The Robidoux Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. 
The Robidoux Hill Historic District is a contiguous concentration of 69 resources adjacent the central commercial district of St. Joseph, Missouri. Lying on hilltops overlooking the commercial heart of the city the district contains 61 contributing resources which retain sufficient historic character to reflect the stylistic preferences dominant in domestic architecture of St. Joseph between c.1865-1909. Although alterations have impacted the historic integrity of some of the district's resources, the retention of integrity in terms of location, setting, design, and workmanship lend the district a coherent and recognizable quality, architecturally reflective of the aspirations of the 19th and early 20th century citizenry living within the" "Golden Age" of St. Joseph, when the city served as one of the wholesaling capitals of the central Midwest. Though possessing resources that lack individual distinction, the district epitomizes the pattern of aspiring middle class housing distribution on the cities heights, above the clamor of the work place, while retaining a small representative sample of more prosaic, though equally significant, vernacular housing.
The Robidoux Hill Historic District is located on the river bluff hills ringing the central business district of St. Joseph. The district retains a substantive amount of integrity through the preservation of a sense of time and place; in large part this is due to the survival of the high quality of the architecture's design, materials, and workmanship. The Lemon House is a good example exhibiting the preservation of outstanding architectural features which mark this house as one of the more architecturally important residences in St. Joseph. It features an elaborate carpenter-fashioned cornice and effusively decorative stucco-finished porch entry. The Donovan House possesses the richly designed pressed-metal oriels; just as the McKinney House possesses ornamental pressed-metal work and elaborate brick masonry. Many of the buildings in the district are in poor condition, with a number presently vacant. Yet, though often in a state of neglect, the majority of the contributing buildings retain the stylistic architectural elements which define the character of the district.
The majority of the dwellings in the district were built as Victorian single-family residences intermixed with several duplex mirror image units built in the late nineteenth century. Often the houses are on narrow lots with only a few feet between them. Many of the houses are built to within ten to fifteen feet of their front lot lines presenting a more or less uniform set back from the street. On North 6th Street the houses are generally closer to the street.
A number of the district's residences feature outbuildings or carriage houses that were important ancillary buildings to the homes. The state of these buildings' integrity in terms of materials and workmanship vary; where the outbuildings have been determined to be functionally and historically related to the residences they have been nominated as contributing elements of the district if a substantive amount of their historic character defining features are retained. The majority of these outbuildings are of brick construction and mimic the style of architecture prevalent during the period of construction.
The district's streets have stone curbing and at least one alley is surfaced with stone pavers. One section of Isadore Street, between N. 6th and N. 5th Streets, is brick paved. The rest of the streets are covered with modern asphalt, which may cover brick streets. There are sidewalks at the property lines throughout the entire district some brick sidewalks survive, though in many places brick has been replaced with concrete.
Streetscapes vary in appearance with a mix of building heights and materials. The larger homes are exclusively brick constructed, multi-storied and imposing in size; the more modest homes are frame constructed, smaller in size, and sometimes a single story in height. There are three noncontributing commercial buildings in the district.
Resources of the District
The architectural character of the district can be broadly defined as representative of mid-19th century to late Victorian architectural types and includes resources of the Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, Stick and Beaux Arts styles and vernacular mode. Based on the property types developed for the multiple property documentation/submission "Historic Resources of St. Joseph, Buchanan County, Missouri" (hereafter referred to as: St. Joseph MPS) the resources can be categorized as: GREEK REVIVAL RESIDENCES; VICTORIAN STYLE SINGLE FAMILY RESIDENCES; DUPLEX RESIDENTIAL STRUCTURES and VERNACULAR RESIDENTIAL STRUCTURES. In addition, one property of Beaux Arts styling, and not categorized within the historic context of the multiple property submission, is included as a contributing resource within this district.
Greek Revival Residences
Two buildings within the district retain sufficient character defining features to be classed as examples of this property type. Although altered from their original appearance, the buildings retain a minimal number of elements to be included as representative examples of this earliest mode of building within the district. Equally important, these buildings represent among the earliest hilltop residences located above the center of town; an important manifestation of city growth that was a precursor of late 19th century residential patterns.
