Architectural Annals of the Grand River Valley

by John Albury Bryan

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(Talk given before Grand River Valley Historical Society in Chillicothe, Oct. 11, 1962; and before Chillicothe Rotary on Oct. 12, 1962)

Before white men made any permanent settlements in the southern part of what is now Missouri, a bold Frenchman named Sir Etienne de Bourgmond brought his company of fur-traders, missionaries, and soldiers to the mouth of Grand River and built his Fort Orleans which was intended to be a stronghold against the Spaniards out of Santa Fe who were trying to penetrate the lower valley of the Missouri River. By 1727 Bourgmond had completed about twenty buildings, all of them of logs, to be sure, but set in the ground upright, like stockades instead of being laid horizontally as in the later American log cabins. The fort was built on high ground more than a mile north of the Missouri River.

The Grand River Valley was one of the last parts of Missouri given up by the Indians. Not until the year 1833 did the remnants of the Shawnee Tribe move out and go to the Shawnee Mission in what is now Kansas City, Kansas. Then there were many settlers who moved into this region, especially from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. Even before 1833 one white man had built a cabin on a hill about a mile west of present-day Utica. His nearest neighbors were the Shawnees in their village which was located on the-high ridge-in what is now the west end of Chillicothe, and the name "Chillicothe" was the name of their last village in this State. The meaning of the word has been given by some historians as "Our Big Home Town" and by others as "The Town Where We Live." Another white settler who arrived before the Shawnee exodus was Dr. Thompson who built a large house of ‘home-made brick near the present village of Edinburg, Grundy County.

The night the stars fell -- November 11, 1833 -- found encamped within the present boundaries of Livingston County the Bryans, McCoskries, Austins, and Blands from Tennessee, whose settlement was the high ground between Ludlow and Mooresville, near the western boundary. That same night found Abram Cox, from Ohio, and others camping on the banks of Medicine Creek, in the eastern part of the County. At least one member of the Bryan family had some idea of what a city looked like. She was Isabelle Ross, the wife of Andrew Bryan and great-grandmother to most of the Bryans now living in this area. She had been born and reared in Philadelphia.

Fort Orleans and its surrounding settlement had been abandoned by the year 1740, and nearly a century passed before another white man attempted to build a settlement near the mouth of Grand River. In 1836 the Reverend James Keyte, a Methodist preacher and an Englishman, settled on the north side of the Missouri River where he built a town which he named Brunswick Terrace in honor of his home town in England. Brunswick grew rapidly due to the heavy traffic on the Missouri River; and soon there were wholesale houses of various kinds supplying the wants of small merchants in Utica, Dawn, Chillicothe, Spring Hill, and Trenton. The most important enterprise in Brunswick from the standpoint of architectural development was a steam sawmill. It furnished dressed lumber of walnut and oak which was hauled to Chillicothe for some of our first pretentious builddings, including the home of Thomas Ross Bryan, built in 1850, in the center of the block now bounded by Polk, Locust, Elm, and Ninth Streets.

At Utica and Edinburg it was cheaper to make brick from the abundant clay in those neighborhoods than it was to travel forty miles to Brunswick for structural lumber. Several large homes of brick were erected in Utica shortly after that town was platted in 1837 by Mr. Matson, from Utica, New York. The first school house in the town and the Baptist Church were also of brick-the church-being in use at present.

In 1866 Alexander Noble opened a brick manufacturing plant in Chillicothe; and in 1900 there was the Currin Brick Yard and also one operated by the Seiser brothers. In 1841 a courthouse built of brick was erected in the Square donated for the purpose by John Graves. He owned nearly all the land south of Polk Street and Thomas Ross Bryan, by 1870 owned the greater part of the north of the center line of Polk Street. He being the eldest son of Andrew and Isabelle Ross Bryan, inherited the greater part of his father’s holdings at the time of Andrew Bryant’s death in 1845.

