Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Gundelfinger House

Few know the story of the gray apartment building on the southwest corner of Broadway and Elm. It begins with Daniel Gundelfinger, son of Bavarian immigrants and well-known High Street hardware merchant. He built it as his home in 1892, three years before the Herman Tanner residence on the south end of that block was built. The newspaper said the two houses were “very elegant,” noting that they bookended what was becoming “one of the [city’s] most impressive residential blocks.” The spacious, two-story brick Gundelfinger home had a deeply recessed, arched entrance on Broadway; prominent stone lintels; ornate, dentiled cornices; mansard roof with decorative metal parapet and a hexagonal turret; and two huge metal urns flanking the entrance that identified it as a hardware merchant’s home.

Left: Gundelfinger House ca. 1920 (Schroeder family collection); right: Gundelfinger Building, 2018 (courtesy Matthew Holland).

All the other houses in the 600 block postdate the Gundelfinger house and are now on the National Register of Historic Places, but the Gundelfinger house is not. Daniel built the house for his wife, the Bavarian-born Margaretha Hoehler (age 17 when married), and the happy couple moved in. But she became seriously ill, and in a few months, in 1893, she died. Her funeral was held in the parlor of the new house.

Daniel then married Bertha (Bessie) Roesen in 1895, and family life resumed in the big house; they had two sons in short time, Daniel W. and Karl H. But tragedy struck again: in July 1906 a probate jury declared Daniel of “unsound mind and incompetent of conducting his affairs.” He was committed to the State Hospital in Fulton and died there in November 1907. What would become of Daniel’s dream house?

The Roesen family was intermarried with the Moerschels, who had the big Capitol Brewery. Brewery owner Jacob Moerschel lived in the Gundelfinger house while he was building his Villa Panorama mansion on Swifts Highway in 1907–1908. A much smaller home was built on the property, 602 Broadway, for Bertha and sons. (Now it’s a driveway.) In 1916 the “Bertha Gundelfinger property” (two houses at 600 and 602 Broadway) was sold for $2,500 to neighbor Nelson C. Burch. The widow moved to rural Columbia to live with her son Karl, who, incidentally, committed suicide at age 44.

Between 1931 and 1935 the Gundelfinger house was transformed from a spacious single-family residence into four apartments. The Broadway entrance was eliminated, and a new, pointed-arch, canopied entrance was opened facing Elm Street to access the two apartments on each floor. The lintels were removed and all windows made smaller, changing its appearance from Victorian to Craftsman. The mansard roof, dentiled cornice (minus parapet), and turret were retained. Also, a two-story addition was fused to the back of the house, with a matching pointed-arch, canopied entrance for the two new apartments.

Today, the six-apartment Gundelfinger Building looks as if it has been this way all along, but its history is betrayed by the roofline—the addition lacks a mansard roof. The building’s address was changed from 600 Broadway to 301 and 301½ W. Elm. The original brick exterior was faced with tan stucco, mirroring the tan stucco just added to the catty-corner brick German Methodist Church building that had also been converted into apartments. The Gundelfinger’s stucco has since been painted gray.

Since the 1930s the apartments have served as rental residences of Missouri state office professionals, including an assistant attorney general, lawyers at the Supreme Court, state representatives, and professionals with the Tax and Public Service commissions, State Auditor, Education and Revenue departments, Board of Health, and Missouri Highway Patrol.

The 126-year-old building is now owned by Matt Holland and Eric Hemeyer (H&H Property Management), who are renovating it inside and out to make it once again a sought-after residence in Munichburg, Jefferson City’s historic Southside.

©Walter A. Schroeder, 2018

This piece originally ran in the Jefferson City News Tribune as an ad for Oktoberfest on September 23, 2018.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Hickory Street Neighborhood Park

Lots in the Southside’s Woodcrest Addition, between Monroe and Jackson streets and Hickory and Union streets, went on public sale in September 1914. The potential growth in this first platted addition to Jefferson City after cars became common prompted the Jefferson City School Board to consider opening a new elementary school there. The School Board purchased land for a new school in the 1200 block of Monroe. In 1919 Dr. Charles P. Hough donated four lots in the new Woodcrest Addition to the School Board for a playground, stipulating that it be named the “George W. Hough Playground” to honor his father. Hough also donated $1,500 for playground equipment. These four donated lots are on the southeast corner of Hickory and Adams streets.

As the years passed, the School Board never built a school on the Monroe Street land and sold it in 1946 to the Missouri Osteopathic Association to build Still Hospital, which has since become Capital Region Medical Center. The School Board, however, did not sell its playground at the corner of Hickory and Adams—it conveyed it to the City of Jefferson for management as a neighborhood park, an arrangement that continued for many decades. Then, in April 2016, the Jefferson City School District, concerned with potential issues of liability, deeded the land to the City of Jefferson for $10 for continued use as a playground.

Now 99 years old, the Hickory Street Park is one of the oldest tracts of public land in Jefferson City specifically designated as a park. (Charles’s brother Arthur Hough donated the land for Hough Park in 1917.) The well-maintained, shady, popular playground in Jefferson City’s Southside is today a shining example of what a neighborhood park should be.

By the way, Hickory Street was not named for the tree but for the 7th US president, Andrew Jackson, nicknamed “Old Hickory.” “Jackson” was already in use for the next street east of the park. Adams Street is named for the 6th president. The next street south of the park is named for the 10th president, John Tyler. The next street west of the park is named for the 5th president, James Monroe. Children using the playground are surrounded by US history—four presidents!

©Walter A. Schroeder, 2018

This piece originally ran in the Jefferson City News Tribune as an ad for Oktoberfest on September 16, 2018.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Broadway Street Sextuplets

The Broadway Street sextuplets are at least 110 years old this year! Six nearly identical houses are located in a half block of Broadway, at numbers 711, 713, 715, 717, 719, and 721. Passersby notice their similarity even at a glance! The sextuplets were built at the beginning of the nineteenth century and by 1908 all had been occupied as rental residences of Southside families of modest incomes. In time, they were sold to individual owners.

The six were built before cars were planned for by homebuilders, resulting in them being so closely set on 30-foot-wide lots that the few feet between them allows no space for a driveway. Instead, when their inlot (901) was subdivided, a 10-foot-wide alley was designated behind all of them, from Tanner Way to Ashley Street. The alley—originally used for horses and wagons—still gives the residents access to the back of their narrow properties. Each lot had a wagon shed, now a garage, in the rear. The two houses on the ends were built slightly larger on their back sides than the other four.

The six are styled like many other small houses for working-class families at that time in Munichburg. Each is a red brick, one-and-a-half-story structure with stylized window framings and doorways. Each has a gabled projection on its north side that is complemented by a small inset porch on the south.

Just as human sextuplets will evolve different personalities as they mature, these architectural siblings, under individual ownerships, have also evolved differently over the decades. Some have been enlarged by second-floor rooms, and some have new siding, new porches, or additions in the back. As property values are increasing in Munichburg, several of the sextuplets are being updated and renovated to be comfortable, small, owner-occupied residences or investment properties. Their original similarity as sextuplets continues to attract the attention of people passing by.

©Walter A. Schroeder, 2018

This piece originally ran in the Jefferson City News Tribune as an ad for Oktoberfest on September 9, 2018.