524 N. 6th Street. Two-story brick dwelling built ca. 1865 in the Greek Revival style for Joseph Inslee, merchant. It possesses a rectangular shape with a low hip roof and symmetrical three-bay facade which has triangular shaped and moulded stone lintels. On the side elevations there are flat stone lintels. Sidelights and transom are located on the third-bay entry. The porch has been dated to ca. 1915 and fills the facade; it is supported by tapering wood posts resting on brick piers.
612 N. 6th Street. Single-story frame dwelling built ca. 1867 in the Greek Revival style for John Snelson, physician. It features a rectangle shape with low hip roof and symmetrical three-bay facade with sidepassage entry with sidelights and transom. Curvilinear wooden labeled lintels are found on the facade.
Victorian Style Single Family Residences
The majority (30) of the district's historic resources can be categorized within this property type. A variety of sub-types are identifiable within this property type and are centered on stylistic affiliation.
The Inslee house, built ca. 1867 represents the transition from the Greek Revival style in St. Joseph and incorporates elements of the Italianate style in the original construction. Almost all of the eight surviving Italianate houses are of brick construction, and all but three are two stories in height. The majority of the Italianate houses have a low profile hip roof plan; and all present a symmetrical facade. There are several buildings with flat sloping roofs behind flat brick parapets with projecting bracketed metal cornices such as that found on 615-617 N. 4th Street built ca. 1882. A hallmark of the style in St. Joseph is the dormer and window lintel treatment; generally, they are segmental shaped, frequently labeled with a centered keystone, and all are projected two to three inches from the wall plane. The residence at 602 N. 6th Street (ca. 1880) and 510 N. 4th Street (ca. 1871) are good examples. The simplest treatment is unadorned brick, and the most elaborate is concrete with an abundance of decorative incising and moulding. The Italianate style cornice in the district is uniformly boxed, generally with hidden gutters, and commonly features cornice scroll bracketing and paneled and moulded frieze board such as that found on 510 N. 4th (ca. 1871). A few have more simple boxed cornices without brackets but always with a wide frieze board. Chamfer or polygonal bays are a common and often dominant design feature such as that found on 611 N. 5th Street.
514 N. 4th Street. Two-story brick Italianate dwelling built ca. 1875, for Charles Scott, proprietor of the Gazette Job Printing Office. The residence features a rectangular shape with low hip roof and boxed and bracketed cornice, brick labeled segmental shaped lintels, and two-over-two light sash. A three-bay facade and a rear service wing with the original bracketed porch are also featured. The original facade porch has been removed.
510 N. 4th Street. Two-story brick Italianate dwelling built ca. 1875 for Hiram Judd, a partner in a wholesale clothing company. It features a low hip roof with a boxed and bracketed cornice and segmental shaped and labeled brick lintels with keystone. On the south elevation is a deeply projecting tripartite two-story bay. A front porch was added in 1907.
611 N. 4th Street. Single-story brick dwelling built ca. 1880 in the Italianate style for Walter Sanders, son of a stove and tinware shop owner. It has a truncated hip roof with boxed cornice and has a two-bay facade. The first bay is dominated by a chamfer-shaped bay window of frame construction featuring segmental arched window bays in all three facets. Projecting brick segmental shaped and labeled lintels are found over the second bay entry. The original porch has been removed.
518 N. 6th Street. Two-story brick dwelling built ca. 1885 in the Italianate style for Frederick Bearman. A rectangular shaped residence with low hipped roof and boxed cornice. Three symmetrical bays with raised, brick-labeled, segmental-shaped lintels accented with keystones and projecting two-story bay are found on the south elevation. A pedimented door portico resting on wood columns and brick piers dating to ca. 1910 is also featured. A rear wing was added in 1892.
602 N. 6th Street. Two-story brick dwelling built ca. 1880 in the Italianate style with a flat roof behind the projecting metal cornice and parapet. Three symmetrical facade bays are located on the rectangle shaped building. The facade openings have raised brick surrounds with segmental openings with keystone accents. The porch, added in 1900, fills the facade and is supported on turned wood columns.
608 N. 6th Street. A rectangular two-story brick house built ca. 1880 in an Italianate style as a twin to the house at 602 N. 6th Street. A flat roof lies behind the facade parapet with three symmetrical bays at either story. Raised brick surrounds with keystone accents and a door hood with decorative incised consoles are other house features.
