Nestled in the rolling green hills and lush foliage of southern Boone County, the Warren-Douglass farm has stood for more than 150 years through war, death and even the beginning of a town named Columbia.
On Sunday, the Boone County Historical Society will be recognizing the farm and its history by dedicating it as a county historic site. The event, open to the public, begins at 2:30 p.m. and will include the dedication ceremony as well as tours of the home.
Bill Crawford, president emeritus of the Boone County Historical Society, said the Warren-Douglass farm was chosen by the Historic Sites Committee because of the work and love that current owner, Bette Douglass, and her late husband, Tom Douglass Jr., put into restoring the unique elegance the house had possessed for so many years.
“It takes a certain kind of person to do what they did,” Crawford said. “Public recognition for what they’ve done makes the owners, and the county people, proud. By honoring the property, we’re honoring a great example of a Boone County residence” that has “so much heritage.”
The Warren-Douglass farm, on Mount Celestial Road off of Route K, was first finished by Silas Warren in 1850 after 10 years of construction. It encompassed 1,800 acres, and was named “Woodbine,” an Old English term for honeysuckle. The two-story home was built with materials shipped through the Missouri River to what was once Providence Riverport.
“It’s a large I-house, with a long extended T at the rear of the house, because that was the design favored by those from Kentucky and Tennessee,” Crawford said. “Warren’s father was from South Carolina, then moved to Kentucky before he came to Missouri. When Silas built the house, he used slaves and lumber from his own forest.”
In 1919, the Douglass family bought the land and the original guest home next to the house. Both Tom Douglass Sr. and his wife were graduates of the MU College of Agriculture. When the couple moved into the home, it had no plumbing or electricity.
“At one point there were 10 residences for the workers on the property,” Crawford said, “because of all the help the Douglass’ needed to maintain and restore Woodbine.”
Crawford said the home became vacant after Tom Douglass Sr. died and his wife moved to a retirement home. In 1972, Douglass Jr. and his wife, Bette, decided to move from their home in Columbia to Woodbine. They began reviving the home, and that work continues.
“We gave the home a new roof, wiring, insulation and a cooling system,” Bette Douglass said. The work has included new bathrooms and reassembling six fireplaces.
“It was an exhilarating experience,” Bette Douglass said. “At one point, when we were working on a fireplace, one of the big stones fell through, going all the way to the basement.”
The Douglass’ sold most of their land and now the home sits on about 200 acres. The property includes the home and the “cabin,” which was once used by Silas Warren when the house was being constructed.
At the ceremony on Sunday, Bette Douglass will receive a plaque stating that her home is now a historic site. She says the most important part about the process is showing future generations how people once lived.
“Columbia doesn’t have a lot of older houses because we were on the river,” Bette said. “This house is the roots of the family. There’s been lots of weddings, quite a few funerals. Two of my husband’s sisters were even born in one of the parlors.”
Crawford gives the family all the credit. “They had a lot of love,” he said. “Without them and their tender care, heritage is being lost.”