St. Joseph City Hall is located at 1100 Frederick Avenue, St. Joseph MO 64501.
St. Joseph is located along a bend in the Missouri River in the northwest portion of the state. It is situated on bluffs of loess soil which were created by the deposit of silt and dust following the last glacier. The native vegetation was characterized by an undulating prairie with strips of woodlands of mostly black walnut following the streams leading to the Missouri River. The bluffs were both a meeting place and burial ground for the native Indians in the surrounding areas, with the local tribes acting as custodians.
After Missouri was admitted as the twenty-fourth state in 1821, a triangular area of territory to the northwest along the Missouri was designated "in perpetuity" as Indian territory by the treaty of Prairie du Chien. The approximately 2.6 million acres (now the counties of Platte, Buchanan, Andrew, Holt, Nodaway, and Atchison) were viewed as too valuable to the whites, however, which were settling in the area as "squatters" anyway. This led to the inevitable treaty for purchase of the area, known as the Platte Purchase.
After the treaty for the Platte Purchase was negotiated and ratified in 1837, a small colony already established at Blacksnake Hills began to increase. Joseph Robidoux, in establishing this trading post, realized that the south end of the Blacksnake Hills, at the mouth of Blacksnake Creek, was a superior location for such a venture. The cup in the hills along the great Missouri River system had long been a convenient gathering place for the Indians. At first, Robidoux was an employee of the American Fur Company, but in 1830 he purchased their interest in his post and their goods and became the sole proprietor. He also operated a ferry and built a grist mill near the mouth of Blacksnake Creek. From the original trading outpost grew the new community. Robidoux served as the first postmaster when the office was established in 1840. Businesses which are key to insuring the growth of any town were established over the next couple of years, such as a saw mill, flouring mills, and a tavern. Skilled craftsmen were attracted to the area, and a carpenter, plasterer, brick makers, and blacksmiths were settled by the time the town was laid out.
Western Outfitting in St. Joseph, 1843-1865
In July of 1843, Joseph Robidoux filed the town plan for St. Joseph with the clerk of Common Pleas in St. Louis. Two surveyors had submitted plans for his consideration. Simeon Kemper's plan, named "Robidoux", utilized wide streets and parks. Frederick W. Smith, who had grown up in Germany, preferred narrow streets and used those in his plan. To help increase Smith's chances for selection, he named the east-west streets for Robidoux's children. Robidoux did indeed prefer the narrow streets of Smith's plan, which was called "St. Joseph" after his patron saint. However, his decision had more to do with economics than with sentiment. He wanted to sell as much of his quarter section as possible, "not give it away in streets."
Although some buildings were established by this time, including Robidoux's log home, the majority of the less than 160 acres was covered in hemp. When the plan was first submitted in July of 1843, the population was around 200. By December of that same year, the population had grown to 500 as people learned of the opening of the town. Approximately 150 lots sold when the first sale was held in the fall of 1843. Robidoux sold the corner lots for $150, and the interior lots for $100. In the plan registered in St. Louis, the west half of Block 31 was reserved as the market square; the west half of Block 50 was donated for a public church; the northwest quarter of Block 38 donated for a public school; and the south quarter of the same for a Catholic church.
The early settlers of St. Joseph reflected a trend prevalent throughout much of Missouri. Americans from the Upper South had begun to migrate into Missouri by the turn of the nineteenth century, settling among the hills along the Missouri River. This continued until a veritable flood of settlers from the Upper South eventually contributed to a majority of Missouri's population. Buchanan County and St. Joseph were a part of this Southern American settlement experience during this period of growth. The early citizens came mostly from the states of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, as well as from earlier settlements in Indiana, Ohio, and eastern Missouri. They brought with them a decidedly southern culture which included their building traditions. The predominant residential building form of the south transplanted to St. Joseph was originally the log building tradition. Later, as the town and the prosperity of its citizens grew, it was the hall-and-parlor and the I-house forms. Closely associated with these building forms is the Greek Revival style, which was the dominant style of American domestic architecture from about 1830 to the Civil War. The style moved with the settlers from the south as they settled across the rapidly expanding regions of the 1840's and 1850's, such as western Missouri. However, St. Joseph also attracted European immigrants as well, bringing with them a variety of cultural experiences.