716 N. 6th Street. Two-story frame dwelling built ca. 1879 by Hart Fisher, merchant, in the Italianate style. It features an irregular plan with a low hip roof and prominent projecting wing with an entry in the reentrant angle. The wing has two symmetrical window bays at either story with moulded peaked wooden lintels. A porch fills the reentrant angle with jig-cut wooden post brackets. The addition of modern siding has not significantly altered the integrity of the building. The pattern and architectural detail of the openings has been substantially preserved.
921-923 N. 6th Street. Two-story brick dwelling built ca. 1885 in the Italianate style with rectangular shape and low hip roof. It features projecting segmental arched and labeled window openings. A two-story porch and dormer on the facade roof face were added to the house at an undetermined later date.
Second Empire Style
There are only two buildings of this style in the district. The Lemon house, built ca. 1871, 517 N. 5th Street, and a second house, a two-story frame building constructed ca. 1872 located at 616 N. 6th Street.
517 N. 5th Street. Two-stage brick house, both stages built by John S. Lemon, a local banker. In 1871, Lemon built what is the Second Empire facade with slate covered mansard roof with elaborate dormer windows, bracketed and dentiled frieze. The second-story windows have elaborate bracketed window hoods and segmental arched openings. The first-story windows feature half-round windows and fanciful bracketed hoods. A symmetrical facade features a centered, projecting wing housing the entry on the bottom story. The porch with modillioned cornice and chamfered porch posts fills the southwest corner. At the rear of the house Lemon added a wing in 1889 with stained glass windows of outstanding caliber. The addition picks up the rhythms and details of the original building.
616 N. 6th Street. Two-story frame dwelling built ca. 1872 in the Second Empire style for Joseph V. Brady, partner in a wholesale grocery firm. It has a basic rectangular shape with two symmetrical facade bays. The roof is a Mansard with bracketed and dentiled cornice. The principal feature of the house is a projecting rectangular tower at the northeast corner. The house also has a projecting wing on the south elevation and an entry with decorative door hood. The addition of modern siding has not compromised the integrity of the building's historic character through the retention of significant exterior architectural detail. Elements of the front porch are, however, modern alterations.
Queen Anne Style
The largest category, with 20 surviving examples, is the Queen Anne style; Almost all of the houses built in the Queen Anne style are of brick construction and multi-story. Several consistent stylistic characteristics link the majority of the examples of the Queen Anne style into a coherent and distinct category. The first is asymmetrical massing with projecting wings on the facade and/or side elevations. The second hallmark of the style is linked to the first: an irregular roof plan often with combination hip and gabled roof shape. Lastly, the residences also feature elaborate to less ornate porches on the facade and side elevations.
515 N. 4th Street. Two-story brick residence built in the Queen Anne style in 1885 for Edmund Jacques Eckel, a prominent architect. The house includes a hipped roof with hip roof dormers on the roof facets, a corbeled brick cornice, and label lintels which form a segmental shaped arch over the voids of carved stone. Brick string coursing is located between the stories. A projecting porch with brick piers and wood columns with Tuscan capitals is located on the first story. This property was listed on the National Register January 31, 1980.
613 N. 4th Street. Single-story frame dwelling built in two major stages. The first stage probably dates to the 1870s and forms the core of the present structure. This core volume was added on to in the late 1880s giving it its present Queen Anne appearance. The house possesses a gable roof which projects and incorporates soffit consoles above a tripartite bay window. The porch is cut out from under the continuous roofline at the southwest corner of the house. The addition of modern siding has not entailed the loss of significant exterior architectural features though there are modern porch supports.
703 N. 4th Street. Two-story brick dwelling built in 1888 in the Queen Anne style for F. D. Kuehle, merchant tailor. It features a low hip roof line with asymmetrical house plan, elaborate corbeled cornice, and slightly projected facade bay with paired windows at either story. The lintels are projecting brick and form arches. The original porch has been removed and a polygonal wing is located on the south elevation.
721 N. 4th Street. Two-story frame dwelling built in 1887 in the Queen Anne style. This is a simple irregular plan house of two stories and features a low hipped roof.
724 N. 5th Street. Two-and-one-half story brick dwelling built in 1889 in the Queen Anne style for James W. Hartigan, owner of a meat market. It possesses a combination hip and gable slate covered roof with a prominent round corner tower with conical roof and metal finial. Stained glass transoms are found above the stone linteled windows in the tower. It also features a brick porch with brick second-story balustrade over the entry; a more recent porch addition wrapping around the south elevations is also found here. A chamfer shaped two-story wing is located on the north elevation. Behind the house is a single bay brick carriage house with a rectangle plan and gable roof (contributing).
