Over the past decade, there has been growing support for historic preservation in our community. More and more people are recognizing the intrinsic value of our city’s historic buildings and the important role they play in Jefferson City.
These buildings have helped shape who we are, as individuals and as a community. These are the buildings we live in, work in, and go to school in. We walk by them every day, we eat meals in them and we worship in them.
For almost 40 years, Historic City of Jefferson (HCJ) has been working within the community to preserve the stories of these buildings. I’m excited to share not only the history of these buildings with you each month but also show have they’ve been saved and repurposed for use today.
A year ago, HCJ purchased the historic Tweedie House (601 East High Street) for office space. The story of this building started just over 50 years after the founding and incorporation of our city. The Tweedie family’s connection to the city started over 145 years ago and carried on for four generations.
John Tweedie was born in 1838 in Scotland, where he learned shoemaking from his father. John immigrated to the United States in 1856 and enlisted in the Union army. After the Civil War, he was married May 1, 1867, to Anna De Beruff.
In 1869, Tweedie moved to St. Louis to become foreman of a shoe company, then joined the A. Priesmeyer Shoe Company as a foreman in 1872. He moved to Jefferson City in 1874 to manage a new Priesmeyer factory inside the Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP).
In the 1870s, the state constructed factory buildings inside MSP, then negotiated for the use of prison labor. Shoe manufacturer George Corning testified in 1873 that his operation employed 70 inmates at a cost of $0.40 each per day, generating an annual profit of $5,000. Such testimony may have been what attracted the A. Priesmeyer Shoe Company to Jefferson City.
The A. Priesmeyer company enlarged its operation in 1889 and built a new factory just south of Lohman’s Landing in 1905. The four-story building with a basement employed over 400 people. In 1917 the company became known as the Tweedie Footwear Corporation. The business grew and thrived through World War II until manufacturing stopped in 1964.
In the 1880s, John and Anna Tweedie lived on the 700 block of E. High Street, just west of today’s High Street Retreat. Tweedie hired well-known architect Charles Opel to design his home at 601 East High Street. Opel would later design nearby Ivy Terrace for Governor Lawrence V. Stephens in 1893, and part of MSP as well.
Although Opel was the architect, Tweedie incorporated many of his own touches into the design of the building. Several of these features still exist today. You can still see the thistles carved in the stone above the first floor windows which would have perhaps reminded Tweedie of Scotland and his youth. The unique curved stonework around the front entry features a lizard and displays the Scottish affinity for stone masonry.
Due to the intricate designs throughout, the Victorian house is classified as being in the Queen Anne style which was popular from 1880-1910. The house was perfect for a local businessman wanting to exhibit his wealth and position within the community.
After the death of John Tweedie in 1908, his family continued to live at the home for a number of years. In the 1950s, the building was converted into the Dulle Funeral Home. It served as a hospice home in the 90s then in the 2000s the building housed Cole County Residential Services.
Each new business changed the historic building in some way. When HCJ purchased the building last year, the goal was not a full restoration. Instead, HCJ implanted the tactic of adaptive reuse.
Adaptive reuse is the process of repurposing buildings that have outlived their original purposes for different uses or functions while at the same time retaining their historic features. HCJ supports adaptive reuse as a way to save neglected buildings that might otherwise be demolished or left vacant.
Benefits of adaptive architecture reuse include:
Utilization of Quality Materials: Seasoned building materials are generally not available today. Close-grained, first-growth lumber that was used +75 years ago is naturally stronger than wood grown quickly today.
Increasing Sustainability: Adaptive reuse in inherently green.
Preserving the Culture: These buildings are part of our community’s history and memory. As the state capitol, they are also part of our state’s story.
HCJ has focused on rehabbing the original historic portion of the property which had not been utilized for some time. The front parlor has been revitalized and now houses the contents of the 1904 St. Mary’s Time Capsule for the public to view. The middle segment of the house which was once joined with the parlor to make one large room, will soon hold a public research library focused on historic buildings and properties in Jefferson City.
The annex, which was added in the mid-1900s when the property served as a funeral home, has been painted to better highlight the historic portion of the property. The first floor of the annex is available to rent as a community room for meetings or events with 30-40 people. The second floor of the annex currently houses architectural salvage, much of which was saved from buildings that were demolished as a result of the May 2019 tornado.
Through adaptive reuse, HCJ has been able to rehab and repurpose this beautiful historic building to serve our community today. The building and it’s historic architectural features remind of us of the people that once lived in our community and their story. Historic buildings like the Tweedie House help communicate our understanding of the past to future generations.