As most of the settlement in Missouri at this time was focused on the river, so was the majority of its transportation activity. Steamboats began to dock with increasing regularity at St. Joseph. The town's location, situated at a bend in the river, had been favorable for steamboat landing for over twenty years. Also, Joseph Robidoux's ferry just below Francis Street was the only river crossing nearby. All the early settlers and farmers depended upon the river for their livelihood, so it was only natural that all building was centered westward towards the steamer docks at the end of Jules Street, and the ferry crossing at Francis Street. Many businesses were built on Water, Main, and Second Streets in areas now in the river. Several of these early businesses were general merchandise stores which served westward emigrants, such as those established by C. A. Perry and his brother Elias, and John Corby. Their business structures were more imposing than those constructed earlier, being two stories in height and made of brick.
In 1845, the town was incorporated, and by 1846, its prominence on the river was firmly established when the Buchanan county seat was moved from Sparta to St. Joseph. Emigrants to Oregon had been using St. Joseph as one of their "jumping off" points for their westward journey, but were primarily still starting from Independence. However, the discovery of gold in California changed that. In their frantic rush to reach California, saving time was of the utmost importance to the "forty-niners." It was apparent that St. Joseph had a great advantage over Independence as the northern and westernmost point which could be reached by steamboat before embarking on the dangerous overland trip. The needs of outfitting the thousands of emigrants which were to pass through St. Joseph led to the establishment of several outfitting and mercantile suppliers. The increasing flood of overland travelers led to an increasing volume of goods with profits and opportunities for everyone. Many emigrants, in fact, opted to remain in St. Joseph to take advantage of the fortunes which were quickly being made. The population, which was 800 in 1846, had jumped to 3,460 by 1850.
The citizens and business owners, themselves well aware of St. Joseph's advantages over Independence, were not content to leave the choice of starting points up to the emigrants. Aggressive advertising wars and editorializing were waged in newspapers and pamphlets. The St. Joseph Gazette noted in its issue of February 9, 1849, that there were nineteen stores in operation at that time with an aggregate stock worth $250,000 to $300,000. In addition, there were two flour mills, two saw mills, nine blacksmith shops, four wagon shops, two sheet iron ware manufacturers, and two saddleries and harness makers. "Therefore, not an article wanted by an emigrant, from his team and wagon down to his camp kettle and frying pan, but which may be had of the best material and quality in the town of St. Joseph." The Gazette went so far as to list a table of items most needed by emigrants, and their prices in St. Joseph vs. Independence. The St. Joseph prices were ten to thirty percent less, thus yet another incentive for the overlanders to begin their journey in St. Joseph.
Besides thriving on supplying and outfitting emigrants, St. Joseph's businesses had another ready market in the nearby military forts as well. During the 1850's, Fort Leavenworth was the general depot for the distribution of supplies to all forts throughout the west. With the subsequent rapid growth in the military installations, there was a corresponding rise in the beef and pork packing market. To handle the distribution from Fort Leavenworth alone, in 1859 an estimated two million dollars was invested in oxen, mules, and wagons. Six thousand teamsters were employed to work 45,000 oxen. Supplying the military was thus another powerful economic force which helped establish St. Joseph as a regional trade and outfitting center.
The first generation of residences from the 1840's and 1850's were built near the river on the bottom of the valley formed by the bluffs on the north, east, and south of Robidoux's "Original Town" plat. While commercial buildings were still constructed alongside residences, this was the first time domestic structures were located at a little distance from the commercial center of town. Most of the early residences were modest vernacular buildings influenced by the Greek Revival style, such as the one-story brick tenement houses built by Joseph Robidoux. These served as temporary housing for newcomers waiting while their own homes were being built. Robidoux Row at Third and Poulin Streets remains as an example of these simple early structures. The personal dwellings of the early settlers and business owners, even though they were prosperous in comparison with the emigrants they were servicing, were generally as modest as the itinerants' row houses.
