Historic Guitar Street display to open in city building

Thursday, January 31, 2013 | 8:22 p.m. CST; updated 12:37 p.m. CST, Friday, February 1, 2013
Toni Messina, civic relations manager for the city of Columbia, looks at an old map of Guitar Street on Thursday afternoon. The map will be included in a display Friday morning at the Daniel Boone City Building.

COLUMBIA — Guitar Street is a piece of Columbia history that was being buried deeper with time. Warren Dalton, Columbia’s own history hunter, dug up information about John Guitar and the street named after him and compiled the history in a booklet, now available for free in the visitor's center in the Daniel Boone City Building. 

The history of Guitar Street will be displayed in two cases in the corridor that links the old Daniel Boone Building to the lobby in the newer city hall addition. A ceremony is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday to dedicate the display and distribute copies of Dalton's 32-page booklet, which he's giving away to anyone interested.

Dalton started writing columns for the Columbia Daily Tribune in 2006 and became interested in Guitar Street when he researched ragtime pianist J.W. "Blind" Boone. Eugenia Boone, wife of Blind Boone, purchased the old Guitar home and turned it into a tenement house.

“I had an interest in Blind Boone, so I did a little research and found out that one of the newspaper columns mentioned that in the fire of 1892, the Boone home burned,” Dalton said.

That research led to investigating Guitar Street. Using old newspaper articles and abstracts during four months, he began to piece together an important part of Columbia’s history.

John Guitar created the block-long Guitar Street in 1833, connecting Broadway and Walnut Street between Seventh and Eighth streets. Guitar was one of the most influential people who first moved to Columbia. He had a store at the south end of Guitar Street.

“John Guitar was in the dry goods business, which in those days had everything,” Dalton said.  

Among his customers were James S. Rollins, considered the father of MU, Warren Woodson, city clerk, and Thomas Selby, owner of The Planter's Hotel.

Guitar Street closed in 1986 when the parking garage immediately north of city hall was constructed. 

Toni Messina, civic relations manager for the city of Columbia, contacted Dalton about his columns and began a partnership that led to the display that opens Friday.

“We all met downtown at a restaurant. After that it grew and (we) decided we’d like to do a display,” Messina said.

Dalton’s research associate, David James, designed and put the booklet together. The display utilizes a digital frame showing pictures of some important characters in Columbia history. It is housed in a corridor in the city building, where a ribbon cutting ceremony will take place Friday.

“We have three display cabinets,” Messina said. “One is about the Daniel Boone Hotel, which now houses some city offices, but the other two are intended to make people aware that the street once existed.”

Dalton started writing when he was 80 years old, and now, at age 95, is working on his sixth book, which is about the history of Boone County from 1804 to1904.

“I enjoyed writing and talking, so I put my talking to words," he said.

Dalton came to Columbia in 1935 and graduated from MU in 1939.

“I appreciate the city doing this and honoring me and putting up this display,” he said.

Messina hopes to get the community involved in digging up more history, making the display an on-going project involving more volunteers in Columbia.

“It’s almost like a treasure hunt, it’s great to find things, and people let you know if they have artifacts and information,” Messina said. “It adds community involvement.”

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