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Friday, October 9, 2009

Mo' from Rock Port MO: M.O. for Historic Preservation and Downtown Development

Atchison County Memorial Building, downtown Rock Port, MO
Reading up on Rock Port, Missouri, the first 100% wind-powered town in America, I happened upon the website for Rock Port's Atchison County Memorial Building. Built in 1921 in honor of World War I veterans, the building is a National Historic Landmark, says the website, but it is falling apart. Rather than see this impressive edifice crumble, locals have formed a non-profit foundation to restore the Memorial Building and protect its place as a cultural center for the community. The building still gets some use as a theater, and the Foundation wants to keep it going. The Foundation's goals include fixing up the building inside and out, installing a veterans museum and walk of honor, and establish an ongoing maintenance endowment.

The first phase, exterior renovation, is expected to cost $548,000. Subsequent phases will rack up another $1,750,000.

So Rock Port, town of 1300, looks at that big price tag, and do they say, "No way—we can't afford that"? Nope: they start fundraising. The Foundation has raised $200,000 so far, including a number of individuals and groups who have each kicked in more than $5000, and they are applying for various tax credits through the Neighborhood Assistance Program.

Masonic Temple,
downtown Madison, SD
So look at that building: impressive architecture, big columns, a unique building in the middle of town that everyone sees as they pass through. A building that can establish the identity of a the downtown area and the entire community. A solid old building that a community effort could restore to grandeur.

Sound familiar, Madisonites? Anyone getting any bright ideas?


  1. Am I to understand that the citizens of Rockport kicked in all that money voluntarily? Do you mean to tell me that their government didn't extort it from them?

    Gee, that sounds like a cool place to live! I'm not sure I'd be that generous. Maybe I need to work on my thinking, or start smoking whatever they're puffing on down there.

    What is it, I wonder -- what X factor -- that makes some people care more for the common good than others? How can I get a dose? Should I start going to church?


  2. Unfortunately, while the Masonic Temple was going through foreclosure, it suffered extensive water damage in the floors from a broken water pipe that ran for an extended period of time.

    It is not built to be handicap-accessible due to so many steps up and steps down, and while it has classic lines and great pillars, there is a mountain of brickwork, pillar, roof, floor and wall repairs that could be cost-prohibitive.

    Perhaps a public open house would allow folks to see for themselves how this building has deteriorated over the years and decide if there is any purpose it could serve, or whether razing the building and replacing it, or simply using the land for additional parking, would be a better current use.

    Not every building is suitable for rennovation.

    Rod Goeman

  3. I've seen the inside. I know it's a mess. I know it would take a huge investment to fix, on the order of the money the folks in Rockport are raising.

    And just in case the owner decides renovation isn't feasible, don't forget: we have a Plan B.

  4. For more on turning old buildings into vibrant community centers, check out the Smiley Building in Durango, Colorado. It runs on solar power!


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