As the city grew from its population of 3,460 in 1850 to 8,932 in 1860, so did the wealth of the town's entrepreneurs. The citizens began to build their residences in what was to become a more prestigious area — the hills overlooking the original town plat. Leading the way for construction in this area were the private schools and churches, which were generally built out away from the business center. The Order of the Sacred Heart completed their school for the education of young ladies in 1857 at the corner of 12th and Messanie, which led to the settlement of that area by primarily Catholic families. Also, in 1857, the Methodist Church constructed its new home on 7th and Francis, still considered at that time to be far from the center of town. As the schools and churches continued to build away from the commercial center, more and more of the town's leading citizens moved their residences to the hills surrounding town. Although these citizens were now able to afford larger homes with more direct stylistic links to the Greek Revival, houses built prior to the Civil War remained modest and restrained in appearance.
In addition to the changing location and size of St. Joseph's domestic structures, there were other physical manifestations of the city's wealth at this time as well. A lot of capital was invested in city improvements through the bonds sold by the city's board of trustees, primarily to erect new wharves. There was a city engineer for streets, water and sewers. In 1856, the gas company was first organized. Also reflecting the city's fortune was the dramatic increase in property values. The value of property in 1845 was $40,000; in 1850, $583,016; and by 1860, it rose to $4,355,693.
One last vital step in securing St. Joseph's prominence as a major outfitter to the west was the completion of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad line on February 15, 1859. Thus the city remained the furthest western destination most easily reached by those desiring to travel even further west. Whereas the prior advantage had been steam travel, now emigrants and goods could travel quickly and cheaply by train all the way to St. Joseph before beginning the more arduous part of their journey. St. Joseph was to enjoy its status as the westernmost railroad terminus for over a decade until the Union Pacific transcontinental railroad was completed through Omaha and Council Bluffs in 1869.
During this period, St. Joseph gained brief but far-reaching notoriety for supplying the west with something in addition to its merchandise and meat — its mail delivery. In 1850, California had become a state, followed by Oregon in 1859. In addition, the discovery of gold in the Colorado region added to the demand for better mail communication. The Butterfield Overland Mail Company contracted with Congress in 1857 to provide semimonthly service by stage coach. From St. Louis to San Francisco, the service took twenty-three days. The leading freight company across the plains, Russell, Majors, and Waddell eventually felt they could provide quicker mail service, and prepared the arrangements for sending the mail west to Sacramento by way of a Pony Express.
St. Joseph proved to be the logical choice for the start of the mail service. With its experience and reputation as outfitters for the west, its freighting facilities already in place, and the Hannibal and St. Joseph railroad connecting the city to New York, Washington, Chicago, and St. Louis, there was really no other competition from other cities. On April 3, 1860, the first rider carried mail out from St. Joseph on the approximately 2,000 mile journey to Sacramento. The time table by which the Express was run had the mail delivered in 240 hours (ten days), at a cost of $5.00 a half ounce. For eighteen months the Pony Express operated a regular weekly schedule, making three hundred and eight runs each way. However, in January 1861, the firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell went bankrupt, and in the spring of 1861, the Pacific Telegraph Company organized and began construction on both coasts of its east-west line. It met in Salt Lake City in late October, and on October 26, 1861, the Pony Express made its last run. Although its operation was brief, the Pony Express was a significant force in the nation's history, particularly in that it maintained communications with California, helping to keep it from slipping towards the Confederacy and thus preserving its gold and silver reserves for the Union.
