COLUMBIA — Boone Junction History Village is waiting for two additions with historical value, both architecturally and socially.
The Boone County Historical Society acquired a Victorian-era farmhouse and a 1950s steel home for its village at Nifong Park. These will join a shotgun house that will be relocated from Garth Avenue and Worley Street as the newest additions to the village. The historical society received a grant from the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to cover the cost of relocating the two most recently acquired historic homes, but further fundraising and work will be required before they are ready to open to the public.
“The purpose of the village is to provide little glimpses of what life was like in a variety of times,” said Deborah Thompson, executive director of the Boone County Historical Society.
It’s 1890, and William and Mary Ryland, married a few years before, are moving into their new home built on land from William Ryland’s father. It’s a small farmhouse, less than 800 square feet, divided into three rooms. The young couple cooks in the kitchen on the back porch.
William spends most of his time raising hogs, throwing grain or corn meal on the ground for them to eat. Next door, William Roberts’ turkeys find out about the free meals and learn to fly over to Ryland’s property. The hog farmer discovers the turkeys’ thievery and asks Roberts to keep his turkeys away.
Unfortunately for Ryland, Roberts decides he will fix the problem his own way. He brings his shotgun to Ryland’s property and shoots Ryland behind his own house.
Ryland makes it into his house before dying, leaving Mary Ryland to live alone in the house until her death.
The Clayton family bought the house and land after Mary's death. Eventually, Highway 63 was built nearby. The property later changed hands when Robert and Carolyn Sue Graves bought it. Even as change approached its doorstep, no one bothered the house until the Missouri Department of Transportation decided to widen Highway 63.
MoDOT surveyors recognized the house, which lies on Highway 63 north of Pinnacles Youth Park, for its potential historical value. It was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places because of the Queen Anne detailing and architecture.
Then David Sapp, former president of the Boone County Historical Society and the person who provided the historic narrative for the home, stepped in. He talked to the Graveses, who had no plans to use the house and persuaded them to give the house to the Society if it would cover the cost of moving it.
“It’s in beautiful shape,” Thompson said of why the house is a great example of the Victorian era. “It’s what a rural family actively farming would live in.”
There are two phases to the project, Sapp said. First, and most expensive, is moving the house. Through a grant from the Convention and Visitors Bureau and donations from the Boone Electric Community Trust and the Stafford Family Charitable Trust, the Society has about $30,000 to work with.
The second phase relies on the generosity of Society members and the community. For $150 or more, donors can have their names engraved in bricks that will create a sidewalk to the house.
The house needs a new roof of wooden shake shingles, as opposed to the asphalt shingles it has now. The Society also will need to replace the exterior siding and rotting wood, and the outside needs to be cleaned, re-primed and repainted.
Inside, Sapp plans to take away many of the modern features that were added over time. 1970s style is apparent in the faded green and orange carpeting and some “pretty ugly” fake-wood paneling. The house will also be rewired for electricity, heating and cooling.
Sapp said he wants to use as much free labor from volunteers and the Society as possible.
“We’ll try to reach out a little bit farther,” he said, mentioning that sometimes fraternities or sororities help out.
Sapp said he hopes to move the house within six months; his goal is late spring.
“It’s usually a lot of fun,” he said. “We may even discover some things in the process of opening these things up.”
World War II has just ended. Returning soldiers are looking for houses where they can start new families using money from the GI bill. But there’s a serious housing shortage; veterans pack every available room on college campuses.
Carl Strandlund recognizes opportunity when he sees it. He establishes the Lustron Corp. in Columbus, Ohio, to build pre-fabricated steel houses.
Strandlund obtains large loans from the government and large allocations of steel, the primary structural material in his homes. Even the built-in cabinets are steel. All the exposed surfaces, though, including the roof and exterior walls, are coated with porcelain to keep the steel from rusting.
The houses require high-tech machines capable of handling, forming and shaping the steel. It turns out to be an expensive venture, and Strandlund struggles with the operation until he finally shuts down after Congress refuses to loan him more money. He manages to manufacture only 2,500 homes, which were sold mainly in the upper Midwest.
Columbia had two of these homes. Insurance agent Phyllis Nichols bought one but decided afterward that it was insufficient as an office, so she agreed to give it to the Society for the cost of moving it.
Now, the Lustron house sits in pieces, divided between two storage facilities. Volunteers and Sapp, who also provided this history, disassembled the house at its original location on West Boulevard. The Lustron house is the last priority among the three houses on Boone Junction’s list of new features. As with the Ryland house, the Society is still raising money to cover the cost of building a foundation, then moving, rebuilding and restoring the house.
After the house is reassembled at the village, two of the rooms will be dedicated to museum exhibits. Thompson said there are two options: both rooms could be dedicated to exhibits about World War II, or one could be a general museum on military history.
Either way, Sapp said the house will be dedicated to a local WWII veteran Hirst Mendenhall, who flew airplane missions on D-Day and “had quite a story to tell about it.”
“Two of his children have helped raise the money for it, and I think it’s a very appropriate way to recognize their father,” Sapp said.
Lustron houses still exist in other parts of Missouri, including Boonville, Kansas City and St. Charles.
“We have some great plans for preserving the house and utilizing it to show what those houses were like,” Sapp said.