Most Missourians are probably familiar with Kemper Arena in Kansas City … but maybe not the Charles and Bettie Birthright House in Dunklin County. Both are on this year’s endangered properties list issued by Missouri Preservation. The nonprofit group is hoping the public will learn the value of these places and is calling attention to nine endangered properties in the state. It has placed 12 more on a watch list.
Missouri Preservation members gathered at The Historic Frank J. Sommer House in St. Joseph to unveil the endangered properties and watch lists. Spokesman Bill Hart says locals call the residence “the Cracker House.”
Sommer invented the saltine cracker, Hart says, and owned a bakery down the street called the American Buscuit Company, which later merged with the New York Biscuit Company forming the National Biscuit Company … Nabisco.
Hart says it’s not the board that decides whether a place is historically significant though. It takes nominations from communities about which places are historically significant to them.
After properties make the list, Missouri Preservation members work with the communities in fundraising and rehabilitation efforts.
The Sommer house, incidentally, is vacant, and is owned by an absentee owner who lives in Florida. Community members are trying to buy the home to turn it back into its former glory and be of many uses to those who live in St. Joseph.
Missouri Preservation had planned to unveil this year’s list at the historic Leeper Hotel Chillicothe, Bill Hart says they were too late.
Days before the unveiling of the list, razing began on the structure. He says it’s disappointing, but they know they can’t win them all, and this was one of those times. Andrew Leeper built the hotel in 1884. It was the anchor of the block’s merchant area, housing Chillicothe’s first bank as well. Renovation efforts were underway until a few years ago.
The Triple A Building in St. Louis — known locally for its oval shape and glass walls — is a historic icon to some, an eyesore to others. Missouri Preservation has added the structure — which is slated to be razed to make way for a CVS drug store — to its annual list of endangered buildings. Mayor Francis Slay has said he does not support tearing it down for a CVS, but the fate of the building is still unknown.
The 2012 List of Missouri’s Most Endangered Historic Places (in no particular order) is as follows:
1. The Frank L. Sommer House (“The Cracker House”), Buchanan County
2. The AAA Building, St. Louis City
3. The Lyric Theater Building, Phelps County
4. Barns and Farmsteads of Missouri Statewide (Including the Fulton State Hospital Barns, Callaway County)
5. The Pouncey Building, Jackson County
6. The Diamonds Café & Truck Stop, Franklin County
7. Kemper Arena, Jackson County
8. The Charles and Bettie Birthright House, Dunklin County
9. School Buildings of Missouri Statewide (Milton Moore School in Kansas City, Jackson County; Central Elementary School in Boonville; Cooper County; Lyon School in St. Louis City)
On the 2012 Watched Properties List:
1. The Jefferson School Cape Girardeau County
2. Historic Bridges of Missouri Statewide (Riverside Bridge, Christian County; Route 66 Bridge, St. Louis County.
3. Former Missouri State Penitentiary Complex, Jefferson City
4. The Wheatley-Provident Hospital Building, Jackson County
5. Lexington Municipal Auditorium, Lafayette County
6. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, Lafayette County
7. St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railroad Depot, Madison County
8. The Russell Hotel, Mississippi County
9. Delmo Community Center, Pemiscot County
10. Rock Mechanics Laboratory/Former Missouri, Phelps County
11. Trachoma Hospital Building
Missouri Preservation, founded as the Missouri Heritage Trust in 1976 and now known formally as Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation, is Missouri’s only statewide non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, supporting, and coordinating historic preservation activities throughout Missouri. Missouri Preservation provides programs in the areas of education, recognition, and advocacy. Educational programs include the annual statewide preservation conference and regional workshops. Its primary recognition program is the Statewide Preservation Honor Awards, presented yearly at the State Capitol, and its chief advocacy program is the annual announcement of Missouri’s Most Endangered Historic Places.