MKT bridge returns to endangered property list

List of 10 endangered historic structures includes courthouses across Missouri.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:17 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

ST. LOUIS — Clark County Clerk Leih Ann Hayden recalled the day the ceiling tile fell in the middle of trial.

“It just missed the lawyer sitting there,” Hayden said. “The ceiling tiles come down in this building. It leaks terribly. The air comes in the windows. The pipes freeze in the wintertime.”

The complete list

Missouri’s most endangered places, in no particular order, announced Tuesday by Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation: ODD FELLOWS HOME, LIBERTY — A complex of four red-brick buildings on 36 acres, the home educated orphans and gave care to elderly members of the Odd Fellows fraternal order. Today, the buildings suffer from broken windows and doors and a damaged roof. THE ANDREW BAKER HOUSE, DESLOGE — The Baker House is considered one of the earliest and largest log houses in eastern Missouri. Andrew Baker was the first merchant in Desloge and a wealthy slaveowner. The property has not been in use for many years, and shows significant neglect. THE MKT BRIDGE, BOONVILLE — The bridge is the only Missouri River crossing for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) railroad. It features a unique 408-foot-long vertical lift span. Union Pacific wants to dismantle the bridge and use the steel elsewhere. Historic preservationists want to refurbish the bridge for potential use as part of Katy Trail State Park. COURTHOUSES ACROSS MISSOURI — Missouri Preservation says indifference by lawmakers and some local commissioners to fund maintenance and repair is threatening many courthouses around the state, some dating to the 19th century. POPLAR BLUFF HISTORIC DEPOT AND STAIRS — A double-winged staircase unites the Union Pacific Train Depot at the bottom of a hill and Main Street at the top. The depot and the stairs were abandoned by the railroad in 2000, and their condition is deteriorating. MARTINSBURG JAIL/CITY HALL/FIREHOUSE — This multipurpose building housed city functions for more than 50 years. Now, it serves as storage for a tractor and mower. MULLANPHY EMIGRANT HOME, ST. LOUIS — Built in 1867, the home housed hundreds of Irish and German immigrant families over the years. Preservationists want to save it, but had a setback when severe storms last year and again in March compromised the red-brick structure. MCCARTY STREET HOUSES, JEFFERSON CITY — Four homes built by Louis Kolkmeyer that demonstrate the unified but varied streetscape, the buildings are just a block from the State Capitol and the downtown business district. The city bought them in 1999 to tear them down and make way for a convention center. That didn’t happen, but the buildings are now dilapidated. RALLS COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE, NEW LONDON — The two-story limestone building is across the street from the 1859 courthouse. Both buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. The jail is among the oldest in Missouri, but has significant water damage in the stonework, among other problems. YETTER BUILDING, GRANT CITY — Built in 1871, the building anchors one corner of downtown. The roof leaks, causing serious interior damage. Bricks have fallen out of the rear exterior. Source: Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation,

The courthouse in Kahoka, built in the 1870s, is among several in the state threatened by a lack of money for upkeep and repair, according to the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation, which on Tuesday announced its list of the state’s 10 most endangered places for 2007. The goal is to raise awareness about the plight of historic structures and to offer up technical assistance in saving them.

The list cites nine specific structures, ranging from a depot in Poplar Bluff to a sheriff’s office in New London to a home that housed immigrants upon their arrival in St. Louis. The MKT rail bridge in Boonville is on the list for a third year.

But the list also cites “courthouses across Missouri,” many dating to the 19th century. Missouri Preservation said some state lawmakers see funding for maintenance and repair of courthouses as nonessential. With local funding hard to come by, especially in cash-strapped rural areas, many courthouses have fallen into disrepair.

The Clark County Courthouse, near the Iowa border in northeast Missouri, has no maintenance budget. Last year, the county tried again to pass a sales tax to pay for badly needed repairs. It failed.

So Hayden, who has been county clerk for 23 years, spends some of her time dealing with the quirks of the aging building. She chases away the squirrels and hawks that make their way into the attic. She throws a sheet over the bats and carries them outside. After it rains, she empties the buckets that sit beneath the leaks.

The story is typical of many Missouri courthouses, said Cole Woodcox, chairman of Missouri Preservation.

“So many have different maintenance issues and county commissioners who have few dollars to work with,” Woodcox said.

The list, announced at a news conference in St. Louis, focuses on historic structures considered “at risk.”

Seven of the 10 spots on the most endangered list are holdovers from 2006, including the courthouses. New to this year’s list are the McCarty Street Houses in Jefferson City, the Ralls County Sheriff’s Office and the Yetter Building in Worth County.

The list, which is in no particular order, also includes the Odd Fellows Home in Liberty, the Andrew Baker House in St. Francois County, the Poplar Bluff depot and stairs, the Martinsburg Jail/City Hall/Firehouse building, and the Mullanphy Emigrant Home in St. Louis.

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