Walnut Street Historic District
The Walnut Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2007, The Gombach Group.
The Walnut Street District was, from its inception and through most periods of its growth, a residential neighborhood of choice for the upwardly mobile middle-class. Successive additions were platted and added to the city over time, conforming to the rectangular grid plan which was the standard in nineteenth century America. The single exception is Cordova Court, a twentieth century private street development with a single entrance and exit featuring a circle at the head of the court. The grid plan within the district with streets at right angles does not exhibit the characteristics of a master plan. In looking at the map of the district, it is apparent that streets converge at widely varying intervals. The reason for this lies in the organic growth of the district with additional areas platted at different times by different land owners.
Within the western portion of the area of the district, houses are more or less uniformly set back from the street circa twenty to thirty feet. The resultant impression is an important attribute of the district with its highly regular facade line. The eastern portion of the district (beyond National Avenue) is quite the contrary. The facade line is highly irregular, varying sometimes dramatically from one property to the next, though all are set back from the street well beyond the thirty foot general rule found in the western portion of the district.
Each lot in the district varies widely in street frontage, but west of National Avenue most are approximately eighty feet of frontage on the street and extend back circa two hundred feet. As a result, there is minimal side yard space because of the relatively large size of each house. The impression created is of a relatively dense packing of the residential landscape.
The area within the district north of Walnut Street on Hampton, McDaniel, National and Florence is the product of a single plat--the East Side Addition. Lots are squeezed together with only sixty feet frontage. The same set back from the street of from twenty to thirty feet is standard, however.
The area east of National Avenue on Walnut Street is of later date than the rest of the district, and the product of a different approach to residential development. Several lots are three to four hundred feet across. The remainder vary in size from one hundred to one hundred and seventy five feet frontage. The impression created is of much lesser structural density as compared to other areas of the district.
The predominant house styles in the district are the Queen Anne (circa 1890-1900), the catalogue-builder-foursquare (circa 1900-1920), the period revivals (circa 1910-1940), and the bungalow (circa 1910-1930).
The imposing Queen Anne house type in the district features multiple stories, large decorative porch areas, richly textured asymmetrical facades, irregular-plan-shapes, and frequently corner towers or turrets. All are of frame construction,. There are, however, one story examples of the Queen Anne in the district which may be differentiated by the quantity of applied ornament, though they are no less a product of their period with their profoundly asymmetrical plan shape.
The catalogue-builder style may be found in two forms in the district. The less common form perpetuates the asymmetry of earlier house forms though clothed in a simplified classically derived ornamentation. The more common form, pushed vigorously in the widely available catalogue plan books, is based on a square or slightly rectangular plan sometimes called a "foursquare." Decorative schemes run to the neo-classical or neo-colonial, though there are a few examples of the influence of the Craftsman movement. The catalogue-builder house is most commonly of frame construction, though there are cast-stone and brick examples in the district. A two story house with hip roof plan is the norm with the variant usages being gable and gable-hip roof combinations.
There are several English Cottage or Tudor Revival house types in the district with their emphasis on the high pitch gable roof and rusticated facade surfaces, sometimes supplemented with false half timbering and light colored stucco interstices. Spanish Mission Revival house types with stucco wall surfaces and ceramic tile roofs are represented in the district. There is one remarkable Italian Renaissance Revival house of imposing scale on a large lot. The walls are stone with an exuberant portico, door and window surrounds, and delicate balconies at the second story, all executed in soft limestone. Relatively common in the district are American Colonial Revival house types with their simple gable roof line and rectangular plan shape and symmetrical bay arrangement. Both frame and brick veneered examples are common. Bungalows are well represented in the district. Both of the dominant forms are found. The first is recognized by a sweeping roof line on a one and one half story bungalow with the roof face to the street and an ever-present half-story dormer. The second characteristic bungalow type presents its gable to the street, usually with a full gable roof porch within the house gable. Most of the bungalows within the district are of frame construction although there are a couple of relatively modest late bungalows of brick veneer construction.
