Historic home near MSP on auction block

The historic Marmaduke House, also known as the warden’s residence, at 700 E. Capitol Avenue is up for auction.

The historic Marmaduke House, also known as the warden’s residence, at 700 E. Capitol Avenue is up for auction.

One of Jefferson City’s grandest former residences — the Missouri State Penitentiary Warden’s House at 700 E. Capitol Ave. — is scheduled to be auctioned to a new owner at noon Nov. 15.

Known as the “Col. Darwin W. Marmaduke House,” the home is named for the first prison warden to live in the home upon its completion in 1888. Marmaduke was the brother of Missouri Gov. John Sappington Marmaduke, who led troops in the Battle of Shiloh in 1862 and killed another Confederate general in a duel.

Situated across the street from the former prison, the Queen Anne-style home boasts 8,800 square feet, a tower and bay windows, soaring ceilings in every room, pocket doors made of Missouri walnut, a grand staircase with stained-glass skylight and grounds begging for an elegant soiree.

The home is currently owned and operated by the Jefferson City law office of Andereck, Evans, Widger, Johnson and Lewis L.L.C. Rod Widger, the practice’s managing member, is overseeing the sale. He said the firm purchased the building in 2000 from former Jefferson City attorney and history buff Bob Hawkins III, who renovated the building. Hawkins lives in Nashville today.

“We’ve had the privilege of being stewards of the building for the last 12 to 13 years,” Widger said.

When asked why the practice is moving, Widger said the “practice of law is a dynamic thing.” He said originally the building housed about 10 attorneys; now the practice is down to three. The law firm has offices in Jefferson City, Trenton, Smithville and Springfield.

“We no longer need such a large space,” he said.

Widger said the law firm is motivated to part with the building and hopes a public auction will pique more excitement and attention.

“We’ve had it on the market for quite some time, but we’ve not had a nibble,” he said, noting it also has been listed with agencies that specialize in historic properties.

Previously, the asking price was $599,000. According to the Cole County Assessor’s Office, the “market value” is $413,900.

Gratz Real Estate and Auctioneering is handling the sale.

“We’ve received some out-of-state interest because of the historic value of the home and the prestige of the era when it was built,” auctioneer Bill Gratz said.

Gratz noted that numerous updates — totaling more than $109,000 — have occurred since 2000, including $15,700 in tuckpointing and $16,000 in roof improvements.

The building was in serious disrepair when Hawkins purchased it from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Many people — including Jane Beetem, who still works for the department — who walked through the building back then remember a small children’s pool collected water in one of the rooms because the roof had failed.

Back in the early 1990s, the Legislature passed a bill transferring ownership of the property from the Department of Corrections to the Department of Natural Resources so that it could be sold through the Missouri Historic Preservation Revolving Fund, Beetem said.

Because the state sold the property, it comes with a covenant intended to preserve the building’s historic nature. The document, available at the Cole County Recorder’s office, states: “Whereas ... Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Purchasers desire that the property be preserved in as authentic condition as possible and, at the same time, to be altered where necessary to permit its continued use and enjoyment.”

Primarily the covenant prevents significant changes to the exterior physical structure or interior spatial arrangements without MDNR’s review and approval. Also nothing can be demolished and the site’s topography can’t be altered without approval. Even large trees on the property are protected.

The covenant notes that using the building as a business office, residence or museum is “expressly permitted.”

“Purchasers shall preserve, maintain and operate the premises for purposes that compatible with its historic use and function,” the document reads. Owners who fail to maintain the property might find the title reverting to the governor of Missouri.

“We’ve not found the restrictions to be onerous,” Widger said.

The landmark property has been associated with the prison for more than 103 years, ever since convict labor formed bricks and carved limestone on site at the penitentiary.

The construction project cost $7,000, most of which was used to acquire land along the then-prominent street.

“It was entirely a product of the state prison with all of its materials and work force coming from that institution,” according to the building’s National Register of Historic Places nomination.

Just before it was completed, a news article reported: “This will be without a doubt the most substantially built residence in the state and will vie in beauty at all points with the most stately mansions.”

The Marmaduke House was designed by Fulton architect M. Fred Bell, who also drafted plans for Fulton State Hospital, the Francis Quadrangle on the University of Missouri campus and the old Callaway County Courthouse. Although it originally had a flat roof with crenelated parapets to give it the appearance of a castle, that style quickly was deemed impractical and a hipped and gabled roof was added to better shed rain and snow.

In January 1885, Gov. Marmaduke appointed his brother as prison warden. Col. Marmaduke was the first warden to occupy the home upon its completion. When the Missouri Department of Corrections became its own entity, the home became the director’s residence. It later housed the DOC’s administrative offices.

Historian Mark Schreiber said people occasionally ask him why the city’s most-prominent families wanted to live in such close proximity to a prison. He noted that many of those leading citizens owned businesses that relied heavily on prison labor to operate successfully. “Back in the day, those big mansions were there because the inmates helped with the construction,” he said.

Schreiber envisions the building as a possible site for the Jefferson City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, which could dedicate a portion of the space to a prison-themed museum. He noted the quarried limestone blocks visible in the building’s basement bear the “artisan marks” — such as a Star of David — etched into the stone by hard-working prisoners.

“It needs to be preserved for future generations, for sure,” he said. “These are the kinds of things we need to preserve ... and capitalize upon.”

An open house is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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