With the start of the Civil War, most business and construction came virtually to a halt. St. Joseph was divided in its sympathies, as was much of Missouri, and it was a difficult time for its citizens. U.S. troops occupied the city, and St. Joseph became the depot for the centralization and distribution of the troops. However, citizens were not allowed the privilege of participating in this trade or commerce during this period. Virtually no structures were built or improvements to the city made at this time. However, the few buildings that were constructed during the war still reflect the influence of the Greek Revival style and are relevant to the theme of outfitting the west. In general though, the city's fortunes declined during the war, as evidenced by the population dwindling from 10,000 in 1861 to 7,500 at the close of the war.
Wholesale Distribution in St. Joseph, 1866-1914
Immediately after the Civil War, the city got back to "business as usual." In 1866, the city council appropriated $60,000 for macadamizing the streets, and by 1873, there were twenty-eight miles of paved streets. In that same year, the first street car line was run down Eleventh to Mitchell, and from Third to Felix. From 1860 to 1870, the population had doubled to 19,565 and the value of property had nearly tripled to $11,283,435. The locational advantages of St. Joseph were now obvious to the rest of the nation. It was in the center of a cluster of cities: Kansas City, Leavenworth, and Atchison on the south; and Nebraska City, Council Bluffs, and Omaha on the north. Nearby small towns depended upon St. Joseph for their goods, as well as the larger cities further west. The vital connecting link between all these markets was the railroad.
Steamboats, which had been so important to St. Joseph's early strength in transportation, soon proved to be an outmoded means of transporting goods. Traffic on the Missouri River peaked around 1868, and thereafter steamboats relinquished their dominance to the rails. River transportation was, first of all, unreliable -snags and obstructions changed locations; the river channel itself shifted; changing weather brought floods, drought, or frozen passages. Secondly, the train routes cut the distance from the Mississippi to the Missouri in half, and the trains' speed over that distance was much faster. Lastly, it simply became cheaper to ship goods over the rails than by steam.
The construction of several railroad lines in St. Joseph, provided great activity and much needed links with the rest of the nation. In 1868, the St. Joseph and Council Bluffs Railroad was completed, making a connection with the Union Pacific at Omaha. In 1868 and 1869, the Missouri Valley Railroad (a consolidation of the Atchison & St. Joseph, the Weston & Atchison, and the first important connection with St. Louis. In 1871, the "Valley" branch extended up to Hopkins, a point on the Iowa state line, and connected with the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad. This opened an important new route to Chicago and the east. All in all, about ten railroads built lines in St. Joseph into the 1880's making important connections with St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, Denver, and many other markets.
The rail lines serviced the city center, yet skirted around it. The first depot was built south of the original river complex, as were several of the other passenger stations and freight depots. These rail lines slowly directed some of the city's growth south.
With the railroad facilities connecting St. Joseph with virtually the entire country, it was a logical step for the outfitters of the earlier period to turn to the wholesaling industry. The largest business houses dealt with dry goods, groceries, and hardware, but saddlery and harness, drugs, and liquor wholesalers also prospered. Men who started businesses during the western outfitting period were able to expand greatly as wholesalers. Now the city business leaders supplied the West as jobbers, rather than direct suppliers to emigrants. Factories would send their products to St. Joseph, which would then ship them onward to western retailers. Milton Tootle and R. L. McDonald were the most prominent leaders in the wholesale dry goods business; James McCord in grocers; and William Wyeth in both hardware and saddlery. Nearly all started as outfitters, and all became wealthy as wholesalers.
As early as 1873, there were thirty-nine exclusively wholesale houses, and over 300 retail houses. By 1879, over fifty businesses were wholesale jobbers. New firms were continually founded by junior members of the established houses, who found trade promising enough to warrant starting opposition houses. The next thirty years saw much expansion in this area of St. Joseph's economy, and the city became an essential part of the national system of distributing goods. The 1880's and 1890's in particular came to be known as the "Golden Age" of St. Joseph, and many large business houses were built then. The wholesale trade industry was so large, in fact, that it nearly equalled that of Kansas City and Omaha combined. In 1888, the Board of Trade of St. Joseph reported the total gross business for the seven leading groups of wholesale goods was $45,300,000 in St. Joseph, $31,800,000 in Kansas City, and $21,500,000 for Omaha.
