When returning to her Woodlawn Avenue home one day, Charlotte Russell was greeted by a note on the door from Laura Ward with the Historic City of Jefferson.
"Could you please call me," Ward wrote.
When they finally got in contact, Ward told Russell she was bringing by an award, "which was so great, but when they all came — and the mayor," Russell laughed. "I was so shocked. I thought it was going to be this little piece of paper, and then they gave me this lovely award."
Russell, who keeps busy with family and her home renovations in her retiree years, was recently awarded the June 2021 Golden Hammer Award from the Historic City of Jefferson for her work on the historic property at 413 Woodlawn Ave.
The Golden Hammer Award recognizes individuals in Jefferson City who have restored historic structures at least 50 years old, preserving them for years to come and showing the pride the community has for its past.
The history of the Woodlawn Avenue home dates back nearly 90 years ago, according to a history of the home compiled by Deborah Goldammer with the Historic City of Jefferson.
Dubbed as the Woodcrest Addition by the Schoenberg Land Company, a group of notable gentlemen aiming to develop the subdivision, the area was officially filed with Cole County in 1913. Under their supervision, documents state, the south part of the city, which the Woodcrest Addition was a part of, "grew into one of the finest residential sections."
Indeed it was — over time, the neighborhood saw the likes of a state governor, state treasurer and various company executives, according to a previous Cole County History article. It was, essentially, the neighborhood for elites.
One of the partners of Schoenberg Land Company, Gustav Adolphus Fischer, owned a selection of lots in Woodcrest, eventually passing them down to his two children. Lot 92 and the west half of 93 (the other half was given to his son, Clifford) were transferred to his daughter, Nadine Fischer Allen, who then sold the lots in 1932 for $1,000 — today, roughly $19,000-$20,000.
The property was sold once more to Theodore and Thelma Kieselbach in 1933. It was the Kieselbachs who finally built the house sometime between 1933-34 and recorded 413 Woodlawn Ave. in the 1935 directory.
From initial filing as the Woodcrest Addition in 1913 to when a structure was finally raised, the lot sat undeveloped for two decades.
It then passed through two more sets of hands and even hosted a wedding before Russell, the current owner, purchased it in 2014.
Russell holds a deep love for historic homes. It started somewhere in Connecticut at a bed and breakfast before it continued to travel with her, making a stop in Springfield, Missouri. It was there she owned a home on Meadowmere Street, an area similar to the city's historic Walnut Street near downtown, Russell said. Then, she moved to Jefferson City and found 413 Woodlawn Ave.
She'd already spent years visiting the likes of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and the east coast "just to look at those homes."
"But this one? To me, its one of a kind, and I've never seen anything quite like it — and I've looked and I've looked," Russell said. "I like the one of a kind, the character and the neighborhoods."
She has resided in the neighborhood since, seeing the three-story property through the 2019 tornado and completing rehabilitation twice — first after purchasing the property then repairing tornado damage.
Russell remembers how the May 2019 tornado tore through the area, leaving behind piles of debris so large "you couldn't even walk around."
At the time, she was nearly done with her home. A number of rooms inside had been flipped — a laundry room was turned into a reading room, the kitchen was turned into a full bath, the family room turned into a kitchen and so on. The original oak flooring was sanded and repolished. The interior needed a significant amount of updating. It looked "like it did when it was built" in the 1930s, she said.
For five years, she poured time and effort into the home.
"I was pretty much done," Russell said, "and then the tornado came. And it's hard to describe. There was damage, but there wasn't — it was like a wind blew and just blew my stuff away and blew all the windows out."
Most of the damage the home sustained was on the exterior. It took around a year to have all the windows replaced — 30 of them, Russell pointed out — and to install a new roof, gutters and siding.
It's the stone and structural terra cotta that potentially saved her home from a bigger hit. In the early 20th century, many builders were adding structural terra cotta to exterior walls, believing it to be stronger than regular wood framing.
"I think that's why it survived," Russell said. "It's just so structurally strong."
So, with the help of her neighbors, various churches, Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri, and even the city (Russell credits the city with taking and discarding debris like large trees for free), she got back to work.
"I guess I'm just optimistic. I just know that things are probably going to be OK," she said.
Today, her home stands in all its red brick, arched glory — tall and proud. To the right of the home's face is a trio of windows that spill natural light into a dining area, where her children's birthday and high school graduation parties have created memories. In the middle, a chimney stops two steep roof lines just short of meeting, and inside, Russell will sit by the stone fireplace once the weather finally begins to cool. It's one of her favorite rooms.
Where trees and shrubbery once were, packed branch to branch into the green space of her backyard, the sun now shines through in the July heat. Though most of the trees are gone, many casualties of the tornado, Russell holds onto a piece of a former, giant walnut tree from her backyard: a smooth wooden bowl, engraved on the bottom with "2019," gifted to her by a group of Amish people who helped remove the tree.
And she still has some work to do.
Early this year, she found out she had more land to her name. Russell's lot stretches to the right, behind her neighbor's home and connects to Jackson Street. She's still working on clearing her property, but for the most part, the home is in order.
Being awarded June's Golden Hammer came as a happy shock.
"I was really surprised because there are so many beautiful homes and neighborhoods in Jefferson City," Russell said. "And I was so appreciative of my neighbors, the Hermans, that nominated me. It meant the world to me."