Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Architect's Tombstone

William L. Perkins, the accomplished architect responsible for many of Chariton's best buildings, lived and worked here from 1917 until his unexpected death after a heart attack during 1957. But he chose to be buried near where he was born, in the cemetery at Ridgeway, Missouri, a small town just east of Interstate 35 and northeast of the Harrison County seat, Bethany.

Those of us who serve on the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission have been wondering what his tombstone looked like --- I had visited the cemetery many years ago, before it occurred to me I'd want to find the Perkins stone; Melody W. stopped here not that long ago, but missed it.

Now, Martin Buck has resolved the issue by stopping at Ridgeway on Sunday, while traveling home from Easter dinner in Kansas City, and finding and photographing the stones that mark the Perkins graves. The cemetery  photos here are his.

Although there's no guarantee that Perkins designed the family stone, I kind of think he did. It just looks Perkinsesque.  Plus, it resembles the Harrison County Courthouse in Bethany, designed by Perkins and completed in 1940 (below) --- or at least I think it does.

Perkins' parents, Gabriel Forrest and Margaret (Yeater) Perkins, died respectively during 1922 and 1940 and so were buried on the family lot first. The stone could have been designed to mark their graves with the thought other family members would be buried near it, too. After William's death in 1957, his older brother, Albert (died 1958), was buried here; then many years later, William's widow, Jessie, who died in Los Angeles during 1992 at the age of 103.

Whatever the case, I'm happy to be able to see what the tombstone looks like. Maybe one of these days I'll get down that way again and pay my respects.

It's impossible to say just how many Chariton buildings Perkins designed, but we're certain of the six that have been added, thanks in large part to Preservation Commission efforts, to the National Register of Historic Places --- the Charitone Hotel, Chariton Newspapers Building, Chariton City Hall, American Legion hall, Masonic Temple and Fred and Sherry Steinbach's Crozier House.

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