The Walnut Street Historic District is ... representative of several high-style and vernacular architectural forms that peaked in popularity in the decades between 1870 and 1940. The district is significant in the area of architecture; a walk through the area affords a view of the building eras that swept through Springfield over a period of seventy years, during which the area flourished as a fashionable neighborhood for the prosperous classes. The streetscape is the product of the ebb and flow of changing taste and fashion, graphically apparent in the homes of generations of the upwardly mobile middle-class whose aspirations took visible form in the homes they chose to build and exhibit to the community. Springfield was (and is still considered to be) the "Queen City" of the Ozarks pre-eminent as a wholesale jobbing and manufacturing center. Many of the persons involved in the city's growth industries built their homes in the area of the district that ultimately pushed further and further to the east as time passed. The visually eclectic Queen Anne style, ca. 1885-1900, is well represented in the district, cheek by jowl with the more simplified though no less imposing or substantial catalogue-builder foursquare style of the following generation. Toward the eastern reaches of the district, there is a liberal sprinkling of the period revival styles, built ca. 1910-1940, including Renaissance Revival, American Colonial Revival, Spanish Mission Revival, English Tudor Revival, and English Cottage Revival. There are a few bungalows mixed in, adding to the rich pastiche of the streetscape. There are a few remaining homes of more humble origin on the north edge of the district prototype neighborhoods which never received the growth afforded the contiguous areas of Walnut and Elm Streets and National Avenue. Only one significant house remains of the small black service neighborhood which furnished servants to the wealthy white families in the adjacent houses of Walnut Street.
In the late 1820s and early 1830s, a number of Anglo-American families, most of them apparently from Tennessee, settled in the Jordan Creek valley a short distance from the future site of the town of Springfield. Growth was rapid and in January of 1833 the county of Greene was established and the tiny hamlet of Springfield, near its center, was made the county seat. The designation as administrative center and the natural benefits accrued from its location on an important geographic divide between the watersheds of the Missouri and White rivers made Springfield a focal point for growth.
The Springfield plateau is a level to rolling landscape, which historically was a prairie and forest mix; highly prized settlement lands far preferable to the deeply dissected woodlands of the deep Ozarks which surround the plateau on the west, south, and east. In 1835 the only U.S. government land office in southwest Missouri was established in Springfield a direct recognition of the importance of the town in relation to the surrounding region, and of the already burgeoning farm population.
In the same year the land office opened, John Polk Campbell donated a centrally located fifty acre tract to the county. The tract was platted in a rectilinear grid plan organized around a central square which became, logically enough, the focus of the county administrative apparatus and of the business community. The plat of the town formally fixed the location of the primary overland route into Springfield from the east. Today the street still bears the name of the most important city to the east--St. Louis. East Walnut Street and the area of the district is directly to the south of St. Louis Street.
Springfield did not grow quickly in the years prior to the Civil War. Nearly thirty years after it was settled, Springfield still had less than 1500 inhabitants, although it was the largest town within a hundred mile radius. There were twenty seven businesses operating in 1860, eight of which were general stores. A description written on the eve of the Civil War serves to describe the relative importance of Springfield:
"The county seat of Greene County, on the line of the southwest branch Pacific Railroad, 250 miles from St. Louis, and 130 southwest of Jefferson City. The situation is high and healthy and the water excellent. Springfield has a City Charter and is the most important town in southwest Missouri. It contains a court house, a United States land office, two newspaper offices and a bank." 
As the description states, Springfield was in the construction path of the southwest branch of the Pacific Railroad, a fact known since 1850, and a source of great anticipation within the community.
By 1856 construction reached Rolla, one hundred miles to the northeast, and inexplicably halted there. To induce further progress, the citizens of Greene County raised $20,000 in 1856, but to no avail. The railroad terminus remained in Rolla until 1868.
The certain knowledge that the railroad would shortly arrive propelled the city into a frenzy in the late 1860s. In 1870 the tracks reached Spingfield. Population jumped nearly fourfold, fostering a building boom in and around town. Enthusiasm dampened, however, with the arrival of the railroad, as it "did not directly benefit the town as much as could have been wished...", and the construction of the line one mile north of the old city's center commenced a bitter rivalry between two competing segments of the community.