Coinciding with the growth in the wholesale industry, several manufacturing firms were started with an eye on the expanding markets to the west as well as nationwide. There were furniture manufacturers such as Louis Hax, and brewers such as Goetz and Map. Many companies had regional and national fame in the building industry, such as Pfeiffer & Co., who furnished cut stone largely for the Chicago area. Chas. H. Shultz & Bard & Co. made iron cornices and tinware which went to nearly every city and town west of St. Joseph.
The establishment of many large fortunes went hand in hand with the city's superior banking facilities of the time. Traditionally, due to its scarcity in western towns, money was expensive and lent out at extremely high rates of interest. Since the gold rush days, however, St. Joseph had been able to rely on its own resources. There was little or no foreign capital in the city during this time. The prominent banking houses included the State National Bank (which eventually had $1,000,000 paid in capital and its stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange), the Buchanan Bank, A. Beattie & Company, the German Savings Bank, the Calhoun Bank, the First National Bank (succeeded by the Merchants Bank), the Bank of St. Joseph, the Saxton National Bank, the German American Bank, and the Commercial Bank. The fact that so many facilities were able to operate successfully is an obvious indication of the wealth and prosperity enjoyed by St. Joseph and its citizens during this period.
With the wealth associated with the wholesaling and banking industries in the "Golden Age," it was natural that the people involved would require larger and more prominent homes. The higher elevations surrounding the original town, which had started to be settled in the last period, remained as prestigious neighborhoods throughout the century. It was said that the hills rising back of the business portion of the city "offer admirable sites for the location of private residences, with tasty grounds, overlooking the beautiful and broad river, with the hills of Kansas beyond, over all of which the glow of the Western sun casts a halo of almost matchless magnificence and glory." Prestigious schools continued to be built in these outlying areas, such as the Young Ladies Institute established by Dr. Charles Martin in 1865 on the corner of Fifth and Antoine. Wealthy Protestant families built their homes close to the school in what is now the Hall Street District. Many of the homes first built simply had to be remodeled in order to remain fashionable with the ones constructed during this period. Reflecting an age of prosperity and new wealth, these homes broke with the classical traditions of the past and were built in the more flamboyant styles of the Victorian era. This was occurring nationwide, but was particularly fitting for St. Joseph's Golden Age. These outlying neighborhoods of larger, elaborate homes remained primarily residential, while the original town district gradually became all commercial and industrial.
Large elaborate homes were not the only residential building types constructed during this period however. The large wholesale warehouses and manufacturing firms required all types of workers. The city's population had continued to grow at a tremendous rate, to 32,431 in 1880, and 52,324 in 1890. This represented a nearly 700 percent increase in population since the close of the Civil War. Obviously, not every one of these citizens was wealthy. As early as 1873, there were four building associations established which allowed the "humble mechanic or tradesman to provide a home for himself" on credit. The effect was to make greater numbers of more modest housing stock available for the working class. These residential structures were generally simple vernacular forms which varied primarily in floor plan and shape, rather than in any recognized "style" of architecture. Not all workers could afford even these smaller homes, and there was a large market for rental properties in St. Joseph. This resulted in much real estate speculation, both in the area of modest single-family residences, and in multifamily housing, such as duplexes, townhouses, flats, and apartment buildings.
Structurally, the residences from this period were much different from their predecessors. The advances in building techniques signaled an end to the pioneer structures such as log houses and to post and beam construction. These were abandoned in favor of dwellings constructed with balloon framing and covered by wood or brick sheathing. Lumber from sawmills and other building materials could now be moved rapidly and cheaply over long distances by rail. Large lumberyards became standard fixtures in towns along the rail lines. For example, as early as 1873, there were eight lumber yards and four marble yards in St. Joseph. As a result of this easy accessibility, the building materials and particularly the construction techniques of the domestic structures changed. Architectural features were also impacted by technological improvements, especially in woodworking equipment. New turning machinery gave rise to factories producing ready-made gingerbread, such as delicately turned porch supports, balusters, and friezes characterized by the Queen Anne style. These features along with mass-produced tiles and terra cotta, could all be ordered from catalogues and shipped via the rails.
