Vernacular Architecture in
Rural and Small Town Missouri:
Howard Wight Marshall
Copyright 1994, Curators of the University of Missouri
Reproduced by permission of the author
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The Conservation of Culture
Conserving a community’s heritage is the responsibility – and
challenge – of everyone. As communities across Missouri renew efforts to
rejuvenate local economies, we look with new eyes at our own architectural
legacy. This legacy is right under our noses, yet many town councils,
county commissions, state and federal agency staffs in Missouri, and
planners of all kinds are just beginning to appreciate and consider the
full range of buildings and landscapes in and around a town, beyond the
well-known historic sites and old downtown areas. All this is wonderful to
see, and long overdue in our state.
The purpose of this book is to define and discuss vernacular
architecture: those traditional structures built by local people using
time-honored methods, learned through apprenticeship and shared experience,
and usually without the services of professional, academically trained
architects. It is hoped that this overview of traditional/vernacular
architecture, even one that for present purposes excludes our larger
cities, may encourage citizens, researchers and planners to consider more
carefully the commonplace buildings that infuse Missouri’s towns and rural
areas with distinctive character – a real “sense of place.”
We must save and improve the usefulness as well as the beauty
of our existing buildings. To continue simply demolishing older structures
and then building new ones is wasteful: that is a typically American habit
which causes the people of other nations around the globe to wonder at our
shortsightedness. Long after we are gone, the built landscape we leave
behind will tell the story of our place and time, testifying to values and
shared ideals. The signposts to our heritage will be the cultural
landscape – the greatest portion of which is made up of ordinary buildings
and familiar places.
Cultural Conservation and the Role of Citizens’ Groups
To nourish and safeguard our heritage, we must study vernacular
buildings and landscapes – the countless but fast disappearing ordinary
structures in our towns and counties. The reason is quite simple: we must
preserve a broad sampling of our architectural history. If we continue
demolishing old buildings willy-nilly, many crucial buildings will be gone
and whole chapters of our national experience will be lost.
The idea of “cultural conservation” can be helpful. Cultural
conservation encourages us to treat our history as a living heritage,
rather than trying to freeze-dry the past behind a museum door or perfectly
restored mansion. Doing this means that we try to capture all records of a
historic building or street. The available records range from intangible
memories (gathered by interviewing people for their stories about their
town and lives) to more obvious sources such as courthouse records. All
historical contexts should be studied, from physical space to individuals’
attitudes, broadly held ideas of community history, and formal
architectural history and theory.
Cultural conservation includes these goals:
– To identify and document a community’s various features of
traditional culture through research and careful planning.
– To analyze and interpret our work and publish reports (in various
media) for the benefit of others.
– To encourage governmental decisions on land use, policies, codes
regulating development, etc., that respond to the community’s concepts of
history and heritage.
– To develop programs and materials for public education, and to
help people better understand and appreciate their special place and
heritage through curriculum development, exhibitions and public programs.
– To bring different disciplines together to share ideas and work
in common cause – such fields as art history, archaeology, local history,
folklife studies, environmental design, sociology, urban planning,
anthropology, historic preservation and geography.
Cultural conservation is one of the more stimulating movements of the last
decade or two, and it is bringing fresh air (and a good amount of
democratization) into the historic preservation business. Planners and
leaders nationwide have been pushed to develop broad, versatile and widely
relevant projects. Some effective work is being done by federal agencies
such as the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution and the
National Park Service. In Missouri, much is accomplished by such
organizations as the Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation
Program, the University of Missouri Museum of Art and Archaeology’s
Missouri Folk Arts Program and other units of MU, the Missouri Highway and
Transportation Department’s program of recording historic sites threatened
by new projects, Southwest Missouri State University’s Ozark Studies
Center, Southeast Missouri University’s undergraduate courses in historic
preservation, the U.S. Forest Service’s cultural history staff,
preservation and landmarks organizations in cities like St. Louis, Kansas
City and St. Joseph, and the excellent statewide citizen’s group called the
Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation.
Missouri’s planning councils, county commissions and citizen’s groups can
benefit from relationships with university research centers, county
historical societies, historic preservation professionals, downtown
revitalization experts, living-history museums and organizations, and
various governmental agencies. We need to work together in common cause
and to seek help from many quarters if we are going to maintain our
architectural legacy for future generations. Help can be forthcoming from
elected officials once we remind them of the benefits of preserving local
culture. Government policies and political goals come not only from the
particular interests of our elected and appointed representatives and
commissions, but from the understandings we as citizens provide from our
community base as well.
Shapes of Everyday Life
Vernacular architecture is traditional architecture. It gives
a visible face and functional core to local patterns, ethnic and regional
character. In our efforts to read this character through the everyday
buildings around us, we look for recurring meaningful patterns. Traditions
in vernacular architecture may last for generations, but they do change
over time as social, economic and technological conditions change. To
follow these changeable patterns, researchers have sorted vernacular
buildings into sets of types, based on form, which demonstrate their
evolution across time and space.