The city grew during the decade of the 1870s, but by no means at an alarming rate, increasing by about one quarter from 5,555 in 1870 to 7,516 in 1880 for the combined city of Springfield and North Springfield. However, by no means did the city become quiescent. In 1879 it was reported that "...the city has made rapid progress; it has a large trade with southwest Missouri, and is an important shipping point; the opening of new lines of railroad and the further settlement of the surrounding country are steadily increasing its wealth and commerce." Not only did Springfield develop as an important jobbing center, and shipping point for the agricultural wealth of the region, it also become a manufacturing center in the decade of the 1870s, with clothing mills, flouring mills, a wagon factory, iron foundries, and most important for the future of Springfield, it became the center for the railroad repair shops.
The Walnut Street area grew along with the city. In the ten years prior to the arrival of the railroad there were six separately platted non-contiguous subdivisions on Elm and Walnut Streets between Jefferson and National Avenues. A "birdseye" view of the city, ca. 1872, shows approximately thirty residences on Walnut Street and sixteen on Elm.
By 1880 Walnut Street had matured to become a relatively dense residential neighborhood extending from Jefferson Avenue (one block east of the public square) eastward as far as present day National Avenue, which in 1880 was the city boundary. The census of 1880 lists forty-four households on Walnut Street. The character of the population of Walnut Street in 1880 had also stabilized into a pattern that would prevail for a long time to come. Walnut Street in 1880 was a neighborhood of the aspiring middle class. Living on Walnut Street were merchants, bankers, lawyers, and manufacturers. Only two men were listed of modest means: a "railroad man" and a laborer.
Presumably, owing to the social and economic standing of the neighborhood, the homes were of a substantial nature. However, there are no known houses surviving today between Jefferson and National Avenue which antedate 1880 although Christ Episcopal Church, a board and batten Gothic Revival building constructed in 1869, still stands at the northeast corner of Kimbrough Avenue and Walnut Street.
The area to the east of present day National Avenue was not built up in 1880, although it was divided into relatively small land holdings. The 1876 Atlas of Greene County shows ten holdings ranging from four acres to fifty along what would become East Walnut Street between National and Glenstone Avenue. The only home known to date before 1880 in the entire Walnut Street area survives on what was a thirteen acre "mini" farmlet east of National Avenue. Waldo Booth, a hardware merchant, built a frame house with Italianate detail in 1869-1870 at what is now 1260 East Walnut Street.
To the north of Walnut Street on Hampton Avenue was an all black neighborhood of some thirty households in 1880. Many of the listed occupations--gardener, cook, washer--would seem to indicate that the Hampton area was a service neighborhood for the wealthy white families on Walnut and St. Louis Streets. The simple one story frame, vernacular hall and parlor house at what is now 301 South Hampton Avenue may possibly date to the 1880 era.
East Elm Street in 1880 presented a wholly different aspect from Walnut Street, just one block to the north. While the residential zone was relatively dense, with twenty-nine households, it did not extend as far east as Walnut Street. The social-economic standing of the residents was at odds with those on Walnut Street. Clerks, carpenters, and other men of humble occupation lived on the small platted lots of the two major sub-divisions made in the 1860s. However, near the eastern edge, where a few of "the old undivided land holdings could be found, a few apparently contained substantial dwellings. For instance, the mayor of the city, M. J. Roundtree, lived on one such plot. As far as has been determined there are no homes on Elm which pre-date 1880.
In 1881, railroad connection was made with Kansas City by the Kansas City, Ft. Scott, and Memphis railroad. The tracks entered Springfield from the Jordan Creek valley adjacent to the old city center or public square. Car repair shops went up on the central west side.
"From that day the future of Springfield--the south or old section of town---was assured. It marked the turning point in the city's history.... Beginning then, realty values have steadily risen. Factories by the dozen have located here as a result of improved railroad facilities."
The ultimate consolidation of the Memphis line with the Frisco system later in the century moved the station and offices of the latter to the old city location, leaving the freight yard in the north part of the city.
