Naysayers might remark that Columbia is an architectural wasteland. We’re out to prove them wrong with this small sampling of the architectural cornerstones that Columbia can claim as its own.
The residential landscape of the city may range from subdivisions to one-of-a-kind custom dream homes, but architectural themes run throughout: Federal and Georgian, Craftsman and Tudor, Modern and more. Apartment buildings and public spaces enhance the architectural fabric of the community while paying tribute to the past. From the organic ideals of Frank Lloyd Wright, as seen through William Bernoudy, to the modernist designs of Eero Saarinen and early pioneers of local architectural development, the architecture of Columbia is anything but devoid of exemplary details.
1844 Cliff Drive
American architect William Bernoudy was born in St. Louis in 1910 and died in 1988. Bernoudy studied under influential architect Frank Lloyd Wright as one of the first apprentices of Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship program — what is known today as Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. In the early to mid-20th century, Bernoudy built many homes in the St. Louis and mid-Missouri areas, including eight in Columbia. Bernoudy’s designs reflect Wright’s tenet of manufacturing a harmonic existence of structure and terrain.
This house was designed by Bernoudy and his firm, Bernoudy-Mutrux, in the 1950s for Helen and David Pickney, and features a compact design based on triangular modules. The triangular motif is repeated throughout the home in facets such as the building’s perimeter design and in small, interior wood light fixtures. Construction is of Bernoudy’s signature materials of brick, wood, glass and concrete, with the addition of 2-inch-thick Cemesto panels for the outer walls. Cemesto is an insulted board product surfaced with cement and asbestos.
A split-level entry on the north side of the house welcomes visitors inside. Bernoudy and his original partner Edouard Jean Mutrux designed and built several pieces of furniture to fit the home’s angled rooms.
Other properties designed by Bernoudy dot Cliff Drive and neighboring McNabb Drive and Hilltop Drive. Further south, on South Rock Quarry Road, are two more Bernoudy-designed residences.
709 W. Broadway
After emigrating from Germany, architect Ludwig Abt first settled in Kansas City before finally setting down roots in Moberly. With an advertising motto of “Ludwig Abt, Architect, Ideas Furnished,” Abt was well-versed in the use of reinforced concrete and practical designs. He designed many residential and commercial buildings, including hospitals, churches and private schools in mid-Missouri. One of his most notable projects was the Fourth Street Theatre in Moberly.
The Colonial Revival home located at 709 W. Broadway was designed by Ludwig Abt and built by the Al Kangeiser Construction Co. for Eugene Heidman in 1919. Heidman owned Peck Drug, a Columbia drugstore, for more than 50 years. The home features a hipped roof and brick walls, and has a wide, symmetrical façade with a classically detailed central front porch that features slim Tuscan columns. Louvered shutters flank the wood windows and shallow scrolled classical brackets flank the wide overhang of the main roof and large front dormer. This home, like the rest of the structures on the middle blocks of West Broadway (400 through 800), is set back at least 100 feet from the road and has a large lot.
Abt also designed and built Sacred Heart Catholic Church located in downtown Columbia at 1115 Locust St. The Romanesque structure was completed in 1914.
Stephens College Firestone Baars Chapel
Finnish architect Eero Saarinen of St. Louis Gateway Arch fame designed Firestone Baars Chapel on the Stephens College campus in the early 1960s. Born in 1910, Saarinen sought to expand modernism’s vocabulary.
Located just east of College Avenue on Walnut Street, the chapel resembles a cube with a pyramid roof and features brick exterior walls, interior woodworking details, stained glass and a skylight, which together create unexpected lighting effects. Unfortunately, the chapel’s granite altar was changed during a recent renovation, and as a result, the chapel is not eligible for a place on the National Register of Historic Properties.
Carl Heinrich Boller and Robert Otto Boller owned the architectural firm Boller Brothers in Kansas City in the early 20th century. The two brothers specialized in theater designs ranging from vaudeville houses to movie theaters. They are responsible for the design of the Missouri and Hall theaters located in downtown Columbia.
The Missouri Theatre was built in 1928, and was inspired by Paris’ historic Opéra Garnier. The ornate interior reflects the baroque and rococo style of the Louis XIV and XV periods. The original, primary façade of the building was trimmed with terra-cotta tiles along the cornice and was ornamented with several concrete urns situated on the parapet. Several of these original urns remain visible along the parapet atop the north theater wall. Original details remain — the Belgian marble wainscoting, plaster reliefs, stained glass art panels under the single balcony and a 1,800-pound Italian chandelier featuring crystal prisms and etched panels.
The Missouri Theatre is owned by the University of Missouri and is central Missouri’s only remaining pre-Depression era movie palace and vaudeville stage.
Jamieson and Spearl
Designed in 1922 and built in 1926 by the architectural firm of Jamieson and Spearl, the university of Missouri’s Memorial Union is dedicated to those who gave their lives in World War I. The original plans included the Union as it stands today, with Memorial Union Tower flanked on the north and south sides with lower facilities buildings. The tower was completed in 1926, but the north wing wasn’t completed until September 1952; the south wing was finished in August 1963.
