Vol. IV, No. 2, Fall 1990

The Gray-Campbell House

The Summer 1988 OzarksWatch was titled "Ozarks Dwelling: The Places We Call Home," and featured an 1887 photograph of the Gray-Campbell house reproduced again here. The photo-report on these two pages is an in-progress account of the Gray-Campbell in the fall of 1990, seven years after its rescue from imminent demolition by highway construction crews.

Few antebellum houses survive in the Ozarks. The Gray-Campbell house, built about 1854 by the two prominent Greene County, Missouri families for whom it is now named, stood on the Kickapoo Prarie southwest of Springfield, on the high ground north of the James River.

The Campbells, whose scion John Polk Campbell founded Springfield, were a substantial farming family who owned ten slaves in 1860 (slaves and land were accepted measures of wealth and prominence). The house is not the southern planters' house of myth; but it is surely closer to typicality than the great mansions of Natchez. It possessed two 16' x 16' rooms, each with a fireplace, plus a two roomed kitchen el with fireplaces, and a brick-walled cellar under the el. Its style was a simple vernacular structure of Greek Revival, termed the "first national architectural style." Outbuildings, including slave quarters, gardens, and an orchard, surrounded the house.

With the urban expansion of Springfield in the 1980s, the house, unusued as a dwelling since the 1950s, was "discovered" in a pasture through which the Kansas Street Expressway was to pass, in the direct path of the highway.

Through cooperation of the Springfield-Greene County Historic Preservation Society, the highway department, and the Springfield Department of Parks, the main block of the house was saved, moved two miles north to the City's new Nathanael Greene Park, and given a second life as the Gray-Campbell Farmstead. The rear porch and el were too fragile and deteriorated to save. The brickwork had to be reconstructed. The roof also had to be replaced. In a twist of fate a great historic shingle oak tree in another Springfield park was toppled in a storm just then, and supplied the wood for a new hand-rived roof.

Outbuildings, from other old Ozarks farm places, have been added: a log kitchen and a log "corn crib" which serves for artifact display.

The complex has been finished, furnished, and opened by the Friends of the Gray-Campbell House and the Junior League of Springfield. The displays and the interpretation are excellent. Numerous groups and hundreds of schoolchildren visit, and are served by a capable staff of volunteer docents.

An annual September event is the Lifestyle Exposition in Nathanael Greene Park, of which the Gray-Campbell Farmstead is the centerpiece. OzarksWatch attended the exposition just past, and snapped the other photographs on these pages.



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