Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Restoration and renewal

The Bob Ulriches visit with Centerville's Linda Howard at the Freight House Tuesday evening.
Well, it’s been a busy week so far and if I don’t find time tomorrow to take care of a couple more planters and get some garden work done before rain sets in there’s going to be trouble on the green front.

There was a fascinating meeting last night at the C.B.&Q. Freight House, sponsored by the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission --- a “spring fling” to mark May as National Preservation Month. I was named to that commission recently in a sort of historical double-whammy but haven’t even begun to come up to speed there, so all the credit goes to the incumbents. I just attended.

Ann Diehl of Osceola drove over to tell us about the work there of its historic preservation commission, younger by several years than ours. There’s good news from Osceola on two fronts. First, the AMTRAK depot now is in public hands and work is beginning to restore the larger part of it to its original form while creating a new and substantially more comfortable waiting area for passengers in another part of the building.

Also, the commission now is the proud owner of the top two floors of that lovely old building on the northeast corner of the Osceola square that has been deteriorating for years. But it’s an odd and sometimes problematic arrangement, Diehl told us, because the double front ground floor commercial area as well as the roof and basement are owned by two others. Work to restore the building and keep it in good shape is a challenge when three owners, including one public and one absentee, are involved, Diehl said.


Linda Howard came up from Centerville to update us on restoration and renewal projects underway there for more than a decade. Centerville is distinctive because of its double-sized town square --- two blocks in all directions; and that adds up to more than 100 buildings, most intact.

Linda started out by asking us to tell her what we thought had been the key factors in Centerville’s renaissance. Several of us, including me, responded with “Morgan Cline,” multi-millionaire advertising executive and native son, who has invested millions in his home county (Appanoose). Among his many projects have been restoration of The Continental, a concierge living center and public restaurant along the east side of the square, and restoration of five of Centerville’s most dramatic homes, including Bradford Hall and The Columns, operating as gift shops, and the Beck mansion, now a venue for public events.

Morgan lighted the fire, Howard acknowledged, noting that millionaires always come in handy, but pointed out that many others also have driven Centerville’s renewal. Included in that cooperative effort was a city square business community that participated in the successful effort to have the square named a National Historic District and approved the surtax that allowed installation of a streetscape --- new and elaborate sidewalks, plantings and lighting. She also mentioned other restoration projects, including the successful effort that led to the restoration of Simon Estes’s boyhood church, Second Baptist, as a performance venue, and the ongoing effort to restore the north-side theater whose Spanish-revival façade was before restoration began concealed by a metal shell.


Today was city-wide cleanup day, which involved getting to the museum campus early. Chariton High School seniors always are offered the option on clean-up day of taking the day off from classes and putting in a long morning of community service work before free lunch and dismissal.

We were expecting five young women who along with their supervisor, a city council member, did a top-notch job of clearing the grounds and plantings of a fall/winter accumulation of leaves, limbs and other debris. Several members of the historical society’s hard-working board were present to help with that as well as trim shrubbery, weed the tiered planters leading down to the patio, clean out the Swanson Gallery, which because it houses ag- and automotive-related exhibits is neither heated nor cleaned during the winter, and handle a number of other tasks.

The incomparable Betty Cross, our official supervisor of plantings, was on hand, too, so everything that needed to be planted was planted save one container that had come to the end of its useful life and was euthanized. That remains to be replaced, filled and planted. Betty always makes me feel child-like since I went to school with her kids.

Later in the day, the coordinator of Chariton’s volunteer program stopped in with the summer schedule and it appears we’ll be fully staffed Tuesday-Friday, leaving only Saturday to be picked up by board members and staffers. Now that is a cause for celebration.
Student volunteers work on the plantings and lawn along the south side of the Stephens House with assistance from their supervisor, Ruth Smith, in the foreground, and LCHS vicel-president Bob Curtis in the background.

1 comment:

Bill Burch said...

Great blog and post! My name is Bill Burch and I'm Mr. Cline's representative in Centerville, managing his holdings and serving as POA.

Having a philanthropist is a mixed blessing. Often people are looking for reasons to not participate and there is no better way than to give them a reason to say, "Why do you need my money? You've got Mr. or Mrs. philanthropist."

Community development requires three things. The first is entrepreneurs/new and developing business. The second is a strong volunteer and regular donor base. The third is the philanthropist.

Entrepreneurs permiate the community with a level of excitement and help move money through the community.

Volunteers and regular donors add depth by doing the things that business and government don't do AND providing the basic funding to keep things going in the long run.

The philanthropist supplies the remaining needs to help complete the project.

Then everything swings back the other way. After the philanthropist and done their job the volunteers take over maintenance. The cycle repeats in a different area and only to the degree they can execute.

There are always more than enough people to meet and far too few that work.

Keep up the great work on your blog!