Bockrath house earns Golden Hammer Award

The house at 309 W. Dunklin St. in Jefferson City has been undergoing renovations after years of neglect. It was chosen for the Golden Hammer Award for the month of May.

The house at 309 W. Dunklin St. in Jefferson City has been undergoing renovations after years of neglect. It was chosen for the Golden Hammer Award for the month of May. Photo by Julie Smith.

Vacant and boarded up for years, the distinguished Bockrath Home was hidden and deteriorating until Nathan Runyan and Matt Winingear took notice in 2012.

As Professional Building Restoration LLC, the duo returned this late Victorian/second empire brick home with a faux Mansard roof to an eye-catching feature along the 300 block of West Dunklin Street.

The Historic City of Jefferson honored Runyan and Winingear with the May Golden Hammer Award.

“We are so grateful that the new owners devoted their time, talent, and finances to restore this historical property and make it, once again, a contributing piece of history for the City of Jefferson,” said Laura Ward, selection committee chairman.

The Henry and Elizabeth Bockrath House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, retains the original slate roofing and wood crown molding, decorative cornice lining the eaves with bricked corbels below, two-bay facade with arched windows, stone sills and a rounded entry.

But the building has seen changes since the Bockraths bought the home in 1899. By 1929, it was converted to two apartments and by 1935 into three.

Professional Building Restoration LLC continues to rent property.

Henry Bockrath immigrated from Hanover, Germany, to America at age 16 after being orphaned at age 10. He operated businesses in St. Louis and Florissant before moving to Jefferson City about 1885 as a successful dry goods salesman and tailor.

He and Elizabeth married in 1864 and had nine children. As members of St. Peter Catholic Church, they helped many in their German Catholic neighborhood, including Henry J. Wallau, a prominent local builder who got his first construction job in Jefferson City from Bockrath.

They operated a grocery at 703 W. Main St., south of Paddy Malone’s, in what was then the booming Millbottom industrial district.

By 1896, he had retired from the grocery business and established the H. Bockrath Shoe Company, employing at least 45 “boys and girls” instead of prison labor. His factory was located near the second Missouri State Capitol at Stuart and Water streets.

“Bockrath was praised for constructing a successful factory outside the prison, using non-prison labor,” Ward said. “This would be consistent with the Missouri-German culture, where hard work was considered a part of daily life and they helped their community.”

After his shoe business closed in 1908, the Bockraths returned to St. Louis. But the distinctive, two-story property has remained on the South Side hill.

This is the next in a line of several properties in the last couple of decades to be restored in the Old Munichburg area.

“A group of dedicated homeowners and business owners created the Old Munichburg Association in 2000,” Ward said. “Their dedication to promote, preserve, and protect this area has made Old Munichburg a neighborhood to be proud of once again.”

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