704 N. 5th Street. Two-story brick dwelling built in 1889 in a late Queen Anne style for Richard Nelson, a print shop owner. It possesses a basic hip roof shape with a projected gable dormer on the facade supported on broad wood consoles and Palladian window centered in a pediment. Ovoid bull's eye windows are irregularly placed in the first bay of both stories. A chamfered wing on the north elevation and full facade porch, supported on wood columns with Tuscan capitals and resting on brick piers, are also featured.
702 N. 5th Street. One-and-one-half story brick dwelling built in 1894 for Edward Schramm, secretary for a wholesale grocery company built in the late Queen Anne style. It features an irregular plan shape with a basic hip roof from which project two gabled wings. Between the gable projections is a single-story projection around which — and filling the reentrant angle — is the entry porch supported on round wood columns. It also possesses pronounced cornice returns in the gables and an oriel window at the southwest corner.
624 N. 5th Street. A two-story brick dwelling built in two stages. The first section comprises the main house mass built ca. 1880 in the Italianate style; the labeled brick segmental arched window hoods and hip roof line remain. The house was built for John Donovan, president of the German-American Bank. In the late 1880s, John Richardson, owner of the Richardson Dry Good Company, added the Queen Anne features — notably the projecting second-story oriel with fanciful pressed-metal construction and tall peaked roofline, and the matching broad second-story pressed-metal oriel above the entry. A carriage house was built in 1900 for the house. It is constructed of brick with a gable roofline (contributing).
508 N. 5th Street. Two-story brick dwelling built in two major phases. The core of the house is a two-story brick side-passage house built ca. 1868 by Samuel Lockwood, a clothing manufacturer. Three symmetrical facade bays at either story are accented with flat brick arches. In 1895 the house was substantially altered by John Donovan, President of the German-American Bank and Manager of the stockyards. The roofline was changed and a tall centered wall dormer was added on the facade. On the north elevation is a square turret and on the southwest corner is a round turret with conical roof. A polygonal bay projects from the south elevation with a peaked wall dormer at the height of the bay. Across the facade, and wrapping around the south elevation, is a porch supported on round wood columns. A two-story brick carriage house was built for the residence. It features a rectangular plan with a gable roof (contributing).
515 N. 5th Street. Two-stage dwelling built for Richard Turner who, in the post-Civil War era, was a partner in a wholesale firm and later became president of the Merchants Bank and the Street Railway Company. The first stage was built ca. 1868 and was an Italianate structure of two-story brick construction. In 1889 and 1891, Turner added a major facade wing with a round tower with conical roof, irregular massing, and a steeply pitched hipped roof. On the facade is a tall stepped parapet wall dormer. The southwest corner of the house is a projecting wing of two stories. A terra-cotta paneled spandrel is located on the facade. A porch fills the facade with turned spindle frieze, turned columns and turned porch balusters. A decorative gable pediment is located over the porch entry.
605 N. 5th Street. Two-and-one-half-story brick residence built ca. 1885 in the Queen Anne/Stick style by Nelson Riley, partner in a manufacturing firm. It is irregularly massed with a projecting rectangle wing on the facade featuring a shingled gable supported on consoles. From the face of the wing projects a two-story bay with triple windows at either story. The exposed 'half-timber' work visible in the gables and on the open facade porch is reminiscent of the Stick style, a variant of the Queen Anne. A projected bay on the south elevation with centered chimney stack is also found on the rear. At the alley behind the house is a one-and-one-half story brick carriage house and attached frame barn. There is a single carriage entry bay in the gable end facing the street with a haymow door above (contributing).
719 N. 5th Street. Two-story brick dwelling erected in 1892 in the Queen Anne style for Samuel Justice, secretary of a wholesale hardware company. It is characterized by a rectangle shape with a gabled projected wing on the facade; flat brick arches over the voids, and a porch, built in 1907, is found on the facade and wraps around the south elevation.