John Graves’ brick house was in the section of town that was known as Gravesville-south of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad tracks. In later years that house was the home of the Gill family and it was razed only a few years ago.

Perhaps the oldest brick to be found in Chillicothe today are in the three-story building just south of the Stein building, on the east side of the Square. When the old courthouse was torn down in 1865, the commercial firm of Bell Moore bought the brick from the County Court and re-used them in their three-story building. They are of the attractive rose color so often found in Virginia and the Carolinas.

When Trenton was made the County Seat of Grundy County, in 1844, a two-story brick courthouse was built on the northwest quarter of their present Courthouse Square, and it remained in use much longer than the one in Chillicothe of 1841 style. The present Courthouse in Trenton dates from 1904 and it is in good condition today. Another of the notable brick buildings in Trenton erected soon after the close of the Civil War was the Central School, on North Main Street. It had a large round tower, which contained class rooms on three floors, and the top was the setting for a four-face clock which could be heard all over town when it struck the hours.

The most distinctive building that Trenton has ever had is built of brick. It is the Jewett Norris Memorial Library, built in 1890 from plans by a distinguished architect from St. Paul, Minnesota, A. F. Gauger, whose grandson, Earl V. Gauger, is now a prominent architect in Washington, D. C., Mr. Norris, a former resident of Trenton before moving to St. Paul, not only paid the full cost of the building $35,000 -- but left an endowment of $15,000 to buy books annually. This is supplemented by a special tax levied by Grundy County for maintenance of the library.

Nearly all of the early settlers in this Valley were concerned with the matter of schools for their children. During the earliest years those who wanted to educate their offspring sent them to the homes of preachers who had settled in the communities, and those men conducted private schools which were sustained by annual subscriptions by the parents. One of the most noted of those early preacher-teachers was David Wright who came to Trenton after the close of the War with Mexico, in which he had served as a soldier, and besides being the first pastor of the Christian Church there, he conducted his subscription school and also launched the first newspaper in the town, a weekly which he called "The Christian Pioneer."

The first public schoolhouse in Chillicothe was a log structure which stood where the present County Jail is located. Originally it had been the Courthouse, but when the new brick one was built in 1841, the County Court turned the log building over to the School Board, and it remained in use until after the close of the Civil. War.

The first college in the Grand River Valley was named Grand River College. It was owned by the Baptists and the location was the village of Edinburg, in Grundy County. Classes opened there during the middle 1850’s and continued for nearly fifty years. The Baptists also built the first brick school building in Livingston County, during the late 1850’s, which was known as Beauchamp’s Seminary. It was on East Webster Street, near the two-story brick Baptist Church, at the southeast corner of Webster and Elm Streets. About 1867 the Beauchamp family sold the school to Professor Long and wife, of the Christian Church, and for the next twenty years it was called Long’s Seminary, Mrs. Long was a daughter of David Wright, the pioneer teacher of Grundy County, previously mentioned.

Shortly after the close of the Civil War the Village of Avalon was platted atop a beautiful mound in the southeast part of Livingston County. The majority of the families there had come from Ohio and belonged to the sect known as United Brethren. They organized Avalon College, and put up a two-story brick building with Mansard roof. The College operated there for about twenty-five years, when it was moved to Trenton, in Grundy County.

Even before Avalon College moved to Trenton, the Seminary conducted by Prof. Long and Mrs. Long at Chillicothe had closed its doors. Prof. Long went to Palmyra, Missouri to take over St. Paul’s College for Boys when the Episcopal Church of Missouri decided to discontinue its responsibility for that institution.

