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Tag Archives: missouri history

The Zook House

Zook HouseIn its day the towering Queen Anne Victorian on Washington Street stood as one of the grandest homes in the little town of Oregon, Missouri.  The home was built around 1880 for the early Oregon settler Zook family.  Levi Zook opened the first bank of Holt County with James Scott in 1867.  Zook and Roeker Bank began construction August 14th, 1913.  To this very day, one of the few remaining commercial structures in Oregon, Zook and Roeker bank still stands as a reminder of the family’s influence on the town.  From the road you’re immediately captivated by the homes bold large corner turret and decorative Gothic Revival Style gables and spire.  Even the smallest details such as the horse hitch near the road give little reminders of days gone by.

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What you can’t see from the road is the very first in-ground swimming pool and bath house in Oregon. Inside, you are greeted by a large staircase while a second servant’s stair case runs along the back. The home still has three sets of pocket doors on the main level. The second floor has five true bedrooms with 3 more bedrooms on the third floor which in its heyday served as a ballroom.  From one of the third floor bedroom windows (the three state window), you can see rolling hills for miles which are actually located in Kansas and Nebraska.

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For many years following the residence of the Zook family, the home was repurposed for the use as a senior home around the 1970’s.  During this time some rooms were added, most of which have been removed.

The home has been owned for 24 years by its current owner Debbie who due to unexpected circumstances was unable to see her dream of restoring the property come to fruition.  She explained, “When we first bought the house I used to walk through the rooms and try to imagine what life was like for the Zook family and how they would have lived.  I could just feel (positive) life in the house as we were working on it.  The rooms were so BIG it was hard not to stop and daydream about them.  The possibilities are endless.  I realize at this time in my life those dreams are meant for someone else, but I will always love this house”.

Recently Debbie has been contacted several times by the Chief of Police of Oregon and the city’s attorney with surmounting pressure to have the home demolished.  The idea of losing one of the few physical remnants of the area’s history combined with her own passion for the home has lead her to not only decide to sell the property, but to price the property at $10,000.   With Bob Brown, Payne Landing , Riverbreaks and Squaw Creek Wildlife refuge all in a stone’s throw of the home, Debbie believes that once the home is restored it will become a financial asset for its owners if used for either a hunting lodge or bed and breakfast. “It’s a beautiful quiet town with so much to offer with hunting, fishing, relaxation, bird watching, and mushroom hunting.  The leaves change into red and orange in the fall, the town turns into camouflage”.   There are eight additional conservation areas just in the county itself.

To contact Debbie for information on purchasing the property, she can be reached at:

816-456-2669 or 816-836-4054

 

Past to Present Research LLC

The Future of the Past is in the Stewardship of the Present

 

 

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Places Matter: Bridges

Katy Bridge, Boonville, MO

Katy Bridge, Boonville, MO

Each year the Missouri Preservation Conference picks a fantastic historical setting for three full days of classes, presentations, and events. The 2013 Conference brought preservationists, historians, and architects from all over the state of Missouri to the grand little town of Boonville. Not surprisingly, we had the pleasure of sitting in on several presentations about the preservation of…bridges. It may seem like an odd, niche topic, but the host city’s recent dealings with saving their treasured Katy Bridge provided the ideal opportunity to start up the conversation. And to say that their story is inspiring is an understatement.

The Katy Bridge – so named after the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, MKT for short – was constructed around 1931-32 as a replacement for another bridge used by the railroads since 1873. The vertical-lift span bridge was the longest of its kind at the time of its construction. More about the history of the bridge and its preservation project can be found here. Although it hasn’t operated since the mid-1980s, the bridge has found use as part of the Katy Trail that caters to pedestrian and bicycling traffic that drives much of Boonville’s tourism. In 2005, though, the Union Pacific Railroad proposed the demolition of this bridge, in turn inspiring locals to rise up together and form the Katy Bridge Coalition aimed at saving and preserving it instead. After 8 years of a campaign to raise funds and building a brand image centered on their beloved landmark, the organization celebrated a major victory when the City of Boonville finally took ownership of the Katy Bridge.

Why did they fight so hard to save this old, rusty bridge? Why does this place matter to them, and why should it matter to us? In fact, why should any bridge be worthy of this kind of attention?

Well, let me tell ya.

  • Tourism potential. Looking at Boonville’s example, it’s easy to see that bridges could become part of outdoor attractions for nature-lovers, bicyclists, Sunday drivers, picnickers, photographers, etc. They may not directly generate revenue, but it has the potential to bring consumers to the surrounding communities.
  • They can be aesthetically pleasing. Take, for instance, this beauty in Washington County, MO, built in 1856. What a treasure! I’m not saying that all bridges are this beautiful, but many historic bridges (particularly those that were built before the mid-twentieth century) are both feats of engineering and works of art.
  • They offer an unadulterated glimpse into our history. Most bridges are left unaltered after their initial construction, save for a few repairs here and there. As a result, they are a blast into the past, showing details not utilized in modern design and engineering.

In the state of Missouri there are 24 historic bridges listed on the National Register of Historic Places – including the Eads Bridge in St. Louis – and another 150 are considered eligible for designation. For a comprehensive list of historic bridges across the nation, and to find one near you, visit Bridgehunter.com.

Liana Twente

Past to Present Research, LLC

 

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Urban Legends

We huddled around the tiny screen of a friend’s smart phone as the buffering circle spun to load the anticipated You Tube video.  Garbled sound and low light came into place to reveal a local reporter dressed like Robert Stack from Unsolved Mysteries, standing in front of the grand three-story Second Italian Renaissance Revival mansion.

I’d heard the legend.  Anyone who knew of the house had.  This was our latest research project.  The reporter quickly made his way through the first floor and into…the BASEMENT!  Scared yet?  Yeah, I wasn’t either.  He moves through the tunnel to the large vault like door…Ahhhh!!!  A wall!!!  A wall covered in flat thin metal sheets, and behind that wall?  Al Capone’s hits, of course.

The homeowner gave us a tour as well.  The non-creepy version.  We walked through the tunnel, which leads to a stairway into the carriage house, through the door and all stood gathered at the famous tunnel’s end.  I had to pipe up.  I lived outside of Chicago for a couple of years.  “There’s a river right over there.  They would have got a brick and some rope and…” Everyone got the picture.

So maybe Al Capone had been in that house.  The original homeowner had ties to Chicago.  He was also a Doctor of “Special Medicine” and Capone could have used his services.  Beyond that, it’s simply an Urban Legend until fully, and I mean fully verified.

There’s the home that claims to be part of the Underground Railroad, the many that claim Jesse James hid here or President Truman played cards there.  We include these legends in the final book, we just blatantly disclaim they are unproven.  Sometimes we can verify a story, which is quite an exciting event giving faith to orally shared history throughout the generations.

As for what is behind the wall at the end of the tunnel?  I don’t know.  The homeowner got behind a small portion of it once only to have several wheel barrels full of garbage and debris to haul out.   If I had to guess of anything spectacular in there I’d pick some bootlegged whisky.  However, that’s my personal guess and the legend is plenty mysterious enough without me adding to it.

Audrey L. Elder

Past to Present Research

 

 

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