REVIEW: Missouri Town, 1855: A Program in Architectural Preservation (1981)

A book by Lavoone B. Moore

The previous time I went to Missouri Town 1855, a trip I documented for last year’s History Boy Summer Series, I somehow missed this book in the giftshop. Upon my return this year at and around the fourth of July, I snagged it immediately. Written in 1981 as a college thesis, Missouri Town, 1855: A Program in Architectural Preservation by Lavoone B. Moore is a well-documented and researched history of the initial creation and upkeep of the popular historical site located in Jackson County, Missouri from the eyes of someone that basically watched it unfold. This long-form essay is not only about the various buildings that make up the site, and their histories, but a look at Antebellum-Era American plains frontier architecture as a whole. There are not too many big insights on any of the buildings, as most were just normal houses and old stores that had been long abandoned and left to differing levels of mis-care until the idea to preserve our architectural past was brought up, but the process that went into the preservation is interesting nonetheless.

“Missouri Town–1855 is a preservation project located in Jackson County, Missouri. The log and frame houses and other buildings comprising it date from ca.1820-1855. These structures, originally located within an approximate seventy-five mile radius of their present site, were threatened by the ravages of time or modern construction. Beginning in 1963 they were relocated and restored in the context of a hypothetical, mid-nineteenth century, western Missouri crossroads village. The purpose of the thesis is to assemble information dealing with the history of the project from its inception, to discuss some of the problems unique to the major structures during the dismantling and restoration, and to present a catalog of the major structures. Measured drawings and floor plans have been prepared as well as several maps, including an original sites map and a guide map of the village. Photographs, many of which were made by the restorer of the buildings at the time of their dismantling, are included. These visually record the various nineteenth century building methods employed in the major structures. Research methodology included, in addition to a review ofo published literature relating to nineteenth century architecture, identification of early references to the houses, and interview with the key figures in the development of Missouri Town–1855.”

Overall, I wish more historic sites would do books like this – some of them do, but the large majority of them in my area lack any sort of official informational guide that people can use as sources discussing the sites or simply remember their trips. While the information here is over forty years old, it is still a great overview of the origins of Missouri Town and a way to look at just how far it has come through the decades. This was an excellent purchase, and a great addition to my library.

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