The time was then ripe for a new college in Chillicothe that would provide a short course in teacher training; and the opportunity was met by Allen Moore who in 1890 formed a local corporation that built two three-story buildings in the northwest part of town. The land was acquired from Lydia Ann King Bryan, widow of Thomas Ross Bryan, and the main building was of red brick, with white stone trimmings. It had a tall steeple above the main entrance, and to the north of it a smaller tower or belfry for the bronze bell which rang out the hours for classes, and also the hours for the meals which were served in the large dining room on the first floor. Besides the many classrooms, there was an assembly hall, with stage, on the third floor, and chapel exercises were held there at nine o’clock on school days. To the south of the main building was a three-story frame structure built in L-shape, which was called The Ladies’ Residence. It provided rooms with individual small stoves that burned wood, and a large woodbox, fastened to a block and pulley at the corner of the courtyard enabled the ladies to hoist their cordwood to the upper floors. With that sort of exercise, the ladies felt no need for a gymnasium. In a few years the school installed central steam heating for that building as it had in the main building; and in.1902 a new three-story building for the School of Telegraphy was built just north of the main structure. It was designed by William Garver, the resident architect of Chillicothe, and a Mansard roof was used., this providing a third floor above the two floors of brick construction. This was the last example of the Mansard roof in Chillicothe. Then in 1904 Mr. Garver designed a brick residence for President Moore at the north end of Monroe Street, west side.

In 1910 the course for teachers was discontinued and the name of the school was changed to Chillicothe Business College. The music, art, and elocution courses were also discontinued, while bookkeeping, stenography and telegraphy became the three courses offered. The school grew and shortly after the close of World War I, a new dormitory was built on the east side of Monroe Street. During World War II, the school was taken over by the U. S. Army as a place for training in Army office work. After it was turned back to the owners, the number of young men who enrolled was greatly reduced in numbers, because of the draft; and with the young men being scarce, the young women did not enroll in large numbers as they had done before. Public high schools were beginning to give business courses, and the time came when the Moore family decided to close the school. Except for a brief time in 1955-56 when the campus was the property of Belin University there has been no activity in the former busy corner of Chillicothe.

The Industrial Home, or State Training School for Girls, came into being about the same time that the Chillicothe Normal opened its doors. It is a tax supported institution for wayward girls, and the first building was named Marmaduke Cottage, in honor of the then Governor of the State. Other buildings were added, including a school building, and by 1910 there was quite an impressive group on West Third Street, with ample grounds. During the half-century since then, Marmaduke Cottage, Slack Cottage, and several others of the old group have been replaced by more modern structures, in a variety of styles. All three of the men who have been resident architects in Chillicothe since the late 1880’s have at one time or another designed one or more buildings for the group. Those men were James Fulton, William Garver, and the late Warren Roberts.

Utica, in Livingston County, had the distinction of putting up the first three-story-brick building erected as a public school. It remained in use for more than fifty years.

By 1872 even the town of Breckenridge -- much smaller than Chillicothe -- had commissioned the leading architect of St. Joseph, W. Angelo Powell, to design a three-story brick schoolhouse, of which they were very proud, because it had that latest architectural touch, a Mansard roof. In the same year that Breckenridge completed its building, Chillicothe acquired its first Mansard roof when the Sisters of St. Joseph, from Carondelet, Missouri, finished their Academy in the northeast part of town. By that time the Board of Education in Chillicothe was getting ashamed of its inadequate facilities for the growing public schools, and proposed a bond issue that would take care of buying a block of ground and erecting a first-class, three-story brick building, from plans by a trained architect. Captain Archibald McVey was then a leading merchant and member of the School Board. It was probably through his influence that Charles B. Clarke, a St. Louis architect was commissioned to design the Central School. He estimated the cost at $35,000 and that amount aroused some stiff opposition. However, the bond issue won and the new school building was regarded as the finest in the State outside of St. Louis. It had a hot-air furnace, the first one seen in the Grand River area. There being no waterworks in Chillicothe then, inside toilets were out of the question, and in lieu thereof, two very ornate brick privies were built at the south end of the school block, with the walks leading from the back door of the schoolhouse to the privies discreetly screened by means of lattice panels.

