Historic Preservation Celebration

April 11, 2022


DEFINITION: continuing or long-lasting

When you say St. Joseph, you could say history, the Parkway, just the right-sized town, laid-back attitude… You could also say awesome architecture, and in April, that’s just what many locals, experts, old-house-lovers and guests will be saying too.

On April 30, 2022, the St. Joseph Landmark Commission and the City of St. Joseph will host the Preservation Celebration at the Shakespeare Chateau and nearby Killackey Park. The event represents a long-time passion in St. Joseph for historic preservation. Founded in the 1840s, St. Joseph’s unique location along the banks of the Missouri River brought entrepreneurs, expansionists and business owners in droves to the scenic bluffs. By the early to mid-1880s, St. Joseph’s population was booming and block after block of mansions and ornate commercial buildings were dotting the skyline with towers, cupulas, widow’s walks and many other classic elements.

The preservation interest and movement has continued to drive several initiatives to celebrate and restore, ranging from neighborhood associations to websites dedicated to historic homes and the past location of the Missouri state preservation conference. Tax incentive programs and the transformation of graceful loft buildings from manufacturing spaces to new lives as trendy (but character-filled) apartments has also built momentum. Annual events, like neighborhood homes tours, the Harris-Kemper fall walking event and the Beer Walk for the Arts also help take the vision upward and onward, inviting residents to really observe the gems of this mid-sized city. Kids are part of the movement, too, with kid-friendly architecture programs and events hosted by the St. Joseph Museum.

But appreciating and being inspired by historic architecture is really about taking notice of the finer details, all year-round. The event April 30, part of the incredible Hall Street, invites guests and attendees to observe from a big-picture view the inventory of historic architecture found in St. Joseph that rivals any city in the nation.

Kim Schutte, Historic Preservation Planner for the City of St. Joseph, explains why the Preservation Celebration, and ongoing efforts, are so important to the character of St. Joseph. “We have a community of creative and dedicated people who are undertaking projects to preserve that architecture and the history associated with it. We know that old buildings matter because they are where our stories live. The historic architecture is a reflection of the people who have lived and worked in this city over many decades. These buildings, and the people associated with them, created the unique identity of this city,” says Schutte. “Everything we can do to bring more attention to those things is good for St. Joseph.”

An appointed group of volunteers, the Landmark Commission, works alongside the City of St. Joseph to help guide projects and protect historic properties and districts. This commission of nine serve a three-year term across many roles, including recommending landmarks or historic districts for designation, making recommendations for ordinances and acquisition of historic properties and increasing public attention and awareness for cultural preservation in St. Joseph. (And about 50 other critical tasks.)

The Preservation Celebration will honor area residents who are working hard to maintain the city’s historic character, and will also serve as an educational opportunity. Information will be available for those roll-up-your-sleeves individuals who want to know about preservation best practices, like how to repair old windows or architectural elements. The Shakespeare Chateau itself is awe-inspiring enough, even alongside preservation experts and chances to mingle with fellow old house enthusiasts of all skill levels. The Chateau was built in 1885 for Nathan Phipps and Elmarine Ogden, when St. Joseph was known as “Queen of the River Cities.” High atop a bluff looking down across the city and the Missouri River, 809 Hall is one of several mansions in the National Register Historic District known locally as Millionaires’ Row.

Gracia Pinzino, Landmark Commissioner and Preservation Celebration Committee member, shares her thoughts on being as broad and inclusive as possible in the awards.  “We want to recognize and thank people on all kinds of wonderful projects, big and small, that have been done or are being done in preservation. Our awards will reflect that historic preservation doesn’t just mean Victorian homes and gingerbread, as many people may think. We are trying to make historic preservation more approachable and appealing to all – because it affects us all.”

Like most all events in St. Joseph, there’s an open door attitude. There’s no charge to attend, and curious observers and old house fans are welcome, as are those who just want to be involved and volunteer for set up and take-down.

“There are a lot of good things happening now in preservation, and for the future. With a casual street party atmosphere at the Preservation Celebration, located along historic Hall Street, we hope to marry the two: past and future. We hope to pique more interest and capture a younger audience so that they can take up the torch going forward,” says Pinzino.


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