As an example of collegiate Gothic architecture, Memorial Union is a 143-foot-tall limestone structure with a combination of English Gothic architecture and sculptural decoration influences taken from American, Missouri and campus inspiration. The tower was constructed with two types of masonry. The precisely cut and polished smooth stones represent the techniques of ashlar masonry; the irregular-shaped blocks of interspersed stone represent rusticated masonry. Together, the two types of masonry provide an illusion that Memorial Tower is a Gothic ruin instead of a modern monument imitating a medieval building. The four corner piers found atop the tower form spires — slender, tapering conical structures often found on Gothic churches.
Although most Gothic stone sculptures were painted, the sculptural details on Memorial Tower were not. Included in these details are World War I Army soldiers and Navy sailors, 32 unique gargoyles, sculptural bands around archways, crowning canopies, three types of Gothic arches, embellished bald eagles, the Great Seal of Missouri, the U.S. Coat of Arms, circles with the letter “M” above each archway, and memorial plaques. Perhaps most obviously, the lavender-faced clock sits roughly halfway up on the tower. The original mechanisms of the clock are based on London’s Big Ben. Many motifs surround the clock.
The firm of Jamieson and Spearl, founded in 1918 by James Paterson Jamieson and George Spearl, is also responsible for a large majority of buildings built on MU’s campus, including Faurot Field, Elmer Ellis Library, the President’s House and the 1953 renovation of Jesse Hall.
Belvedere and Beverly apartment buildings at 206 and 211 Hitt St.
Nelle E. Peters
As one of Kansas City’s most prolific architects, Nelle E. Peters designed almost 1,000 buildings in the Kansas City and mid-Missouri area in the early years of her career in the 20th century. Peters was born in 1884 in Niagara, N.D. She established her own firm in 1909 and soon became known for her large apartment complexes constructed around courtyards. Two of her designs can be seen in the English-inspired Beverly and Belvedere apartment buildings in downtown Columbia. Designed by Peters, the apartments were built by Frank Dearing and the Beverly Realty Co. in the late 1920s.
The Belvedere was built in 1927 and features a Spanish Eclectic style that pages homage through Mission-style details such as the Belvedere’s multicolored tile visor roof, terra-cotta detailing, iron balconies and low-relief ornamentation. The three-story building consists of 30 apartments with one or two bedrooms.
According to a report compiled by the State Historic Preservation Office of Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources, the Belvedere building clearly interprets a developmental shift in Columbia to build multifamily apartments in the downtown area. Previous Columbia mayor, Darwin Hindman, once resided in the Belvedere building.
The Beverly building was designed in a Classical Revival style with substantial eaves and cornices and smooth facades with a primary decorative entry that is Tudor style. The building once hosted Babe Didrikson Zaharia, a track athlete who won two gold medals and one silver medal in the 1932 Olympic Games.
716 W. Broadway
The John N. and Elizabeth Taylor House
Built in 1909 as a single-family home for John Newton and Elizabeth Taylor, this home is part of the West Broadway Historic District. The Taylor House is an example of the Colonial Revival style that is popular in Columbia with its “Classic Box” form. This form has a symmetrical front façade, one-story front porch and two-story square or rectangular plan. Many of the houses on the Notable Properties List are classified as Colonial Revivals, which typically share the Taylor House’s combination of Queen Anne characteristics of simple massing and architectural detailing borrowed from 18th-century American architecture.
Built in the early 1900s, the house reflects the times in its departure from the ornamental designs of the Victorian era. The home’s exterior light fixtures are original leaded glass. The limestone porch railings and columns are also original. The 2½-story building has a high stone foundation and frame walls with a wide front porch. It is also part of the first subdivision of Columbia: the Westwood subdivision.
Jesse Hall and Courtyard Columns
The Francis Quadrangle located on the University of Missouri campus was one of the first areas in Columbia to be listed to the National Register of Historic places, added in 1973. The Quadrangle includes the area bounded on the north by Elm Street, on the east by Ninth Street, on the south by Conley Avenue and on the west by Sixth Street. The design of the open space is similar to a plan first implemented by Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia. Within the quadrangle are 18 buildings, Peace Park and the columns. The columns and Jesse Hall are perhaps the most recognizable aspects of the Quadrangle. The columns are the only remains of the original Academic Hall, which burned down in 1892. The six Ionic columns were designed by Stephen Hills, who also designed the Missouri State Capitol building. Jesse Hall, built in 1892 to replace Academic Hall, rises above the rest of the Quadrangle. Designed by Morris Frederick Bell, its white dome is one of the most recognized symbols of MU and stands nine stories above the Quadrangle.
509 Thilly Ave.
This American Craftsman style home was built for Abraham Lincoln Hyde and Emma Hyde around 1910. It was the third house built on Thilly Avenue. Lincoln Hyde was a professor of bridge engineering at the University of Missouri from 1903 until 1935. His first wife, Daisy Day, was the first chair of the MU department of home economics. In 1915, the couple had a son, Edward, and Daisy died during labor. Hyde then married Emma Fisher, a university librarian, and the couple lived at 509 Thilly Ave. until their deaths in 1949 and 1957.
The home is an American Craftsman Foursquare. It is two stories tall with a hipped roof and a square floor plan. There are roughly four rooms per floor. Load-bearing brick walls complement a high foundation constructed out of limestone from the same quarry as the stone used to build MU’s White Campus.
The details and facts compiled here are based on the work of the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office of Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources.
Check The Map
The Historic Preservation Commission of Columbia maintains an interactive Google Map of notable properties in Columbia. View the map at the Historic Preservation Commission page ofwww.gocolumbiamo.com/community_development.