The many technological advances made during this period allowed changes not only in how these homes were built, but where they were constructed as well. Street car lines were added in the 1870's and '80's, and on up into the 1900's. In 1876, a line was built from the Market Square to Krug Park; in 1878, along Frederick Avenue; in 1888, both Wyatt Park and Jules Street lines were constructed; in 1889, Messanie Street; 1890, South Park; 1900, Grand Avenue; and Prospect Avenue in 1909. Residential neighborhoods followed the street lines outwards from the center of the city. It was much more feasible for the busy entrepreneurs to live away from the city center in the more desirable neighborhoods, yet still be able to get to their respective places of commerce within a short time period. In other developments a local gas company changed hands several times but was firmly established by 1878. In 1880, the St. Joseph waterworks were built, and in 1883, an electric plant was constructed. By 1900, there were 48 miles of paved streets, 53 miles of sewers, 20" water mains, 17,000,000 gallons of water storage, and 40 miles of double street car track.
The construction activity associated with growth during the wholesaling period gave rise to a large number of related businesses and skilled craftsmen. In the 1870's, there were over eight lumber yards, four marble yards, eleven bridge builders, seven engineering and surveying firms, at least two architectural firms, as well as over 200 carpenters and 150 painters. Throughout the rest of the century, St. Joseph continued to support many businesses and workmen in the construction industry.
The momentum of business growth during the "Golden Age" carried into the first part of the twentieth century. However, other cities were gaining in prominence in the West, and changes were occurring in the nationwide system of goods distribution as well. More factories were sending their merchandise directly to retailers, especially with the emergence of larger chain stores around the turn of the century. The need for the wholesale jobber was eliminated, and the St. Joseph businesses wholly dependent upon wholesaling began to decline. The beginning of the first World War signalled the end of St. Joseph's economic growth in the field of wholesale distribution, as the nation's economy turned to the business of war.
Suburban Growth in St. Joseph, 1900-1929
By the turn of the century, three themes were to affect changes in the residential growth patterns of St. Joseph: the slowing of the wholesale business economy, new transportation modes, and continued changes in technology. The wholesale jobbers business had already started to slow down due to changes in the nationwide distribution system. The First World War had an even more profound effect on the economy, however. During the war, agricultural products and land were greatly inflated, which encouraged great amounts of debt. After the war, the abrupt deflation of values led to the collapse of farm debt and a worsening of the economy in the area. In the 1920's, many St. Joseph wholesale businesses had to be liquidated. Without the booming economy (and also due in part to a nationwide epidemic of Spanish influenza), the population, which had grown to 77,403 in 1910, was virtually unchanged in 1920.
New methods of transportation were also part of the reason that the housing patterns were changing in St. Joseph. The street car lines built in the last quarter of the nineteenth century had first allowed the well-to-do to live apart from their place of work. Nationwide, there was a clear change in city growth patterns as streetcars, trains, and now automobiles permitted and encouraged housing to move away from the dense city to the ever more distant suburbs. This trend in St. Joseph was not toward the city becoming a suburban community in the modern sense, but rather for its newer neighborhoods to be suburban, that is, less than fully urban. Americans continued to glorify rural existence as the natural way to live, certainly the best place to raise a family. By the turn of the century however, the majority of the population was no longer living on farms. When the United States was founded, only 10 percent of its people lived in cities. In contrast, by 1930 America had a predominantly urban population. Neighborhoods out a distance from the commercial and industrial centers of the city were seen as the best compromise for a place to live. The man of the household would commute to earn a living, while the more "delicate" wife and children would stay behind in the healthful suburbs. In the newer neighborhoods of St. Joseph, homeowners could afford to have a good-sized garden behind the house with a front lawn setting it off from the street.