For researchers, “type” differs from “style” in vernacular
architecture. A building’s type – floor plan, placement of chimney or
stove, height – is stable over time. Distinct patterns of vernacular
buildings can be traced to earlier times and places, and we are sometimes
able to detect the probable origin for types of buildings we had previously
thought to be simply “American.” Vernacular types are regional or local
and tend to change slowly. Style changes more frequently and reflects
national taste seen in the mass media. While style is of course grounded
in the customary ideas of earlier generations, it refers to elements of
decoration and ornamentation which often originate from the nation’s most
creative contemporary artists and architects. To put it another way,
traditional builders work within tradition, while academic designers
attempt new versions that go far beyond and may even seem to mock a
community’s shared tradition. Buildings can be placed in categories of
fashions and styles by studying qualities of decoration and radical
difference. In vernacular architecture, style typically has less to do
with a building’s function or use of interior space than does its type.
Vernacular architecture often has local or regional patterns
based on familiar traditions in design, construction, decoration and use.
It often (but rarely exclusively) employs local building materials. Most
stores, roads, houses, bridges, barns, warehouses, and so on take their
form from the needs of everyday life, work, and commerce in the region or
community where they were built. But people choose building styles and
types for reasons. They may want a building with a popular style to make
an impression on the neighborhood, to express well-being and success, or to
reflect the fashion of the day; this is high-style and popular
Traditional buildings also may display flashes of the style and
ornaments of the age, such as Georgian, Greek Revival, Gothic, Mission
Revival or Colonial Revival. These broadly popular styles reflect national
changes in taste. Stylistic ornament is characteristically applied as a
sort of mask or Sunday clothes, put on the exterior of an otherwise humble
building. The special architectural style that dresses up a vernacular
building is a vital element in the building’s social and cultural identity.
Downtown areas or “Main Streets” often provide examples of how
ornamental styles are used in vernacular architecture. Many older downtown
buildings strongly reflect local patterns: typically, Main Street was
built and rebuilt by generations of pioneers and then business owners who
worked to establish a secure, prominent position for their community’s
economy. Unfortunately, new developments or reconstructions of downtown
buildings usually imitate styles from other parts of the United States
(witness the Willamsburg, Virginia, “colonial” revival style). These
projects have denied and erased the local traditions of cultural regions
like the Boonslick, Little Dixie, the Rhineland and the Bootheel. Familiar
threads of local personality are cut, and future generations will be sorry
that the fragile narrative of authentic local history was lost.
Too often, a town thinks it has to provide a new mall for the
new Wal-Mart instead of asking the corporation to rehabilitate a vacant but
serviceable downtown warehouse, store or factory. The mall is a
magnificent marketplace, but with its franchises and international logos,
it has virtually no local historical context or community personality.
Yes, the mall is itself a landmark, but one that symbolizes interchangeable
Symbols are important. In rural and small-town Missouri, old
ideas are very much with us. For example, we have inherited a deep-seated
concept that Greek- and Roman-looking classical columns lend dignity and a
sense of success and power to the front of a farm house or the entry on a
brand-new suburban bank. Americans love grand columns and classical
pediments, from the massive limestone on the county courthouse to flat
vinyl nailed as a decorative motif on the porch of a ranch-style house.
Symbolic features can become so rooted in building patterns
that they live on after their original purpose disappears. Take for
example the large fireplace in the new suburban house. Its original
cooking and heating functions gone, the fireplace continues to be built
because a hearth has symbolic values for millions of people – and offers
the correct place for the ritual hanging of Christmas stockings and the
placing of family photos.
Traditional builders learn their trade through apprenticeship
and by imitating admired models and artisans rather than through formal
education. Rather than being called an architect, the designer of a
country store, a gas station, a railroad crossing house or a coal mine
tipple may have been called simply a builder, contractor, craftsman,
bricklayer, carpenter, stone mason, or other such term.
One feature that sets vernacular design apart from high-style
design is the degree to which the client and other members of the community
participate in the architectural process. In vernacular architecture, the
forms are often familiar. Neighbors understand what is being built and
why. The contractors have built similar buildings and their work is
attuned to the needs of their clients. This sometimes means there is less
room for creativity in the job than in high-style design, but that is
expected in traditional building. Decorative details and variations can
still be applied to give the building special character.
People live in environments and not merely in buildings. We build our
environments, and their relationships with other environments are
important. Vernacular buildings often reflect an intention to conform to
accepted values in the community. Folk builders naturally and often reuse
parts of old structures or entire structures as they expand and tinker with
their landscapes. People take advantage of local climate and terrain. To
be conservative is not necessarily to be old-fashioned or resistant to
Missouri’s Heritage of Traditional Buildings
Traditional buildings in Missouri range from Native American dwellings of
natural materials to the vertical-log-walled houses of the old French
settlers and the vast barns of the pioneer farmers; from the fine Georgian
and Federal “I houses” of early statehood to split-foyer homes of the 1970s
and the contemporary interpretations of styles like “Victorian” and
“Colonial” in the 1990s. Vernacular building is well represented in
structures that may seem to be high-style, yet exhibit strong elements of
local and ethnic cultural heritage, such as the Victorian town house, the
community school building, the mail order catalog bungalow and the county
One vivid theme in Missouri’s traditional architecture is the influence of
Old World ethnic communities, particularly from the pioneer era up to the
1950s. While few if any Native American dwellings remain from times before
the arrival of Europeans (notwithstanding natural rock shelters and caves),
many early structures erected by French, British, German-speaking and
African-American builders still stand. In most cases, we do not know the
specific builders and designers who contributed to the evolution of
Missouri’s towns and rural landscapes. Occasionally, we do learn about
individual vernacular builders, and these occasions are always fascinating.
