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Missouri State Penitentiary walls a 'Place in Peril'

by Emily Cole | October 31, 2020 at 4:25 a.m. | Updated October 31, 2020 at 12:24 p.m.
The Missouri State Penitentiary walls, shown from the outside here on Friday, were recently put on the Historic Places in Peril list.

The crumbling walls of the Missouri State Penitentiary have been included on the 2020 Places in Peril list, along with a handful of other historic places in Missouri.

Each year, the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation releases a list of endangered historic places around the state.

Places included on the list are nominated by concerned individuals and chosen by a committee of preservation advocates.

MSP has previously been listed in 2010-11. This year, the prison's walls are specifically listed.

Portions of the wall are estimated to have been built between 1833-35, prior to the prison's opening in 1836. Maintenance had been carried out over the years using locally quarried stone.

Around 20 years ago, reports noted structural issues with the walls and tuck-pointing was recommended, but funding was not available, according to a Missouri Preservation news release.

In May 2019, the walls were further damaged by a tornado that tore through Jefferson City's Capitol Avenue area. A large portion of the wall along Capitol Avenue was destroyed.

Another potential threat to the walls of MSP is planned redevelopment of the area. In June, the Jefferson City Council chose St. Louis-based Chesterfield Hotels to develop a convention center and hotel on the city-owned portion of the property.

Although the development would not cause demolition of the historic prison buildings, the redeveloper's proposal did include demolition of parts of the prison walls.

Advocates for the walls hope listing the property among the Places in Peril will publicize the threat and prevent the structure's removal, according to the MAHP news release.

Also in Mid-Missouri, the former Stonner Meat Market in Chamois was included on the Places in Peril list. Originally constructed in the 1880s, the two-story brick building in downtown Chamois is one of the few early structures standing on Main Street.

William Stonner opened his business there in 1888, and the building operated as Stonner Meat Market until 1984. Eventually the building was converted into Lucy's Bar and Grill, but it now sits vacant and has been vandalized.

The current owner, Chamois Industrial Development Corporation, hoped to transform the building as a community center, but the project never took off.

The CIDC and the Chamois Historic Preservation Commission want to use the building to support a museum collection, and the hope is including the building on the Places in Peril list will help with this endeavor.

Missouri Preservation keeps an interactive map of Places in Peril on its website, showing the status of places previously included on the list.

In Jefferson City, four locations are currently in "limbo" status - the Cole County Courthouse and Jail, listed in 2010; the Parsons House, listed in 2016; the Capitol Avenue Historic District, listed in 2018-19; and Missouri State Penitentiary, listed in 2010-11.

Houses at 207, 211, 215 and 221 W. McCarty St. were listed in 2001 and 2007. Those homes are now gone.


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