Our story of school buildings would not be complete without mentioning the high school in Princeton, Mercer County, which was under construction when President James A. Garfield died in September, 1881 from the assassin’s wounds. The community felt that it would be a mark of respect to insert bands of brick connecting the tops of the windows. The building remained in use for forty years or more.

The City Hall in Chillicothe burned in 1876, and the authorities there decided to re-build immediately. Having been so well pleased with Architect Clarke work on the Central School, they sent for him to design a new and impressive building to serve the needs of Chillicothe, not only with offices for the elected officials but an auditorium, with a balcony and a stage, dressing rooms and curtain so that theatrical performances could be given there either by the many traveling troupes or by a home-talent cast. Perhaps the most famous of the many actresses who appeared on that stage, between its opening in 1877 and its closing in 1899 was Madame Francesca Janauschek (pronounced Yahnushek). She was one of the great actresses of the nineteenth century, and played with Edwin Booth in Boston. Before her triumphs in the United States, she had won acclaim in nearly all the capitals of Europe. Of course she played only one night in Chillicothe, but that was near the end of her career, in the early 1880’s.

The largest and best hotel in the Valley during the nineteenth century was the Leeper House in Chillicothe. It was a three-story, red brick building, with ornamental iron balconies on both the Washington and Webster elevations, and an iron cresting all along the top of the two fronts. Traveling salesmen whose territory was North Missouri tried to spend the week-end at the Leeper House, not only because of the excellent meals but because of the steam-heated rooms and the Turkish baths in the basement.

Lesser hotels were Fisher’s at Dawn, which was popular during the summer not only for the excellent meals but for the fishing in nearby Shoal Creek, just below the dam of Whitney’s Mill, at the entrance to the Village of Dawn. Another favorite hotel for summer vacations was Dr. Fiske’s at Mooresville Springs. The meals there were good because both Dr. Fiske and his wife came from the vicinity of Nashville, Tennessee. The curative waters of the adjacent Springs were another attraction, and the several daughters in the Fiske family brought fashionable people not only from Chillicothe, but occasional ones from St. Joseph and Kansas city.

Of stores in the Grand River Valley, Chillicothe had the largest and the most unusual in its architecture. In 1887 Architect Charles Clarke from St. Louis came to Chillicothe again to provide a new home for the Smith & McVey Dry Goods Company, who operated under the name The New York Store. The exterior of the three-story brick building was more Russian in style than any other in this part of the State, having four bulbous domes, two on the front elevation and two on the alley wall. All were made of stamped sheet metal, simulating round-tipped slate, and had a tall, sharp finial. The most original feature of the building was the glass floor across the wide main entrance on Locust Street, by means of which the toy department in the basement was lighted during the day. There were large slabs of very thick glass laid on iron beams. The entrance was so much of an innovation that many timorous persons preferred to stop at The Farmers, Store, on the west side of the Square where the floors were of wood. However, it was the Farmers’ Store that installed the first passenger elevator in a retail establishment for this area. The third floor of the New York Store building had a ballroom and adjoining club rooms which were leased to the New York Club, an exclusive social organization with members drawn largely from the Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches. Methodist, Baptist, Christian, and Christian Science families did not then approve of dancing and card playing. After the turn of the century, most of the churches took a more liberal view of such recreation, and in order to accommodate the more largely attended dances, a new building for the Elks Club, at the southeast corner of Elm and Jackson Streets, was built in 1909 and on its second floor there was a large ballroom that took care of most of the dances given in Chillicothe up to about 1925.

Among the many country stores in Grand River Valley, perhaps none lasted as long and had so widespread a patronage as Henry Bushnell’s establishment at Dawn.

The largest and best railroad passenger station that was ever built in this section is that of the Milwaukee Line at Chillicothe. Erected in 1889, it is built of Milwaukee brick (a light colored product of the Wisconsin City) with base, window sills, and gutter supports of cut stone. An octagonal tower graces the center of the two-wing structure, and when the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul trains were the best entering Kansas City from Chicago, this division point also maintained a small park adjoining the station on the south. The space at the north end of the building was reserved for cabs, omnibuses, and the terminus of the mule team street cars.