Most historic buildings in any town or region are vernacular.
While we often take it for granted, the commonplace built environment is
crucial if we are to preserve the essence of a community’s special
history. At the end of the 20th century, we are beginning to appreciate
everyday architecture and to see the messages ordinary old buildings
convey. Understanding and conserving all kinds of buildings and places
will be important if future Missourians are to see their history
The growing numbers of people who study the customs in our
lives — old buildings, basket making, gravestone symbols and epitaphs,
quilting, gospel music singing, old-time fiddling, ethnic cooking and the
like – do so for reasons. Some of us wish to persuade people that it is
important to conserve the many different features of our traditional way of
life. We need a more complete and more honest account of life in the past
in order to leave a fuller and less biased history of our time and place
for future generations.
When we grapple with our architectural legacy and the pressures
of commercial development and other changes, we have two options, said
architectural historian Spiro Kostof: “We can create replicas of what is
gone,” or we can “set the pace and scale of our destruction.” If we only
build flashy replicas of our true legacy, as in a brightly colored but
counterfeit reproduction of a Victorian store front, we will leave a
confusing impression. Replacing a run-down 1940s building with a faked
1890s story-book building helps no one learn anything truthful about their
town – unless it is the lesson that the world of business takes the path of
least resistance as it profits from demolition and rebuilding over and over
There are outdoor living history museums where pioneer life is
reenacted in designed villages filled with antiques and polished-up old
buildings. Reenactments can be educational if done correctly, since a good
museum is not assumed to be “truth” but rather is taken to be much like a
well-researched historical novel. However, the risk in the pretty,
nostalgic pioneer villages, theme parks and country craft malls is that
outsiders and future citizens will not be able to tell the difference
between replicas and authentic local architecture. That is not good.
Make-believe is not history.
We can help guide change in our towns through good planning,
efforts in historic preservation, and cultural conservation. We may, in
fact, choose the buildings, streets, monuments, landscapes, outdoor
sculpture and other kinds of artifacts that we consider important in our
town’s heritage. In addition, people’s memories are tremendously
important. All of us are carriers of invaluable oral history. The story
recalled of how the electric company forced people off the river bottom
land to build the hydroelectric project or the flood control reservoir, or
how the old man made chairs, or the log house that once served as a
stagecoach stop – these become valuable heirlooms.
Let us look at architecture, landscapes and landmarks as
showcases of our culture and heritage – the heritage we all share as well
as the heritage that reflects the experiences of individual groups. Our
built environment offers one of the best means to study culture, because
buildings are physical artifacts that remain relatively stable through time
and so preserve a visible account of the past. We need to look at
structures that embody a community’s sense of history, whether they do so
deliberately (statues, memorials) or unintentionally (farmstead layout,
vernacular house symmetry).
We need to help guide the march of progress if we are to leave
a usable history for those who follow us. Communities must get involved.
Federal agencies, which have sometimes been the inadvertent foe of the
small town, must be lobbied and coaxed to better help local civic
organizations. Perhaps most important, planners and consultants must learn
to listen to the wisdom behind the stories, opinions and complaints of the
everyday people who contain and continue the legacy of Missouri’s splendid
rural communities and small towns.
Millersburg, May, 1994
Vernacular buildings on the courthouse square, Fayette (Howard
County). The red brick I house at right was built in 1830 and was a
hatter’s shop. The house has been reconstructed and successfully nominated
to The National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s official
catalogue of significant sites of archaeological, architectural and
historical interest maintained by the National Park Service (Department of
the Interior). Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are by the author.
A French vernacular house in Ste. Genevieve, discussed in Building a House in 18th Century Ste.
Genevieve. Ste. Genevieve, MO: Pendragon’s Press, 1984.
The single-cell house type is the basic building block of
Anglo-American vernacular domestic space. The small one-room house
(single-pen/single-cell) is based on medieval British Isles dwelling spaces
and was used in the English colonies of the Massachusetts Bay and the
Virginia Tidewater. While it could be built from various materials,
perhaps the essence of this house type in America is the log cabin, one of
the most symbolic, mythical and widely recognized forms of American
vernacular architecture. This dynamic form of building with logs became
popular because settlers found an amazing forest of fine hardwoods from
which wooden structures, fences and artifacts of all kinds could be made.
Building with wood, whether in log or varieties of frame construction,
became the dominant “American” tradition wherever appropriate timber was
2A: This cabin was a slave dwelling on a tobacco plantation
along the Boonslick Trail east of Columbia (Boone County), and is said to
have been built in 1818. Moved and reconstructed in 1935, it is an
outstanding example of a “real log cabin,” yet it should not be considered
a complete restoration.
2B. Log single-cell house of similar age, with original
weatherboarding under 20th century asbestos sheathing. (Millersburg,
A reflection of British Isles “long houses,” two single-cell
house spaces put together create the double-pen house type. The “hall and
parlor” variant, sometimes with a small foyer or hall between the two main
rooms and typically built of frame, is one of the most familiar kinds of
3A. Restored early 19th century hall and parlor house with
Georgian symmetry and ornament. Arrow Rock (Saline County).
3B. Early 20th century frame hall and parlor house.
Montgomery City (Montgomery County).
Thomas Hickman House, c. 1819, near Franklin (Howard County).