624 N. 6th Street. Two-and-one-half-story brick dwelling built in 1887 in the Queen Anne style for A. E. McKinney, a partner in a wholesale firm. It possesses a richly decorative exterior with asymmetrical massing and irregular roof plan. Other features include an elaborate moulded metal cornice; curvilinear stone table parapets repeated on wall dormers, wing gables and, as dormers on the fourth floor level, a square tower rising to a tall peaked roof with metal finial. Many single windows have half-round brick arches with stone keystones and paired windows have segmental arches. Brick corbeling and stone string coursing is formed at various levels. The facade is a series of stepped wings with corner pilasters with stone caps and plinths. On the north elevation is a chamfer shaped wing with centered chimney. The main porch across the facade is supported on round wood columns added in 1915.
724 N. 6th Street. Two-story brick dwelling built ca. 1885 in the Queen Anne style for Thomas Maney, wholesale merchant. It features a rectangular shape with hip roof and modillioned gable wall dormer on the facade with a gable roofed second-story oriel projecting beneath it. Extensive brick corbeling and paneling is used on the facade. Segmental shaped lintels with keystone accents decorated with incised quatrefoils top the windows. Original entry and porch have been remodeled (ca. 1920).
824 N. 6th Street. One-and-one-half-story frame house built in 1896 by W. A. Ozenberger in the late Queen Anne style. Characteristically, it features irregular plan house with hip roof and gabled projected wings and cornice returns in the gables of the wings. On the north elevation the wing corners are chamfered at the first story. There is an angular square tower with tall peaked roof rising from the reentrant angle of the facade wing and the house. At the first story is the entry. A full porch across the facade is supported on turned wood posts. The residence retains its original lap siding.
902 N. 6th Street. One-and-one-half-story frame house built in 1898 by Thomas W. Alien; it was built in the Queen Anne style and features some Neo-Classical elements. It possesses an irregular plan shape with gabled end roof and two-story gable wing on the facade. A dormer on the roof face is a strong design feature with half-round pediment, finial crest and volutes lying atop a metal molded cornice and a pilaster surround on the single window opening. The porch roof is continuous over the reentrant angle with a dentiled cornice and supported on fluted columns resting on brick plinths. An ovoid window is found to one side of the entry. Though the house is covered in modern siding this has not led to any significant loss of exterior architectural pattern or detail.
901 N. 6th Street. Two-story frame dwelling built in 1891 by John Wild in the Queen Anne style. It features a hip roof plan with an intersecting gable roof on the facade wing. The pediment of the wing is covered with imbricated shinglework. A full porch on the facade is supported on turned wood columns with simple brackets.
825 N. 6th Street. Two-story frame dwelling constructed in 1911 by Richard Wade. It is a late Queen Anne style with irregular plan shape and multi-gable roof plan. It also features a reentrant angle entry with a porch filling the angle. Though the house is covered with modern siding there does not appear to have been any loss of significant architectural pattern or detail.
601-603 Hall Street. Two-stage building. The first stage dates to ca. 1868 built with a rectangle shape with three symmetrical facade bays and a sidepassage entry into a two-story brick dwelling. In the early 1880s a wing was added with a tall two-story chamfer shape facade wing with raised brick label lintels. The porch with turned posts and spindle frieze dates to the turn of the century. On the early section two gablets were added with sunburst motif pediments.
605 Hall Street. Multiple-stage building. The facade is principally a section built in the late 1850s by John Logan, surgeon, with four symmetrical bays at either story of the rectangle gabled end section. Windows are paired in all openings of the original house. Later features include a Queen Anne porch with turned posts, spindle frieze and turned balusters. A major addition is located to the west. It includes a projecting double wing and rear addition made in the late 1880s by Winslow Judson, attorney. The addition of modern siding has not adversely affected integrity through the retention of architectural detail and the critical pattern of facade bays. At the rear of the property is a one-story brick outbuilding with a gable roof and multiple door and window bays (contributing).
Duplex Residential Structures
Displaying a range of stylistic affiliations these buildings form a property type representative of St. Joseph's rapid population growth and the pressing need for urban housing in the late 19th century. They also reflect the significance of the growth of disposable capital for real estate investment among many of the city's leading citizens. These buildings were commonly found in and amongst a broad cross section of neighborhoods, from the well-heeled upper heights of the city to the working class neighborhoods of the lower city.
518 N. 4th Street. Two-story brick Queen Anne duplex built in 1886. Among its features are a corbeled brick parapet with a flat roof; chamfered corner projecting center wing and brick string coursing between the stories. Mirror image duplex units with small porches are located at each corner reentrant angle. Segmental shaped brick arched voids are also found.
