Historic properties celebrated at 15th annual 'Most Notable' event

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 | 10:11 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — First kisses, a "bathroom dungeon" and the paddle in the principal’s office.

These things topped the list of concerns and worries for the students of the 1920s and 1930s at Lee Elementary School, one of the five properties recognized at the 15th annual Notable Properties Event Tuesday night.

This year's notable properties

Since 1998, the Historic Preservation Commission has recognized properties that join together in telling the story of Columbia's history. All properties had to be at least 50 years old with some historic relevance in Columbia to be recognized.

Fairview United Methodist Church at 1320 S. Fairview Road

Built in 1942, the original frame of this property was burned in 1940, displacing students who went to school there, according to the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission. The building still operates as the Countryside Nursery School, which has had more than 3,000 students since 1979, according to the commission.

Fairview Cemetery at Chapel Hill Road and Fairview Road founded in 1914

This property has been maintained by the Grant family since it was founded.

Lee School at 1208 Locust St. built in 1934.

The Lee School was built during the Great Depression as a local New Deal project meant to increase employment and improve depression-era conditions.

Francis Pike House at 1502 Anthony St.

Francis Pike was a notable Columbia historian and pressman who died in 2010. His tudor-style home, built in 1939, showcases impressive Ozark and giraffe rock in a "rare local example of native stone construction," according to the commission.

Bessie and Dr. J.E. Thornton House at 905 S. Providence Road

The tudor-style house built in 1925 was once the home of J.E. Thornton, a Columbia physician, and his wife, Bessie Thornton, according to the commission.

Unfortunately, neither one lived in the property for long. J.E. Thornton died the same year the couple moved into the home. Bessie Thornton moved soon after that, but kept the home as a rental property, according to the commission.

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While researching the school during the selection process, Historic Preservation Commission member Paul Prevo found letters from the students.

“I found it funny how many were interested in the kissing part,” Prevo said. “One letter a little girl said something like ‘Here I stand on these two chips, who's going to kiss these cute lips?’”

After his research, Prevo chose the school as one of the notable properties for 2014. The selection process starts in September of each year and the winners are announced mid-January. The event, originally slated for Feb. 4, was postponed because of a winter storm.

Lee Elementary, which opened its doors in 1904, started with 106 students and only four teachers, Prevo said. Today, Lee Elementary School operates on lottery admittance, and has 313 students.

The salary of the school's first teachers, only $600 a year, didn't change for another 25 years. In the 1930s, the salary increased to $840 a year, Prevo said.

The Columbia Historic Preservation Commission, which hosted the event at the Daniel Boone City Building, played a video highlighting the properties recognized this year for the property owners and community members.

Rachel Bacon, an organizer for the event, said 100 people typically attend the program, though in the past they’ve had more. The commission hosted a modest crowd of just over 40 this year.

Still, organizers were proud of the turnout and this year’s properties, which were especially diverse, Prevo said.

Angie Hilbert, secretary for the Fairview Cemetery Association, said the designation of the cemetery strengthens the legacy of her family — four generations are represented there. Her mother held the same position for 30 years before Hilbert took over.

“This is something that I’m very passionate about,” Hilbert said. “Between my mom and I, we’ve been secretaries for 50 years.”

Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.

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