The “Georgian cottage” house type was popular with some of the early 19th
century Anglo-American landowners in the decidedly Southern cultural
regions of Little Dixie and the Boonslick. It upheld the tradition of
elegantly simple Georgian symmetry, and 18th century British design style
that greatly influenced the facades of American vernacular houses in the
19th century. As architectural historian James Denny has shown, the
Georgian cottage (two rooms deep and one story tall with a wide central
hallway and impressive woodwork) eventually lost out to the popularity of
the more assertive I house type. See Denny publications for discussion of
this important Anglo-American house type reflecting the handsome
combination of vernacular form and stylistic fashion in early Missouri.
The I house type replaced the medieval long house and the
imposing stone tower house in Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Britain to become the
symbolic and protective dwelling of well-to-do landowners from the late
14th to the 19th century. In America, the I house had become the
architectural symbol of success in small-town and rural regions by the late
18th century. The basic plan is one room deep, two stories tall, and the
entry aligned with the roof. Chimneys may be placed at various locations
and there is almost always – in Missouri – a “T” or “L” or “shed” addition
to the rear of the building. I houses vary in construction, from log to
stone, brick and frame. The house type began to lose popularity by the
late 19th century, as lumberyards and builder’s guides made newly
fashionable house plans more available. Furthermore, for some people, the
imposing I houses began to represent the older pre-Civil War landowners and
slave society brought to Missouri by the Southerners. See Folk
Architecture in Little Dixie for more extensive discussion of this vigorous
house type found throughout the state.
Missouri I houses.
6A. 1820 stone house in Moscow Mills (Lincoln County),
6B. With the stone version in A, the zenith of full
five-bay-wide I houses may be represented by this house with its
distinctive central hallway. Beneath the protective and stylish horizontal
weatherboarding is a large house built in two stages and constructed of
hewn walnut timbers framed in the mortise-and-tenon method. This example
from about 1839, built by second generation British-American farmers and
craftsmen from bluegrass Kentucky, expresses the careful balance and
symmetry influenced by early Georgian architecture in Britain. Together
with central-hall I houses of red brick (often made by slave labor on site
and clothed in “federal” style details), this example represents the fine
landowner’s house in the earliest settlement phase North-central Missouri.
The Burton-Wright house, near Milton (Randolph County).
6C. Suburban development, highway construction and other
changes of economy and public attitude leave magnificent Missouri buildings
standing alone before the almost inevitable wrecking ball. This fine brick
I house of about 1845 represents the stylish variety favored by successful
landowners in the so-called Federal period from around 1780 until the Civil
War. It shows neoclassical details (the “dentils” under the roof, the
simple white columns for the small porch). It shows the formal, balanced,
Georgian façade and we know there will be a handsome central hallway with
richly made woodwork inside the front door. Near Pendleton (Warren
6D. An antebellum I house with unbalanced façade that suggests
construction in stages and whose look hints at log or heavy frame
construction underneath the weatherboarding (Randolph County).
6E. Victorian taste of the late 19th and early 20th century is
apparent in this frame I house; it exhibits elements of neoclassical and
Gothic style. Taller and narrower than earlier examples, these later
balloon-frame I houses have a lighter feeling. The small paired chimneys
suggest their placement at the line of the central hallway partitions and
their size suggests that they serve small fireplaces if not cast-iron
heating stoves. Most of these Victorian period houses were painted in
stylish hues of browns, reds, grays, etc., but by the early 20th century
they and almost all vernacular frame houses began to be repainted in a
stark white. Near Moberly (Randolph County).
Conservative traditional builders often adapt easily to new
technology and ideas when they are a good fit with customary views of what
architecture should be. Combining traditional patterns with stylish motifs
of current fashion is frequently pleasing and long-lasting. The example
was built by James Sandison, a native of New Mills of Keith, Scotland and
son of a stone mason who emigrated to the 1860s central Missouri railroad
boom town of Moberly. A mason, builder and contractor, Sandison developed
his business by building railroad bridges in northeast Missouri.
Recognizing a growing need for quantities of heavy brick for the hundreds
of central Missouri streets being paved in the early 20th century as well
as for houses of the business class, Sandison started a brick yard. A
regional clay excellent for brick making was the bread and butter of the
business. Sandison retired in 1906, the year he built his new house and
sold his brick plant. The “comfortable and pleasant” house Sandison built
for his family in a spacious setting on an important street illustrates the
dynamics of vernacular design. In its type, the house is a typical
Anglo-American I house with a formal central hallway. Its form (plan) is
the same as hundreds of other I houses built in the Little Dixie region
since the early 1800s and it characterizes the well-ordered, symmetrical
ideal in vernacular building. The house is also very much like numerous
houses in the Scottish Lowlands.
The original house was built in the 1840s. In 1906, Sandison’s
colleague, Moberly architect N.N. Meredith, added the impressive new
two-story section (illustration) to the older rooms of soft brick that then
became the kitchen wing for the new, enlarged and remodeled structure.
Working with Meredith, Sandison selected “high style” ornament for the
front of the house. Sandison added an impressive stone-and-brick
Romanesque-style arch to frame the porch, echoing the influential designs
of the late 19th century architect H.H. Richardson. The rounded Romanesque
Revival style Richardson developed, in which natural materials express
strength, must have appealed to the hardy Scottish immigrant builder.
