State Historic Preservation Office
In its preface to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, Congress declared that the preservation of historic properties "is in the public interest so that its vital legacy of cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational, economic, and energy benefits will be maintained and enriched for future generations of Americans."
In addition, Congress acknowledged that, whether raising funds for small museums, maintaining their own homes, lobbying for the preservation of a local site or redeveloping underutilized commercial buildings, "the major burdens of historic preservation have been borne and major efforts initiated by private agencies and individuals."
One of the first keys to the program mandated by Congress to assist citizens in the preservation of sites important to their communities was the creation of a formal National Register of Historic Places. The listing process was to be overseen by the National Park Service, but the legislation also encouraged the creation of state and tribal historic preservation offices to partner with the National Park Service in administering the program. Founded in 1968, Missouri's state historic preservation office was one of the nation's first. It did not replace the citizens' role in preserving properties, but helped facilitate the process of identifying properties significant to the citizens, state and nation, and planning for their preservation.
In Spring 1970, the private citizens who made up the state's review board approved Missouri's first statewide preservation plan. Again, it was one of the first such plans to be approved by the National Park Service. In 2011, following a series of meetings across the state, input from citizens appointed to the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and approval by the National Park Service, the newest version of Missouri's Preservation Horizons was drafted. The text clearly shows the labors of historians, architects, proud owners of farms, homes, shops, hotels, filling stations and theaters across the state.
For more information on historic properties, you can also browse the National Register nominations for properties in your favorite county. It will be obvious to you the dedication of the citizens who make up the Advisory Council and put in long hours reviewing the nominations that will, if approved by them, go on to the federal level for final review. Their meetings are a great place to witness citizen participation in the preservation of our "irreplaceable heritage."
The majority of sites in the National Register are listed for their significance within their local communities, but some are listed for statewide or national significance.
Among the Missouri sites listed at the national level of significance are the birthplaces of George Washington Carver in Newton County, a National Monument, and Harry S Truman, whose National-Register-listed birthplace in Lamar is managed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' Division of State Parks. The 33rd President is also represented by 8e Independence home -- now a National Historic Landmark -- where he spent most of his life.
Other nationally significant sites are privately owned. That is the case with the Simmons Stables in Audrain County, listed in the National Register as nationally significant for its representation of Mexico, Missouri's past as the "Saddlebred Horse Capital of The World."
Also in private ownership are two modest but nationally significant residences on St. Louis' north side. One, whose purchase by J.D. and Ethel Shelley led to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1948 decision ending racial segregation by restrictive covenants, was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1990. Not far away is the one-story house Chuck Berry purchased two years after the Shelley decision. It was here that Berry lived and worked while writing and recording “Maybellene,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” and “Roll Over Beethoven." It was listed in the National Register at national significance on Dec. 12, 2008.
You can read and download the nominations for these and other National Register sites by selecting the relevant county on our National Register listings pages.
Of course, listing in the National Register isn't the end of the process. In Columbia's downtown commercial district, it was the midway point.
As was the case in many communities, the rise of suburban shopping malls in the 1960s brought the urge to modernize Main Street shopping districts. For the owners of the Virginia Building -- built in 1911 and one of the largest historic commercial buildings downtown -- that meant wrapping the building's exterior in metal siding and removing interior walls and lowering ceilings to create the feeling of an indoor mall. Forty years later, the building was unwrapped, revealing enough integrity to allow its listing in the National Register . This made it possible to submit applications for state and federal historic rehab tax credits. The before and after pictures below tell the story of the impact that project made on the streetscape.
Virginia Building after its 1965 modernization Virginia Building after its rehabilitation in 2003
A couple of blocks away, another 1960s modernization -- the construction of a large concrete canopy closely resembling an elevated highway along both sides of E. Broadway -- still hid the store fronts on several blocks of historic buildings.
On E. Broadway, concrete "canopy" from 1968 hid the store fronts and contents from shoppers.
That began to change in 2004 when two owners tore down the portions in front of their buildings. The removal allowed one owner to spruce up his building with less obtrusive canvas awnings and another to list his property in the National Register and begin the historic tax credit process.
Those successes paved the way for the district's Special Business Board to vote in support of removing the canopy. A small grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation helped with the preparation of information packets for building owners. Once their support had been gained, a group of property owners paid for the removal of the canopy and the preparation of a National Register nomination. By the end of 2006, the canopy was history, the historic buildings were once again visible. The Downtown Columbia Historic District was listed in the National Register with 81 contributing buildings and rehabilitation of several buildings was underway.
Property owners along E. Broadway brought new life to the streetscape by removing the 1968 canopy.
Today -- thanks to the efforts of property owners, with assistance from partnerships made possible by the actions of Congress and Missouri's General Assembly -- the streetscape along Columbia's E. Broadway commercial district has been transformed.
Similar "can-do" communities are spread across the state. Some -- including Arrow Rock, Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis, which have been named Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation -- are Certified Local Governments, officially partnering with the state and federal governments to support heritage education and the designation of the buildings important to their communities, often with the assistance of federal grants.
As always, the staff of the State Historic Preservation Office stands ready to assist, but -- as was the case before the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act -- it is private entities and individual citizens who decide what makes their community unique and how best to preserve that part of Missouri's "vital legacy of cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational, economic, and energy benefits will be maintained and enriched for future generations of Americans."
In the end it is individual property owners who have made the decision to save buildings from landfills, enhance the energy efficiency of buildings whose original construction with local materials is by its very nature "green," clean up brownfields, reuse infrastructure and complete historic rehab tax credit projects in communities from Arcadia, Boonville, Butler, California, Cape Girardeau, Carthage, Chesterfield, Chillicothe, Clarksville, Columbia, Danville, Excelsior Springs, Farmington, Fayette, Ferguson, Florissant, Fulton, Glasgow, Hannibal, Hartsburg, Hermann, Independence, Jefferson City, Joplin, Kansas City, Kennett, King City, Kirkwood, Lee's Summit, Lexington, Liberty, Louisiana, Manchester, Maplewood, Neosho, Nevada, New Haven, New Melle, North Kansas City, Osceola, Park Hills and Pilot Grove, through Rocheport, St. Charles, St. Joseph, St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve, Sedalia, Springfield, Trenton, University City, Webster Groves, Wellston, West Plains, Weston, Wildwood and Wright City!