Between 1880 and 1900 the population of Springfield, more than tripled as steady growth marked the commercial jobbing markets, agricultural produce shipping, manufacturing, and railroad repair facilities. The consequences for the Walnut Street area were enormous. On Walnut Street itself between what was then called Dollison Avenue (present day Sherman Parkway), which is the western boundary of the district, and National Avenue there were twenty six homes, twenty eight on Elm Street, and four on Florence Avenue, and there were approximately six to eight homes on Walnut east of National in what was then still considered the countryside.
Ten homes on Walnut, three on Elm, one on McDaniel, and three on Florence Avenue survive from the 1880-1900 era. Those which remain are of frame construction, two story (excepting those on Florence and McDaniel) and all are Queen Anne in style with an exuberance of trim and detail and with asymmetrical plan shape. All sit well back on their narrow lots to accommodate tree plantings.
The population makeup remained similar to that found twenty years earlier. On Walnut Street were five individuals who owned or managed manufacturing companies, five were involved in merchandising or jobbing, two were self-styled "capitalists", and three were professional persons. There were also seven individuals of more modest means, most of whom lived "on the north side of the street between Hampton and Florence Avenues.
Elm Street had quietly moved forward in status during the twenty year interval, although it betrayed its more humble beginnings. There were in 1900 no persons who owned or managed manufacturing companies, four involved in merchandising, seven professional persons, two "capitalists", and thirteen men of humble occupation. Two of the three houses which survive on Elm are those built by professional men an architect and a physician. On Florence Avenue there were only four households listed in the census of 1900: all four were headed by laboring men. Three of the homes survive, all one story, though no less decorated with applied ornament than their contemporaries on Walnut Street.
It is possible that the surviving homes on Florence Avenue and McDaniel Street are an indication of how East Elm Street appeared prior to 1900-1910. The occupational status was similar, and clearly there was a link in the desire to be at least proximate to the streets of the affluent middle-class. The modest one story house at 924-6 East Elm Street which pre-dates 1900 (builder unknown) would seem to substantiate the possibility. Florence Avenue never changed, while Elm Street went on to become a spillover neighborhood of the well-to-do in the coming decade.
The next decade – 1900-1910 – was a period of maturity and growth in Springfield and the Walnut Street area, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape. Population statistics alone demonstrate the phenomenal growth of Springfield, increasing by one-third in just ten years to over 35,000 in 1910.
"The...decade -- 1900-1910 -- was marked by extraordinary progress... This progress was due largely to industrial development. In five years Springfield had made a gain of 45 percent in the amount of capital invested in its manufactures."
By far the most important of the manufacturing interests were the vast railroad machine shops of the Frisco system – which in 1904 employed 2500 men, rising to nearly 3100 by 1912. Other industries of the city employed nearly 8000 more workers. Wholesale jobbing still comprised over half of the business conducted annually in Springfield, with the trade territory still expanding. There were, in 1904, sixty-four freight and passenger trains stopping daily in Springfield on the seven Frisco lines entering the city, bringing in and taking out wholesale goods and the products of Springfield's expanding manufactories.
The rise in population and growth in prosperity drew more residents to the highly desirable east-side neighborhoods, the bastion of Springfield's middle-class. The Walnut Street area received its share. Nearly half (17 of 38) of the houses surviving west of National Avenue in the district were built in the first decade of the century. In the next five years, four more houses would be built west of National, leaving the present day_ neighborhood over three quarters complete – only nine more houses would be built between 1916-1940.
The houses built in the first decade of this century were, with few exceptions, the large frame and brick two story dwellings, more straightforward and with less ornament than their Queen Anne predecessors, commonly associated with the late Victorian street-scape idealized in contemporary sources. The street scene chosen to typify the suburban life in Springfield is a street view on East Walnut Street used as illustration in The State of Missouri, statewide burst of boosterism printed in 1904 to coincide with the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis (more popularly known as the St. Louis World's Fair) in the same year. Postcards, using multi-color lithography, pictured East Walnut Street with its moderate house set-back line, brick paving and walks, stone gutters and curbs, hitching posts and carriage stoops, and the relatively young though vigorous tree canopy.
The number of people and their socio-economic status on East Walnut Street to National Avenue on the east remained substantially the same as found in 1900 and before, although many of the names were different. A large number of the older homes were pulled down to make way for the building boom of the first decade of this century. In a few instances persons living on the street tore down their older homes to build more modern "stylish" homes, however, most of the houses were built by new residents to the neighborhood.