Grand Richardsonian portals were used by many people in Missouri in the
late 19th and early 20th centuries. Sandison’s house retains a comfortable
sense of space inside while presenting a fashionable “front” on the
outside. Such artful yet practical combinations, in which older patterns
for living are placed together with flourishes of current fashion, are a
hallmark in vernacular building of any era.
In the mid-19th century, many communities of German-speaking
immigrants formed in the “Rhineland” region of Missouri, generally south of
the Missouri River, east of Jefferson City and along the Mississippi River
north of Cape Girardeau. Some German-speaking farmers from Europe built in
“fachwerk” or half-timber construction traditions with the timbers joined
with mortise-and-tenon techniques, as in this Franklin County example from
about 1840 built by a German Lutheran family from the Hanover region. The
spatial form of this farmhouse is as much British-American as it is
Germanic, but its construction mode is distinctly Germanic.
The Ernhaus or “hall kitchen” house is a German-American
dwelling type found in distinctive Germanic towns such as Washington and
Hermann. Its two-or three-room plan with centrally located chimney, in
which the front door gives entry into the kitchen indicates it historic
origins – but its method of construction may be typically American.
A Missouri “shotgun house” in central Missouri. While its
ultimate origins are debated by scholars, some researchers believe the
shotgun house type is a dwelling form with African and Caribbean roots.
Shotgun houses were often built by African-Americans, but this functional,
practical house form (well suited to narrow urban lots) was also built and
used by white people. The house type may reflect a practical African
vernacular dwelling carried in people’s memories up the Mississippi River
to Missouri by 19th century slaves/builders with cultural roots in West
Africa and the Caribbean islands. Great numbers of shotgun houses were
built in the larger towns and cities, particularly those along the major
rivers and railroad centers of the South and lower Midwest such as New
Orleans, Memphis St. Louis and Louisville.
Unfortunately, many people have come to view these modest
houses as a reflection of poverty or a reminder of racial conflict,
especially when they are located in African-American neighborhoods. The
shotgun house is a type of vernacular building that calls for documentation
and analysis by future researchers so that Missouri’s complicated
multicultural heritage can be better understood.
Old frame hay barns are a signpost of Missouri’s economic and
social past. For many citizens, they are a source of nostalgia. Many of
these photogenic barns, originally built for storing loose harvested hay in
lofts, have been put to new uses on farms and modified or enlarged to
shelter modern equipment. Many derelict barns are being dismantled and
often the weathered siding is converted into picture frames and accent
wooden detailing for new houses. The “transverse-crib barn” type is the
typical barn of the 19th century built by farmers with roots in Kentucky
B. Stall/stabling area for horses, mules or cattle.
C. Interior corn crib for granary.
D. Tools, equipment, feed. In this typical example, the hay is loaded in
the hay loft through a hatchway over the large driveway door.
North Missouri prairie cultural landscape. Near Edinburg
(Grundy County). The look of the land, with its carefully shaped,
cultivated and graded agricultural spaces; its orderly margins of
protective and symbolic fences, roads and trees; and its anchoring
farmstead results from vernacular design processes and change over several
generations. The land itself should be studied for what it can reveal
about the evolution of settlement, society and economy.
Vernacular regions of Missouri reflect old patterns of
settlement, spoken dialect and other features of cultural heritage, and
they reflect the nuances of geography as well. These factors and others
gradually gave us a state of vaguely bordered but distinctive cultural and
even architectural regions. (Map by Walter A. Schroeder and H. Marshall,
published in The WPA Guide to 1930s Missouri, Regents Press of Kansas,
Public and commercial buildings are important in a town’s
architectural legacy and none, however humble, should be overlooked.
Often, older or out-of-date stores that have fallen into disuse are no
longer considered fit for renovation, but there are many examples of
excellent rehab and revitalization in Missouri towns.
14A. Small towns in our state feature numerous handsome
vernacular structures with stylish facades, such as this fine mid-19th
century Greek Revival frame building that once housed a “female academy” in
Danville (Montgomery County).
14B. False-front store of the early 20th century, Bosworth
14C. In Eureka (Jefferson County) there is a solid old store
building that has been handsomely rehabbed and given new life; this
building’s original front was enhanced with a cast-iron front assembled
from parts shipped from a St. Louis factory.
14D. A brick store building was creatively rehabbed for use as
the town post office in the old agricultural village and railroad point of
Renick (Randolph County).
14E. The little country church personifies the old-fashioned
way of life, and many are active and continue to be valued by the community
14F. The grain elevator and exchange by the railroad siding is
the kind of vernacular structure we usually pass by with little notice;
commonplace and familiar, one day this too will be considered “historic
architecture.” Wentzville (St. Charles County).
14G. The Brown Shoe factory (erected in 1906) closed many years
ago, was rehabbed for manufacturing gymnasium equipment, and closed again.
This is the sort of building that needs attention. An imaginative
corporation could reconstruct it as a “mega store” or indoor mall; there is
plenty of parking and people consider the structure a landmark. Moberly
Researchers and planners need to mine the rich lodes of
information available from people in the community, some of whom, like Dr.
Ed McKinney of Texas County, are descendants of pioneer families and prove
to be invaluable guides to the significance of local history and
architecture. Yukon (Texas County).
Figure 1: Creole house type. Bequet-Ribault House, Ste. Genevieve, Dunker
photo, Marshall plan.
