Preservation group names 10 notable properties

Buildings recognized this year include Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house.
Thursday, May 6, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:04 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

Chances are, everyone in Columbia would recognize the little cottage on West Boulevard as something special. The Columbia Historic Preservation Commission did this year, along with another nine properties in the city.

Each year since its inception in 1998, the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission has recognized 10 local properties that serve as models of historic preservation. The commission on Tuesday night honored the owners and celebrated the pasts of their historic properties, which include everything from homes to schools to hospitals.

Commission Chairman Brian Pape said the group tries to recognize a “wide range (of properties) because all of that makes up the fabric of a community.”

Owners received a certificate, a rose and a sign to place in the window or yard designating the property as historic. At the ceremony, they shared stories about the joys and tribulations of owning and maintaining the properties, some of which are more than 100 years old.

Betty Brown owns the Arch McCard cottage on West Boulevard. It was built in 1900. “Living in that house is an experience,” she said. “It’s a character house.”

One of the best things about having a historic property, most of the owners agreed, is knowing it’s had an impact in the community.

“The wonderful thing about it is people stop,” Brown said. “We have such a wonderful experience talking to people.”

One time she even invited a couple over after getting a note from a woman who said she would love to go in Brown’s award-winning garden but couldn’t because of a disability. The woman said she often had her husband slowly drive by the house so she could see it.

Owners of the Sally Flood House on Hinkson Avenue and the Heidman House on West Broadway each have had previous owners return and share stories. One lady touring the Sally Flood House stopped dead in her tracks and announced she had been married there.

“You can’t buy history,” owner Michael DeSantis said. “It’s an awesome thing.”

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon house was also recognized after the fraternity tried for years tried to establish its historical significance. The house, built in 1820, was the oldest historic property designated this year. The house was a Confederate hospital during the Civil War and also has been a military academy, a dorm for women and a hotel. It has withstood two fires and 79 years of fraternity members. That’s the equivalent of 790 “fraternity years,” MU alumnus and chapter adviser Mike Lawler said.

“The place still looks great if you don’t look too closely,” Lawler said.

Pape’s home, the Walter Williams House on Glenwood Avenue, was also chosen by the commission.

“Walter Williams means something to people in this town,” commissioner Bill Crawford said of the founder of the MU School of Journalism. “Any story you want to tell has probably got Walter Williams’ name attached to it.” There was a good chance the house would not have been redone had Pape, an architect, not bought it. Most of the floors, doors and windows are original to the house built by Williams and his wife in 1916.

William Caldwell, director of the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, accepted the designation for that building, which was the first cancer hospital in the nation built to help poor people. It was built there because of its central location and was dedicated as the first cancer center west of the Mississippi on April 26, 1940. It remains the only hospital in Missouri dedicated solely to cancer care.

The Keene School on Brown Station Road, which is now a home, also was on the list.

“It’s just been wonderful to own a part of Columbia’s history,” said owner Mary Lee. Even though she and her husband had some doubts after moving in and seeing how much renovation needed to be done, the two are happy they bought it.

Other noted buildings were the Athens Hotel/Ben Bolt Hotel, now the Wabash Arms Apartments on East Walnut Street; the Camplin House/Booneslick Inn/Springdale House, now a home, on West Broadway and the Spanish Colonial Style house on East Stewart Road.

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