The population growth of the expanding middle-class pushed East Walnut to the east extending well beyond National Avenue for the first time, with the 1910 census reporting thirteen households to the east. Nine houses stand today built between 1900 and 1910. The lots are for the most part larger, and the street set-backs greater still, leaving the area with the semi-bucolic ambiance which it had preserved for so long prior to 1910-1915.
East Elm Street went through a virtually complete change during the 1900-1910 period. The population increased to forty households between Dollison and National Avenues, but the largest change was wrought in the population makeup, with a definite upturn in the occupation status of the residents. Only a handful (five) of the resident's occupations could be classified as humble; the remainder were divided between mercantilists and professionals. Elm Street rivaled but never really pulled up to Walnut Street in terms of status or wealth, but the streetscape created in the short time span at the turn of the century closely resembled that of Walnut. Like the homes built on Walnut, the East Elm Street residences were frame or brick, almost all two story, with simplified plan shape and refined neo-classical ornament. The homes built by the new residents remain today, defining and dominating the streetscape. Twenty-two of the thirty homes surviving in the district on East Elm Street were built between 1900 and 1910. In the next five years three more houses went up on Elm; in the next thirty-five years, only two more buildings were constructed.
The Florence Avenue neighborhood remained a quiet side street of modest late Queen Anne houses, although a large school building went up to the northwest, changing the complexion of the area. The Hampton Avenue neighborhood remained stable with the exception of the construction of the same school building. The first decade of the century brought growth to South National Avenue as the street became one of the most-important north-south axis routes. Six of the eleven houses in the district on National Avenue were built between 1900-1910, while the rest followed in the next five year period. The homes harmonize with those being built on the adjacent Walnut and Elm Streets, and represent the continuation of the middle-class spread documented on Elm Street.
With the expansion of the middle-class population in the district came increased demand for city services. City fire protection extended into the midst of the neighborhood with the construction in 1912 of Station Number Three between Walnut and Elm Streets on National Avenue. In 1908-1909, the imposing neo-classical McDaniel School was built on South Florence Avenue between the prime residential streets, St. Louis and Walnut, though somewhat ironically placed at the edge of (displacing some of) the poor black neighborhood sandwiched between the affluent white residential neighborhoods. The school was clearly intended for the use of the white neighborhoods as schools were segregated at the turn of the century.
The last era of homebuilding in the district, 1916-1940, was insignificant on Walnut and Elm Streets up to and including National Avenue. Only eleven buildings of the seventy nine surviving west of National Avenue date to the latest historic period. However, other events happening to the west of the district, closer to the city's core in the oldest residential zone, threatened drastic change.
Late in the 1910s and into the early 1920s, a transformation took place in the neighborhoods at the city's core. In 1916, a two story apartment house went up in the 500 block of East Walnut Street in the midst of the affluent single family area. By 1933, the process begun in 1916 had overwhelmed the street. In a one block area, two of the large mansions had been torn down, three had been converted into rooming houses, one transformed into a funeral home, and two filling stations and the apartment house already mentioned intruded on the street. The cycle began at the very heart of the city in the affluent residential neighborhoods immediately adjacent, but the rapid decline of the single family neighborhoods spread outward in time affecting Walnut and Elm Streets as far as Dollison and beyond.
Prior to 1940, the urban transformation did not visibly affect Walnut Street in the area of the present district. However, on East Elm the only two buildings erected after 1915 were multi-family apartment houses. The multi-story brick buildings fronted the street, filling their small lots and overwhelming the adjacent single family homes. For the most part however, the Walnut and Elm Street neighborhoods remained soundly stable in the area of the district until probably the mid 1950s. The apartment house and apartment conversion was limited at first to the west edge of the district. Eventually, however, the creeping changes touched and overtook these neighborhoods as well. Most of the previously single family dwellings have been converted to apartments, and virtually all of the post-war construction on Walnut and Elm Streets west of National has been multi-family.