Figure 2: Single-cell log houses.
A. Pop Collins cabin, Columbia.
B. Millersburg, sided version
Figure 3: Hall and parlor houses.
A. Brick, Arrow Rock.
B. Frame, Montgomery City.
Figure 4: Georgian cottage house type. Hickman house, c. 1819, near
Figure 5: I house type, typical.
Figure 6: I houses.
A. 1820, stone, Moscow Mills.
B. Burton-Wight house, heavy frame, Randolph County.
C. Brick, federal style, Warren County
D. Pre-Civil War house, unbalanced façade, Randolph County.
E. Victorian balloon frame, Randolph County.
Figure 7: Sandison-Marshall house, Moberly. Style plus vernacular form.
Figure 8: “Fachwerk.” Franklin County example from about 1840.
Figure 9: Ernhaus. German-American house type, typical.
Figure 10: Shotgun house type. Central Missouri.
Figure 11: Transverse-crib barn type, typical.
Figure 12: Cultural landscape. Edinburg (Grundy County).
Figure 13: Regions of Missouri map (Schroeder and Marshall).
Figure 14: Public and commercial buildings.
A. Female academy, Danville.
B. False-front store, Bosworth.
C. Cast-iron front store, Eureka.
D. Post office, Renick.
E. Church, Bachelor.
F. Wentzville Exchange.
G. Brown Shoe Factory, Moberly.
Figure 15: Ed McKinney, Yukon (Texas County).
Where You Can Go for Help
Several agencies and organizations in our state study and help
preserve historic buildings.
These include the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation
(P.O. Box 895, Jefferson City 65102) and the Historic Preservation Program
in the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (P.O. Box 176, Jefferson
Among the model preservation groups at the local level are the
Foundation for Restoration of Ste. Genevieve (c/o Bernard K. Schram) and
The Brush and Palette Club in Hermann (c/o Mrs. Anna Kemper Hesse). There
are active groups in many other towns, too, such as Arrow Rock, Hannibal,
Moberly, Montgomery City, Poplar Bluff, Rocheport and Vienna. St. Joseph,
St. Louis, and Kansas City have historic preservation groups and landmarks
associations, and several college and university campuses have course work
relating to cultural heritage, economic history, cultural geography,
historical archaeology, cultural anthropology, architectural history and
More specific suggestions are available by sending a letter to
Prof. Osmund Overby or the author, Dept. of Art History and Archaeology,
109 Pickard Hall, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211.
Other MU Publications You Might Find Interesting
The History of Missouri Capitols
by Marian M. Ohman
From the petition for statehood to the drawing competition for
today’s state capitol in 1912, this book talks about our historical
capitols as well as Missouri history. Anyone who likes history or
architecture will find interest in this book. Many photos and drawings of
former capitols, as well as the sketches submitted in designing the current
capitol, are included. Prices, materials, approval and construction of
each capitol is covered in-depth. MU publication UE0072 ($10)
Encyclopedia of Missouri Courthouses
by Marian M. Ohman
Trivia lovers, history buffs, architecture enthusiasts and good
citizens alike will enjoy this collection about Missouri’s courthouses.
Missouri’s 114 counties have built more than 360 courthouses, 22 of which
have been included in the National Register of Historic Places.
The book provides summaries of each county as well as profiles
and photos of past and present courthouses containing information such as
original cost, floor plans, and historical events specific to each county.
MU publication UE0062 ($10)
Twenty Towns: Their Histories, Town Plans and Architectures
by Marian M.Ohman
This book comes from a national award-winning program Ohman
organized in 1983 by gathering 12- to 18-year-olds from 20 small Missouri
towns to talk about their town’s past, present and future.
Those interested in architecture and city design will be
treated to several photos of historic houses, city maps and layouts that
show the evolution of many of the towns, especially in their downtown
districts. Public buildings, churches, church history, photos,
architecture and style of religious services are also discussed. MU
publication UE0077 ($6)
Small Town Survival Manual
by Jack McCall
Rural towns have been dwindling in size and economic activity
in recent decades. This publications addresses some of the reasons why and
encourages community members to change that trend. Efforts in Hamilton and
Salisbury, two small mid-Missouri towns, are discussed as examples of these
ideas in action. MU publication M00133 ($5)
Bed and Breakfasts: Is This the Right Business for You?
by Wanda Eubank
Considering a bed and breakfast? This booklet is written in a
question/answer format, with different B&B owners giving their opinions on
matters such as: Is my home suitable? And “Will my family like it?”
Beautiful detailed sketches of Missouri bed and breakfasts give
a feel for the existing options open to Missouri travelers. Several
sources for additional information are also included. All can be used to
form plans for beginning a bed and breakfast. MU publication MP0667 ($4)
Trees of Missouri
by R.E. McDermott
This publication covers essentially all native and some of the
more common naturalized trees of Missouri. With approximately one-third of
its land forested, Missouri has an interesting mix of trees from all
regions of the country. This text gives a detailed description and
black-and-white photos of leaves and fruits of 161 species of trees in the
state. A state map with each entry documents the Missouri counties in
which a particular tree species may be found. MU publication SB0767 ($8)
I wish to thank Osmund Overby, Columbia and Margot Ford
McMillen, Millersburg for reviewing this work. Overby is a Professor of
Art History at the University of Missouri, and nationally prominent
authority on the history of American architecture and historic
preservation. Margot Ford McMillen is a Westminster College faculty member,
oral historian, Missouri place names authority, and founder of Missouri
Interpretive Materials, the publisher of Our Missouri.
