Recycling history: Materials from old house to get new life in museum project

·6 min read

Sep. 17—For more than a century, the stately Colonial Revival tucked into the trees on one of Joplin's busiest corridors has anchored what once was a quiet country estate.

But the Cypress Acres property at 3330 N. Range Line Road can be saved no more.

The 6,000-square-foot house and its surrounding 10 acres where the Hoffmeister family lived for 60 years and operated the Cypress Acres Tennis Club will soon give way to a multifamily housing development to be built by Schuber Mitchell Homes of Joplin, which is based across the street from Cypress Acres.

Despite its fate, the friendly looking three-story house with its prairie-style details that the Hoffmeister family and other advocates tried to protect will not disappear. Much like the house started, materials from it will be reused in multiple ways.

It is said that part of the wood used in the construction of the house came from disassembled structures that were used in the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.

Reusing materials

Now, many of the materials from the Hoffmeister house will be reused. A construction crew is currently working to harvest wood flooring from the Hoffmeister house in the restoration of three houses that are part of the Joplin Historical Neighborhoods Inc. project.

That project involves restoration of the homes built by early Joplin entrepreneurs Charles Schifferdecker, Edward Zelleken and A.H. Rogers in the area of Fourth Street and Sergeant Avenue as museum houses. It is a project being done by a trust involving David and Debra Humphreys. He is the president and CEO of TAMKO Building Products Inc., based in Joplin.

Cast-iron radiators and window hardware also are being removed from the Hoffmeister house for the museum project.

Brad Belk, community historian, is the preservation director and curator of the historic houses in the museum effort. He said that the Hoffmeister house could not be saved because of the cost to rehabilitate it but that it will provide vital materials needed for the museum project.

In addition, the Habitat for Humanity Restore will salvage a number of other fixtures and wood details of the Hoffmeister house that it will sell to the public at the store, 5201 N. Main Street Road.

"We are an extremely disposable society now," Belk said. "We have only one planet Earth, and when we make a decision which is irreversible to demolish a structure, in the essence of preservation we need to look at whether there are any components or building parts that could be reused or recycled. We are taking great pride in this, which is our third venture into reusing parts of a building that is going down."

Other uses

One of the things being obtained for the project is Carthage limestone blocks that came from the demolition of the Knights of Columbus meeting hall of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church, formerly located at 727 Byers Ave. The hall was dilapidated, and the Knights of Columbus organization did not have the funds to fix the building.

After the hall was leveled, limestone blocks used in its construction that are no longer quarried in Carthage were saved in case they were needed for repair of the St. Peter church. Church leaders agreed to provide some of the limestone for the restoration of the Schifferdecker foundation.

Wood flooring from the former Gahagan Paper Co. building at 1022 Wall Ave. was retrieved for the museum project after the building was acquired for use by neighboring Boyd Metals, 1027 Byers Ave.

More wood flooring will come from the Hoffmeister house.

Belk said floors in all three of the houses involved in the house-museums project will be repaired or replaced with the salvaged material. Replacement in the Schifferdecker house is necessary because of deterioration caused by a fire and the water used to extinguish a 1991 fire that killed the two members of the family that had long owned the house, Gertrude Mary Meredith Freeman, and her son, William B. Freeman.

Also being harvested from the Hoffmeister house are window locks, which Belk said is hardware of a style that cannot be found anymore. Storm doors and the house's cast-iron radiators will be taken for reuse in the museum project houses.

"So many of these things, the patents and the styles, if they work, you don't change it," Belk said. "So through the years there are so many pieces that you can't say, 'That's 1890s or 1920s.' They just continue to refabricate the same style. But we are very much a stickler on making sure that the items that we are putting in our houses are representative and authentic of that era."

All of the houses were built between 1890 and 1900. The Hoffmeister house was constructed between 1909 and 1914.

Material donations

"Without the gracious generosity of Schuber Mitchell, we would not have access to this," Belk said of the components he described as vital to the museum houses.

"We are really, really excited that there is going to be a long-term use for all these critical materials and the story of this home will live on through the Schifferdecker foundation for the next 100 years," said Joe Harris, chief executive officer of Schuber Mitchell. "We are excited to offer this gift and excited they are able to reuse these materials for the community and the future."

Terry Booth, manager of the Habitat ReStore, said the Hoffmeister house materials will benefit Habitat for Humanity and Joplin-area residents in a couple of ways.

"Everything we are going to get from the house we are going to sell in the store, and the proceeds will go to build new Habitat homes," Booth said. "There's old antique sinks. People redo those sinks and put them in houses today. There are antique windows and antique doors. We will take the stair railings and the bookshelves from the home's library. ... Some of those old architectural details are really unique" and could provide a special touch to someone else's house.

Quality materials

Robert Taylor of Taylor Brothers Construction Co. in Goodman, is doing the woodwork for the museum houses. He appreciates the materials that will be reused from the Hoffmeister house.

"Looking at it from a craftsman standpoint, a lot of the lumber you purchase today is not as quality as what old-growth lumber is," he said "It's a lot of work to reclaim it, it's time-consuming, but it's worth it."

Belk said some of the wood flooring, such as quarter-sawn oak taken from the second floor of the Hoffmeister house, will be used to construct intricately detailed floors that would have originally been found in the museum project houses.

Deciding what to do about the Hoffmeister house was difficult, said Terry Mitchell, of Schuber Mitchell. "We've looked at every option to try to save this house."

Belk added, "The cost is astronomical" to restore an old house. "And with all the moving parts that need to be addressed, you have to make a good decision on what you can do. I think the silver lining of this story is this ability to repurpose and recycle these great materials."

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