Curiously, the area of the district around the McDaniel School escaped the negative pattern established on Walnut and Elm Streets. The Florence Avenue and McDaniel Street area grew slowly at a steady pace through the 1920s and into the 1950s, with modest single family bungalows built side by side with Victorian cottages. The residential character of the street remained humble in comparison to the affluent Walnut Street area.
By no means did the affluent middle-class abandon the notion of building homes on East Walnut in the post World War One period. The area east of National Avenue is a continuation of the process that evolved closer to the city center, only now development pushed further into the countryside. The rapidly expanding population ensured continued pressure on the geographic range of development. Between 1920 and 1930, the population jumped by nearly 20,000 people to almost 60,000.
The primary thrust of housing development was on the south and east side of Springfield, with large tracts of bungalows and the period revival house styles dominating. East Walnut Street was part of the building boom, defining the northernmost edge of affluent house development and sticking like a finger into the countryside to the east. Two thirds of the historic houses on East Walnut date to 1916-1940. Fully one half of the homes were constructed between 1921 and 1940. The houses are a motley assortment of American Colonial Revival, English Tudor, Bungalow, Cottage Revival, and Spanish Mission Revival. Houses are set on large tree-shaded lots, each built well back from the street.
In the later part of the period, a private court development went on East Walnut Street. In 1927-1928 one of the largest Queen Anne homes in all of Springfield, located on East Walnut Street was pulled down by Lucius Hubble, an enterprising developer. The multi-acre site was divided up into small lots, a private circle drive platted, and called Cordova Court. Hubble built for himself, on the largest lot at the head of the circle, a two story frame American Colonial Revival house. His daughters built a relatively modest Cottage Revival house nearby. The vice-president and manager of the privately owned city utilities built an unusual Spanish Mission Revival house, and across the street in the same year, 1928, an exuberant Tudor Revival house sprang up. All sit close to the private street, accentuating the highly eclectic visual character of the street.
The houses on all of East Walnut to the east of National are those of the affluent middle-class of Springfield. Today, the neighborhood remains essentially unchanged, preserving its original character, and single family status.
Major Bibliographical References
An Illustrated Historical Atlas Map of Greene County, Mo. Chicago: Brink, McDonaugh & Co., 1876.
Escott, George S. History and Directory of Springfield and North Springfield. Springfield, Missouri: George S. Escott, 1878.
Fairbanks, Jonathan, and Tuck, Clyde Edwin. Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri. 2 vols. Indianapolis: A. W. Bowen & Co., 1915.
Handbook of Springfield, Missouri-, and Surroundings. Chicago: C. S. Burch Publishing Co., 1889.
History of Greene County, Missouri. St. Louis: Western Historical Company, 1883.
Holcombe, R. I., ed. History of Greene County, Missouri, 1883. St. Louis: St. Louis Western Historical Company 1883.
Insurance Maps of Springfield, Missouri. New York: Sanborn Map Co., 1910.
Insurance Maps of Springfield, Missouri. New York: Sanborn Map Co., 1933.
Manuscript Censuses for Greene County, Missouri. The Ninth, Tenth, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Censuses of the United States. State Historical Society of Missouri Library microfilm. 1870, 1880, 1900, and 1910.
Missouri State Gazetteer and Business Directory. St. Louis: Sutherland and McEvoy, 1860.
Missouri State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1879-1880. St. Louis: R. L. Polk & Co., 1879.
Program of the Third Annual Missouri State Elks Convention. Springfield: 1912.
Springfield, Missouri. Center for Archaeological Research. Flanders, Robert; Harris, Suzanne; and Quick, David. "A Cultural Resources Survey of the Proposed University Plaza Project, City of Springfield, Greene County, Missouri." 2 vols. Report 441, 1981.
Springfield, Mo.; Its Commerce, Its Industries, and Its Live Hen. Springfield: Chamber of Commerce, 1890.
Williams, Walter, ed. The State of Missouri: An Autobiography. Columbia, Missouri- E. W. Stephens, 1904.
Work Projects Administration, Writers' Program. Missouri: A Guide to the "Show Me" State. New York: Duel!, Sloan and Pearce, 1941.
[†] Denman, David, Missouri Heritage Trust, Walnut Street Historic District, Greene County Missouri, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.