I appreciate the support of Associate Vice Provost for
Extension Donald Fancher. This booklet was developed from a program I
presented for the University of Missouri Extension Division’s In-Service
Education Conference #43, called “Downtown Revitalization,” held in Warsaw
in May 1992. I appreciate the assistance of Wanda Eubank, the book design
by Keith Mays and the editorial assistance of John Brenner. Photographs
and sketches are by the author. I would be grateful for reader’s comments
and suggestions; write care of the Department of Art History and
Archaeology, 109 Pickard Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211.
*Folk Architecture in Little Dixie, though geographically
limited to central and northern Missouri, is the only book attempting a
typology of Missouri buildings built by pioneers of British stock. For
articles on British-American houses in Missouri see the excellent work of
architectural historian James Denny. For a model study of a French house,
see Ray Brassieur’s “The Duclos-Pashia House” and for Germanic buildings
see Charles van Ravenswaay’s book, The Arts and Architecture of German
Settlements of Missouri.
Although the emphasis is upon Missouri, this list includes
several basic readings in vernacular architecture.
Brassieur, C. Ray. “The Duclos-Pashia House: Survival of
Creole Building Traditions into the Twentieth Century.” Material Culture
22:2 (1990): 15-24.
Bray, Robert T. “The Conley House.” Missouri Archaeological
Society Quarterly 3:2 (April-June, 1986): 8-11, 18-20.
____. “The Conley Revisited.” Missouri Archaeological Society
Quarterly 6:4 (October-December 1989): 12-21.
Brunskill, Ronald W. Illustrated Handbook of Vernacular
Architecture. New York: Universe, 1970.
____. Traditional Buildings of Britain. London: Victor
Gollancz, 1982, 1992.
Caldwell, Dorothy J., ed. Missouri Historic Sites Catalogue.
Jefferson City, Mo.: Missouri State Park Board, 1963.
Carter, Thomas, and Bernard L. Herman, eds. Perspectives in
Vernacular Architecture, III. Columbia, : University of Missouri Press,
____. Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, IV. Columbia,
Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1991.
Deetz, James. In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaeology of
Early American Life. New York: Anchor Books, 1977.
Denny, James M. ”A Transition of Style in Missouri’s Antebellum
Domestic Southern Architecture.” P.A.S.T.: Proceedings of the Pioneer
America Society 8 (1984): 1-11.
____. “Early Southern Domestic Architecture in Missouri,
1810-1840: The “Georgianization” of the Trans-Mississippi West.”
P.A.S.T.: Proceedings of the Pioneer America Society 8 (1985): 11-22.
____. “The Georgian Cottage in Missouri: An Obscure but
Persistent Alternative to the I-House in the Upper South.” P.A.S.T.:
Proceedings of the Pioneer America Society 12 (1989): 63-70.
Dorson, Richard M., ed. Folklore and Folklife: An
Introduction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972.
Federal Writers Project. WPA Guide to 1930s Missouri. 1944,
reprint Lawrence, Kan.: Regents Press of Kansas, 1985.
Fenton, Alexander, and Bruce Walker. The Rural Architecture of
Scotland. Edinburgh: John Donald, 1981.
Gailey, Alan. Rural Houses of the North of Ireland. Edinburgh:
John Donald, 1984.
Glassie, Henry. Pattern in the Material Folk Culture of the
Eastern United States. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
____. Passing the Time in Ballymenone: Culture and History in
an Ulster Community. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982.
____. “Vernacular Architecture and Society.” Material Culture
16:1 (Spring 1984): 5-24.
____. “Studying Material Culture Today.” Pages 253-66 in G.L.
Pocius, ed., Living in a Material World. St. John’s, Newfoundland:
Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of
Gowans, Alan. Images of American Living: Four Centuries of
Architecture and Furniture as Cultural Expression. Philadelphia:
Grove, Carol. “The Foursquare House Type in American Vernacular
Architecture.” Masters thesis, University of Missouri Department of Art
History and Archaeology, Columbia, 1992.
Handlin, David P. American Architecture. New York: Thames and
Hesse, Anna Kemper. Centenarians of Brick, Wood, and Stone.
Hermann, Mo.: Brush and Palette Club, 1969.
Hoskins, W.G. The Making of the English Landscape. London:
Pelican Books, 1970.
Jackson, J.B. Discovering the Vernacular Landscape. New Haven,
Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984.
Jennings, Jan and Herbert Gottfreid, American Vernacular
Interior Architecture 1870-1940. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.
Jordan, Terry G. and Matti Kaups. The American Backwoods
Frontier. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.
Kniffen, Fred. “Folk Housing: Key to Diffusion.” 1965. Pages
3-26 in D. Upton and J. Vlach, eds., Common Places: Readings in Vernacular
Architecture. Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1986.
____. And Henry Glassie. “Building in Wood in the Eastern
United States: A Time-Place Perspective.” 1966. Pages 159-81 in D. Upton
and J. Vlach, eds., Common Places: Readings in Vernacular Architecture.
Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1986.
Kostof, Spiro. American By Design. New York: Oxford University
Kubler, George. The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of
Things. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1962.
