|Vol. IX, No. 2, 1996|
Dwellings of an Ozarks Village
|The Bellevue Valley of Washington
County, Missouri, was the first rural
place in Missouri away from the
rivers to be settled by Americans. It
was in the 1790's. A high
Scotch-Irish rural and village culture
developed there, Godly, prosperous,
tasteful, restrained. Caledonia was,
in religion, Protestant. Its Bellevue
Collegiate Institute (Methodist) was
one of Missouri's early non-Catholic,
non-St. Louis institutions of
learning. The Presbyterian Church
and congregation were early and
strong. The Masonic lodge was the
earliest in the state to have
continuous organization to the
present. Something of that culture
remains in its houses, examples of
which are pictured here.
Presbyterian Church, 1870. In pious Caledonia one might speak of the House of God without any suggestion of affectation. This elegant work of brick contains the finest details of design and workmanship---all very subtle--within the severe restrictions of its architectural envelope. To study it at length is to begin to comprehend Caledonia's special aesthetic.
Jane Alexander Thompson house, early 1850's. A Presbyterian Virginian, Thompson came to Caledonia as a young unmarried woman in the 1820's, shrewdly investing her patrimony in such a way as to become perhaps the town's leading merchant and estate administratrix. The latter enterprise succeeded well because she was related to most of the families in the valley, who placed their estates in her trusted hands for disposition.
Thompson built this house to be a residence and store. Note the separate store entrance in the second range from the left of the facade. The resulting asymmetry is so subtle in this full Georgian plan as to be scarcely noticeable at first glance. Two unmarried sisters lived out their lives with her here, one caring for the house, the other the orchards and gardens. For her part, Jane Thompson cared for business.
Ruggles-Evans-Dent house, early 1850's. This full Georgian house exemplifies the refinement and restraint characteristic of Caledonia's best buildings.
Its builder and first tenant was Martin Ruggles, a Massachusetts man who invested successfully in land, iron works, and other enterprises, enabling him finally to become the valley's most prominent proto-banker.
William Goforth Eversole house, early 1850's. Four generations of Eversoles lived in Caledonia and the Bellevue Valley. William Goforth was the second of those generations. The house of his son, Dr. George Eversole, is to the left of the camera.
A Virginia Presbyterian like his neighbor Jane Thompson, W. G. Eversole expressed his architectural heritage in this two-thirds Georgian plan house with characteristic Virginia high-shouldered brick chimneys.
Here are four examples of preservation: the Nathan Boone house as a state historic site; the
Ha-Ha-Tonka ruin as the central feature of a state park; the Gray-Campbell house relocated in a
multi-purpose urban park; and the Blansit house as a bed and breakfast inn.
Ha-Ha-Tonka fire, early 1940's. This great mansion, on a high bluff overlooking a large spring flowing into the Osage River in Camden County, Missouri, represents a certain urban image of the Ozarks. The Schneider family of Kansas City, wealthy from the streetcar business, envisioned the Ozarks as a kind of surrogate Scottish Highlands. They imported Scottish stonemasons to build a great hunting lodge here in the grand British manner. Use of the house was cut short by Mr. Schneider's accidental death. It subsequently operated as a hotel; but that business did not flourish. The place was too remote--no highway nor railroad were close by. When the Lake of the Ozarks was built in the early 1930's, Ha-Ha-Tonka, on the south shore, was effectively cut off from Kansas City and St. Louis.
After the fire, the ruins stood mute--and dangerous to visitors--until the 1980's when Missouri turned it and the surrounding land into a state park.
Gray-Campbell house, Springfield, Missouri, 1857. This vernacular Greek Revival house was build by a prosperous slave-owning family. Threatened in 1983 by highway building, it was moved two miles and reset in a multi-use city park, where restoration was accomplished by private civic groups.
Roof shingling festival for Gray Campbell house. Part of the restoration was reshingling with hand-rived oak shingles. While restorers were pondering the high cost of that project, a storm toppled a gigantic shingle oak tree in another city park. The Parks Department donated the tree, volunteer shingle rivers agreed to direct the project, and on a fine Saturday the public turned out to participate.
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