COLUMBIA — Once again, the home of John William "Blind" Boone was filled with music from the musician's old piano.

People gathered at 10 N. 4th St. to celebrate the completion and historical dedication of the "Blind" Boone home, which had been under renovation since 2001. The home was given a dedication by the Boone County Historical Society, as well as recognition from the Sharp End Heritage Committee.

As the doors to the old wooden house opened to tours, guests were greeted with surprise entertainment. 

John Reed-Torres, a ragtime musician, traveled from Los Angeles to perform at the home's grand opening. 

Reed-Torres previously played in Columbia at the "Blind" Boone Early Jazz and Ragtime Festival. 

Guests could listen to music as they walked through rooms covered in gold-patterned wallpaper. Portraits of Boone and his family members hung on the walls, and a statue of Boone playing the piano was displayed in a front room.

Many reflected on Boone's legacy in the music world. Lucille Salerno, board member emeritus for the John William "Blind" Boone Heritage Foundation, said Boone was one of the first musicians to start playing ragtime music, America's first original genre.

"New Orleans gets all the credit, but Missouri did it first," Salerno said. 

Salerno said that when Boone was sent to attend the the Missouri School for the Blind in St. Louis, he would run away and listen to piano music in the saloons. That is where he heard what would be inspiration for his music. 

"He was one of our first mega-stars on the piano," Reed-Torres said. 

Boone toured around the country for 40 years playing his music. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, Boone was an important part of the American music scene, Reed-Torres said. 

"He took elements from early black music, white folk tunes and Latin American rhythms and put them all together on a classical forefront. That was really revolutionary for his time,"  he said. 

Reed-Torres said Boone added elements of later black music, which would eventually lead to the creation of jazz. 

Reed-Torres said that part of what inspires him about artists like Boone is that while most ragtime artists faced adversity, they were still able to have a voice and produce happy music. 

"You get this beautiful music from their legacy. Even though their life wasn't easy, they made the best out of it," Reed-Torres said. 

Salerno said Boone's contribution to the music world raised the status of the home from local historical importance to national importance. 

Clyde Ruffin, president of the John William "Blind" Boone Heritage Foundation Board, said the community was surveyed and responded that the house should be used for children and the community.

It can also be opened for small private events. There is a media room in the back of the house that offers video tours of the home's upper floor for visitors who can't make it up the stairs. The foundation office is located upstairs and has period furnishings, Ruffin said.

The foundation will see to the operation of the home. The city owns the home and will maintain the outside structure, he said. 

From start to finish, Ruffin said spending on the restoration project exceeded half a million dollars. 

Salerno said she has been waiting since 1997 for this day. 

"It's an intoxicating day," she said. "What they've done to this house is a miracle."

Supervising editor is Natalia Alamdari. 

  • Fall 2016 Enterprise reporter. Graduate student, convergence journalism. You can contact me via email at cmw9m9@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at (573) 882-5720.

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