The Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation has listed three St. Joseph buildings as “watched properties” for 2017.
The Alliance publishes annual lists of “properties in peril” and “watched properties” in order to drum up awareness for historic structures that are in danger.
The Appliance Man Rentals building, Livestock Exchange building and Cracker House were three of the 12 “watched properties” for this year.
The Appliance Man Rentals building at 222 S. Fourth St. took the No. 1 spot on that list.
The building, which was built in 1847, has been for sale since June and Owner Richard Monson was considering having it demolished.
On Friday, Monson basically donated the building to the Historic St. Joseph Foundation.
“Essentially, I contributed the building to the foundation and then they are going to take over the stewardship of the building,” Monson said.
Monson did not charge any cash for the building, but likely will receive some sort of tax break for the donation.
He said the building needs work to get up to code but has a strong foundation. He has worked in the building for nearly 40 years and did not want to take up the task of upgrading it.
However, he is happy to see that the building will be preserved.
“I’m glad that they are wanting to do this,” he said. “They are in a situation where having the building is just a start. They are going to find that many things need to be done but at the same time an awful lot of the work can be done with sweat equity, and a lot of the volunteers are very passionate about that.”
He said the building does have a storied history in St. Joseph.
“It’s approximately 140 years old, it’s had a lot of different businesses,” Monson said. “It was the first newspaper building in town, the Gazette was here. During that time Eugene Field worked in this building. We don’t know if he wrote any of his famous poems here, but he might have.”
President of the Historic St. Joseph Foundation Cole Woodbury said the building had other historical significances.
He said the paper there was started by William Ridenbaugh, and that the press he used was possibly sunk on a ship that was possibly carrying Mormons as they searched for new lands to the west.
He also said that an employee who worked in the building invented the Aunt Jemima pancake recipe.
“You could say every building is historic because it’s had some history in it, that’s not necessarily what makes it important,” Woodbury said. “What’s important is the fact that in today’s throw-away society, we just can’t keep affording to throw away our wonderful old property.”
The second property on the list is the St. Joseph Livestock Exchange building at 4603 Packers Ave.
That building also found new ownership earlier this year and is currently under the wing of the Friends of St. Joseph group. The group has significantly cleaned out the building and is working toward stabilizing it.
The group asked the City Council for an allocation of $150,000 earlier this year, and that amount was granted over the course of three years at the recommendation of Mayor Bill Falkner.
The Cracker House, which made No. 8 on the list, has also seen recent work beginning in January of last year. Work has included concrete work at the front of the building and stabilization of the walls.
Current Project President Leah Swindler said the next big step is to replace the roof, which was removed, exposing the upper layers of brick and interior to the elements.
Swindler estimates that another $60,000 will be needed to “mothball” the building.
“Myself and all the other volunteers, I know we really want to see this project succeed, but we need support to do that,” Swindler said.
She said it is important to protect the historic work in St. Joseph.
“We have an amazing architectural heritage here,” Swindler said. “There are building skills here and styles that we’ve lost. We have a great opportunity here to incorporate lost building trades into the history and knowledge of St. Joseph.”