The most picturesque of all the railroad stations in this part of the State during the 1890’s was that of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul at Ludlow. Built in Swiss style, with a four-room apartment on the second floor for the use of the railroad agent, it had deeply overhanging eaves, supported by ornamental brackets of carved wood. Adjoining the station on the west was a well-kept small park, with beds of red geraniums outlined with arched willow twigs, while to the north, across a gully spanned with a small bridge, was the croquet ground. It was of clay, hard and smooth as a tennis court, and shaded on the west by a giant-size sycamore.

All the towns and cities in this Valley have boasted for more than a century a large number of well-built and well-maintained homes. Perhaps the largest and finest during the last quarter of the nineteenth century was that of William Lane, in Chillicothe. Occupying about 150 feet frontage on Washington Street, at the southwest corner of its intersection with Polk Street, it was built in 1879, in a style that would have done credit to any of the suburbs of St. Louis at that time. There were fourteen large rooms, besides the long, wide halls and several verandas. Two-story bay windows, and an ornamental cornice were other features; and the wash-house, woodshed, privies, and the fences were all designed to be in keeping with the house, with ornamental work in the same Eastlake Style.

In Trenton at about the same time, Colonel John Shanklin built a very comfortable two-story frame house, with even more ample grounds, in the southeastern part of town. Recently it has been bought and modernized by one of the younger members of the Cullers family,

Two of the best homes in Chillicothe that were built during the 1880’s were the Dr. Edgerton residence, northeast corner of Locust and Polk; and the Lewis A. Chapman residence, northeast corner of Polk and Monroe Streets. Both are still standing but have been made over into apartments, which means that the roofs have been marred by the numerous antennae for the television sets. Those horrible attachments have done more to uglify the cities and towns of the Grand River Valley than anything else.

The church that has more atmosphere inside and outside is Grace Episcopal at Chillicothe. Built in 1870, it was designed by John Beattie, a prominent architect in St. Louis.

The Baptist Church at Utica is another old one that has a fortunate setting, so that it can be seen for a long distance.

The most notable church in this region prior to the Civil War was the Baptist a two-story brick structure, erected in 1858 at the southeast corner of Elm and Webster, as previously mentioned in connection with Beauchampts Seminary. Then in 1866 the First Methodist Church was built on the same plan, and had the additional distinction of a mural decoration back of the pulpit by Halsey C. Ives who was then a local artist. In later years Mr. Ives became internationally known when he was in charge of the Division of Fine Arts at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893; and again in the same position at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, 1904. The present City Art Museum in St. Louis was founded by Mr. Ives.

The best modern church in the Valley is the Lutheran at Brunswick, which is the work of the late Theodore Steinmeyer, St. Louis Architect.

Of courthouses in this region, the best in design and construction is that of Livingston County, at Chillicothe. It is the work of the late Warren Roberts, done in 1912. Unfortunately too many of its surrounding elm trees have recently been removed, so that at present the best looking courthouse grounds in the Valley are those at Trenton, where trees, lawns, and flower beds have remained undisturbed since the plan of 1904.

And now we come to a type of building that generally is not mentioned in a talk on architecture in any community, the county jail. It so happens that our neighboring City of Gallatin, on the West Fork of Grand River, has one that is so unusual in design that a recent issue of the national Journal of Architectural Historians, carries a picture and description of it. Built in 1888, from plans by Eckel & Mann, St. Joseph architects, it is one of only four surviving jails of that type in the country. Inside the brick structure, of octagonal shape, is an iron cage divided into cells shaped like pieces of pie, which are fastened to a large cylinder so that it can be turned, giving access to only one cell at a time. Before I close, I must tell you (in a whisper) that Professor Lundeents article is entitled "The Rotary Jail."


21 Benton Place

St. Louis 4, Missouri

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