Lee, Antoinette. J. Past Meets Future: Saving America’s
Historic Environments. Washington, D.C.: Preservation Press, 1992.
McMurry, Sally. Families and Farmhouses in Nineteenth Century
America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Marshall, Howard Wight. American Folk Architecture: A Selected
Bibliography. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1981.
____. Folk Architecture in Little Dixie: A Regional Culture in
Missouri. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1981.
____. “The Pelster Housebarn: Endurance of Germanic
Architecture on the Midwestern Frontier.” Material Culture 18:2 (1986):
____. “The Sisters Leave Their Mark: Folk Architecture and
Family History.: Pages 208-27 in R. Walls, et al., editors, The Old
Traditional Way of Life: Essays in Honor of Warren E. Roberts.
Bloomington, Ind.: Trickster Press, 1989.
____. “The British Single-Cell House in the American Cultural
Landscape.” Folk Life: Journal of Ethnological Studies 28 (1989-90):
31-40 and 29 (1990-91): 97-98.
____ and James Goodrich, eds. The German-American Experience in
Missouri. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Cultural Heritage Center,
Mercer, Eric. English Vernacular Houses: A Study of
Traditional Farmhouses and Cottages. London: H.M.S.O., 1975.
Ohman, Marian M. A History of Missori’s Counties, County Seats,
and Courthouse Squares. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Extension
Overby, Osmund, comp. Vernacular Architecture Forum: A Guide
to the Tours. Columbia Mo.: University of Missouri Cultural Heritage
Peate, Iorwerth C. The Welsh House: A Study in Folk Culture.
Cardiff: Hugh Evans, 1944.
Peterson, Charles E. “Early Ste. Genevieve and Its
Architecture.” Missouri Historical Review 35 (1940-41): 207-32.
____. Colonial St. Louis: Building a Creole Capital. 1949.
Reprint, Tucson, AZ: Patrice Press, 1993.
____, ed. Building Early America: Contributions Toward the
History of a Great Industry. Radnor, Pa.: Chilton Book Co., 1976.
Pierson, Jr., William Ho. American Buildings and Their
Architects I: The colonial and Neoclassical Styles. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1970.
Prawl, Toni M. “The W.L. Cornett House, Linn County, Missouri:
Cultural Expression and Family History through Architecture and Furniture,
1884-1986.” Masters thesis, University of Missouri Department of Art
History and Archaeology, Columbia, 1986.
Quick, David, and Lynn Morrow. “The Slab Rock Dwellings of
Thayer, Missouri.” P.A.S.T.: Proceedings of the Pioneer America Society 13
Renn, Erin McCawley. “An Introduction to Nineteenth Century
German Missouri Architecture.” Pages 63-72 in O. Overby, comp., Vernacular
Architecture Forum: A Guide to the Tours. Columbia, Mo.: University of
Missouri Cultural Heritage Center, 1989.
Roberts, Warren E. “Folk Architecture.” Pages 281-93 in R.
Dorson, ed., Folklore and Folklife: An Introduction. Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1972.
Sheals, Debbie Oakson. “British-American Stonework in
mid-Missouri: A Study in Vernacular Architecture.” Masters thesis,
University of Missouri Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia,
Smith, Peter. Houses of the Welsh Countryside: A Study in
Historical Geography. London: H.M.S.O., 1975.
Sparks, Laura. “Vernacular Architecture and Ethnicity on the
Missouri Frontier: The Case of the Burton-Wight House and the Bruns
House.” Masters thesis, University of Missouri Department of Art History
and Archaeology, Columbia, 1994.
St. George, Robert Blair, ed. Material Life in America,
1600-1860. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1989.
Thurman, Melburn D. Building a House in 18th Century Ste.
Genevieve. Ste. Genevieve, Mo.: Pendragon’s Press, 1984.
Upton, Dell, ed. America’s Architectural Roots: Ethnic Groups
that Built America. Washington, D.C.: National Trust for Historic
____ and John Michael Vlach, eds. Common Places: Readings in
Vernacular Architecture. Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1985.
van Ravenswaay, Charles. The Arts and Architecture of German
Settlements in Missouri. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press,
Vlach, John Michael. “The Shotgun House: An African-American
Legacy.” 1977. Pages 58-78 in D. Upton and J. Vlach, eds., Common Places:
Readings in Vernacular Architecture. Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia
Wells, Camille, ed. Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture.
Vernacular Architecture Forum, 1982.
____. Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, II. Columbia,
Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1984.
Weslager, Charles A. The Log Cabin in America. New Brunswick,
N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1969.
Howard Wight Marshall, a native of Randolph County, retired in
2000 as Professor of Art History and Archaeology at the University of
Missouri in Columbia and former director of the Cultural Heritage Center.
He took his Ph.D. at Indiana University and has worked for the Country
Music Hall of Fame, Conner Prairie Pioneer Settlement (an open-air museum
in Indiana), the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution. He
taught at Kansas State University before coming to the University of
Missouri in 1982, and is a past president of the Missouri Folklore Society.
Marshall has written articles and books on vernacular
architecture, American folk art, museum theory and the cultural heritage of
the United States and Great Britain. While on leave during 1993-94,
Marshall conducted research in the Scottish Lowlands as a Visiting Research
Fellow in the European Ethnological Research Centre in the National Musem
of Antiquities of Scotland (Queen Street, Edinburgh).