The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
The Anderson House, reputedly the oldest house in Warrensburg, is gone and people are upset. An 1850s house, in deplorable condition, was auctioned off Monday. A few years ago the Magnolia Mill, a National Register site, was dismantled. The Martin Hotel, the First Baptist Church downtown and the Methodist Church (North) on Market Street are long gone, as is the home of Confederate General and 5-term U.S. Senator Frances Marion Cockrell. CMSU has been a leader in razing old buildings, including the lodge at Pertle Springs. Indeed, Warrensburg has a poor record of preserving its historic sites.
When considering historic preservation one needs to take a couple of things into account. First, not all buildings are worth saving. Some are beyond repair, much less restoration. We’ve been through the effort; had we delayed working on our 1867 farmhouse for another year or so it would have been fit only for the bulldozer. If a building is to be saved, its structural integrity is more important than its historic significance.
A bigger obstacle, in my opinion, is building and safety codes that make it uneconomical to repair a building and bring it to current standards. One example is lodging rules put into place this year by the MO Department of Health which will virtually stop the conversion of classic mansions into profitable bed and breakfast homes. Most codes aren’t designed or interpreted to find a workable solution for the historic building. While I do not believe that government has any duty to fund renovation or restoration efforts, neither should it stand in the way of the private restorer.
If Warrensburg is not to lose more historic buildings, it needs to get ahead of the game. Identify the buildings before they approach collapse and make the needs known to the community (and the Historical Society). The time to have saved the Anderson House was 5 years ago; maybe those interested would not be standing around and wringing their hands over the loss today.
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