511-513 N. 4th Street. Two-story brick Queen Anne duplex built in 1886 by Frederick Dumke, brewery owner, who lived in one side. It features a low hip roof with corbeled brick cornice, mirror image units, each with projecting side wings, and centered paired windows on each wing at either story. The entry to each unit is centered between the two wings with a hip roof porch filling the recessed space over the entries. Stucco cover was added over the original brick during the historic period of use.
615-617 N. 4th Street. Two-story brick Italianate style duplex built ca. 1883. It is topped by a flat roof with highly decorative metal bracketed cornice and with elaborate corbeling which extends around the side elevations. A symmetrical six-bay facade is found at the front. The center two bays have half-round, coupled, projecting lintels with projecting surrounds. The two flanking bays have segmental shaped window heads and lintels projected in a triangular shape with keystone and raised brick surrounds. Entry to either unit in the center two bays of the first story. A first story, flat roof, porch is located over the center four bays and features spindle frieze supported on wood columns. It possesses a dressed ashlar stone foundation.
705-707 N. 4th Street. Two-story brick duplex built ca. 1885 in the Queen Anne style. It features a low hip roof with elaborately corbeled brick cornice and mirror image units with corner polygonal bays projecting from the wall plane. Single window bays dot the three primary facets. Unit entry is located between the two bays with the recessed area covered by a porch. A modern porch is in place with modern brick and concrete parapet wall and steps.
411-413 Robidoux Street. Two-story brick duplex built in 1890 in the Queen Anne style for Charles Shoup, owner of the Regnier and Shoup Crockery Company. The residence possesses a basic rectangular shape with hip roof, gabled wall dormers on the long sides of the roof and centered on the facade. It also features a corbeled brick cornice. The residence forms a mirror image duplex, each portion has a large half-round first-story window bay and centered entrance. A full porch is supported on round wood columns with a turned balustered porch railing.
514-516 N. 6th Street. Two-story brick duplex built in 1906 with Neo-classical detailing. It features a rectangle shape with gable roof. It also has a projected cornice on the facade with modillions carried around a single, off-center, wood chamfer-shaped bay on the otherwise mirror image units. At either corner of the facade is a small hip roof porch with wide frieze supported on wood columns resting on brick piers.
806-808 N. 6th Street. Single-story frame duplex built ca. 1885. Built in the late Italianate style with mirror image units. The building was built as a twin to 810-812 N. 6th Street. Among its features is a truncated hip roof with deeply projected eaves and with fancy scroll brackets set at intervals. The facade is dominated by the two chamfer-shaped bay windows at either building corner. There is a gable pediment on the forward facet of the bay above a moulded cornice and bracketed frieze. Above the windows is a dentilated and molded frieze. Windows in each facet appear to have originally been half-round with wood keystones; below the windows are molded panels. The unit entries are between the bays, each with a segmental-shaped molded drip cap above a transom and single leaf door. The porch fills the interval between the bays and is supported on modern metal posts.
810-812 N. 6th Street. Built ca. 1885. The building is identical to the neighboring duplex at 806-808 N. 6th Street. However, the eave brackets are missing though there is evidence they were once present. The original porch is present on this duplex and is supported on turned wood posts with square balusters; flanking steps to the porch level possess simple pedestal newels.
920-922 N. 6th Street. Two-story frame residence built in 1889 by Josephine Hertzell. The rectangle plan house is built in the Queen Anne style with strong Italianate features evident. It possesses a truncated hip roof and deeply projecting eaves with soffit bracketing. It was built as a mirror image duplex with building corner cutout entry. An open porch is supported on square posts with scrolled post brackets filling the corners. The facade is dominated by the two-bay appearance each bay with a tripartite window opening. A paneled frieze separates the two stories. The second-story bays are treated as broad rectangle oriels with supporting consoles and rise to gable roofs intersecting the main roof line. The pediments are covered with fishscale shingle.
Vernacular Residential Structures
Enjoying no clearly dominant stylistic affinities within the Robidoux Hill district, these buildings were constructed in two manners; first, they are houses built in a sequential fashion over several decades and were molded by the changing architectural standards and preferences of their owners, and, second, they are the result of a vernacular building process that drew on the long term practices of owner/builders unswayed by the passing fancy and pretensions of the elite citizenry. The buildings' elements can reflect a continuum from eclectic promiscuity to austerity in detailing and character definition.
