubuque County (Dyersville) Iowa to step upon (or play a game on) the field created for the 1989 movie Field of Dreams.
 
The Joplin Undercurrent is a story of a young man and former Joplinite named Lee, who returns home to visit his ailing; perhaps even dying, mother. But when Lee asks his uncle for a visiting time, his uncle refuses to let him see her Frustrated, Lee wanders downtown and meets two other out-of-towners – a historian of sorts and a geologist with a strange specialization. They come to protect Joplin from a coming disaster but to do so they’ll have to solve a mystery hidden in Joplin’s past. A mystery involving Lee’s mother.
 
The opening chapters will be released at http://thejoplinundercurrent.co/ starting January 19th with subsequent chapters released weekly.
 
The new age of tourism marketing is set to launch January 19th.