Car owners in St. Joseph became increasingly more independent of public transportation and its existing fixed lines for their travels to and from work. They were dependent, however, upon the condition of the roadway system. The fifty-foot-wide streets in the financial and business core were overrun with street car lines, double-parked cars, as well as through traffic. While there was no quick and easy solution to the downtown congestion problem, it was possible to make the new transportation arteries away from the city's center as up-to-date as possible. Charles Mulford Robinson, a consultant hired by the Ad Club in 1910 to outline recommendations to the city, felt that retail business was already tending away from the downtown, and that investments in new thoroughfares to the south and east would bring new retail centers with them. It was only natural that new residential districts would follow suit and add to the growth on St. Joseph's east and south sides.
Lastly, the technological revolution begun in the last century continued to have many effects on the built environment both in St. Joseph and nationwide as well. The housing types of this period were quite different from the preceding due to advances such as electricity, indoor plumbing, and central heating. These were considered luxuries a few decades before, but by this period it was beginning to be taken for granted that they would comprise nearly 25 percent of the total cost of the house. To compensate for the space taken by the technological improvements in the kitchen, bath, and heating and ventilation systems, the houses overall got smaller and the square footage decreased. Nationwide, this trend also reflected the decrease in the average size of the American family, from five children in 1870 to three-and-one-half in 1900. In St. Joseph, it also reflects the decreasing fortunes of its citizens. There simply was not as much wealth available to build the large, elaborate homes of the preceding years. The dominant housing forms and styles of this period reflect the trends towards smaller, more modest residential structures.
Other national trends associated with changing technologies had some effect on St. Joseph's built environment. By the beginning of the twentieth century, middle-class women were finding themselves freed from many household drudgeries. With time on their hands, they organized into many civic groups whose goals were to bring the same order, cleanliness, and beauty to the community as they had to their homes. While the groups in St. Joseph had varying social objectives, some were dedicated to beautifying their community.
This interest in community beautification was fueled by the "White City" of the World's Columbian Exposition of Chicago in 1893. If nothing else, the fair provided a positive statement about the possibilities for American cities. The "City Beautiful" movement began from the visions of that fair, and out of the City Beautiful Movement was born the city planning profession. However, the far-reaching idea that comprehensive planning could produce a more livable environment was largely overlooked for many decades. Rather, the cosmetic aspects of the fair — the classical architecture, the broad thoroughfares, and the generous landscaping — were what ended up becoming popular themes. In part, some of the City Beautiful Movement's popularity was a reaction against modern society and technology. Eventually from city planning, however, came the concepts of separation of uses, planned residential communities with restrictive covenants, and the tool of zoning.
The consultant, Robinson, was a City Beautiful proponent. He recommended that St. Joseph take advantage of the expanding residential districts and shifting commercial center by building parkways and establishing a "garland of green" around the city. His plan was never executed in full, but the boulevard system was begun in 1914. Noyes Boulevard, completed in 1920, connected many of the existing city parks. In 1921, a referendum on the whole park issue was approved and $2,000,000 committed to build the whole system. The noted landscape architectural firm of Hare and Hare of Kansas City was involved with the planning of St. Joseph's park system.
The trend towards classical architecture was reflected in the many Beaux Arts Revival public buildings constructed during the latter part of this period, such as City Hall, completed in 1927. However, the stock market crash in 1929 and subsequent Great Depression halted most construction activity in St. Joseph. Many of the old established businesses were closed: Wheeler & Hotter; Nave & McCord; R. L. McDonald; Carder Grocery, and others. The nationwide problems added to the already existing local situation were too much for some businesses to handle. For others, the recovery was very slow.
[‡] Davidson, Hugh, Preservation Planner, MO Department of Natural Resources, Historic Resources of St. Joseph, Buchanan County, MO, nomination document, 1989, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.