619-621 N. 4th Street. One-and-one-half story frame building built ca. 1870. It possesses a rectangle shape with a broad cross gable centered on the facade, four symmetrical facade bays with centered paired entry, and a turn-of-the-century porch across the facade supported on round wood columns. The window openings have triangular shaped architraves. The building retains integrity despite modern siding, preserving the pattern of fenestration and door and window facings. Nothing was apparently removed when the siding was applied.
713 N. 4th Street. Two-part house. This is an early gable roof house dating to ca. 1860 behind the wing added in 1922. The front section has a flat roof with flat parapet, hip roof porch on square pillars and stepped flanking walls to the porch entry steps.
710 N. 5th Street. One-and-one-half story brick dwelling built in 1904 with a minor amount of Neo-classical detailing for Oscar Schram. It features a basic square shape with hip roof and cross gables to north and south, from which projects a broad wing on the facade with a gable roof to the street. A porch, supported on square brick columns with corbeled plinths and capitals, fills the facade and wraps around the reentrant angle of the south elevation entrance. Leaded glass transom in prominent wing window.
602-604 N. 5th Street. Two-stage house. The first part is a larger center-hall brick I-house built in a Greek Revival style ca. 1856 by Joseph Jennings, an early wholesale grocery company owner. The house has seven symmetrical bays on what was then the primary facade (north elevation). In the 1880s, a polygonal brick wing was added to the south elevation with raised brick labeled lintels. In 1904, the entry was shifted to the former endwall of the original house and a two-story frame porch built across the new facade. In the rear an 1892 two-story brick stable with a brick parapeted facade and two-story porch was built for the dwelling (contributing).
503 N. 5th Street. Three primary building stages. The first dates to ca. 1860 and was a two-story brick dwelling with a rectangle shape, built for then mayor Jonathan M. Bassett, designed by local architect W. Angelo Powell. In the 1880s John Townsend, a prominent merchant, added a substantial two-story wing to the facade obscuring the original entry. In 1889, he added the polygonal entry and door hood; he probably added the wraparound porch with spindle frieze and turned posts at the same time. In 1907, Lewis Smith, President of a drug wholesale company, C. D. Smith and Company, added a third story to the Townsend facade addition. The addition has a gable roof with a centered wall dormer with variant Palladian type window and radiating stone fissures. Likewise, in 1907, Smith built the carriage house behind the house. The building is of brick construction and two full stories in height with a rectangle shape and gable roof (contributing).
702 N. 6th Street. Multiple-stage building. The first section consists of the facade and core volume built in the mid 1870s by J. M. Bassett, attorney. It was a two-story frame with hip roof and two symmetrical facade bays. A major addition was made by John McDonald, partner in one of the wholesale dry goods firms; McDonald, in 1889, added a wing to the rear and north. A projected rectangle bay on the south with gable roof and facade porch supported on square posts were added in 1911. The walls of the house are covered in wooden shingle.
712 N. 6th Street. Single-story frame house with gabled end, rectangle shape, and five symmetrical facade bays with centered entry. The residence was built ca. 1875 by Dennis Mullan, contractor. The definitive character of this simple, unadorned dwelling has not been compromised by the addition of modern siding.
802-804 N. 6th Street. The main section of this house dates to ca. 1865. It is a two-story frame I-house with five symmetrical bays at either story with centered entry and gabled end roof plan. The remaining original windows have six-over-six light window sash. There is a major rear addition. On the facade is a centered addition above the entry and its porch, which is supported on round wood columns and dates to the turn of the century. Covering the right-hand half of the first story is a brick and frame addition dating to recent times. The modern siding covering the older section of the building has not compromised the integrity of the building; it has not affected the primary definitive characteristic of the facade.
924 N. 6th Street. Two-story dwelling constructed ca. 1880 with gable to the street and rectangular shape. It is constructed of segmental arched openings with single second-story facade window and two-bay first story. It features a full Queen Anne era porch across the facade with spindle frieze. Behind the house is a substantial square outbuilding built in 1887 by Guido Shiefendoher which features a hip roof and segmental arched openings (contributing).
919 N. 6th Street. One-and-one-half-story frame house constructed in 1913 by Margaret Quirk. It features a gable end to the street and rectangle plan shape. The facade was dressed up in the 1930s with a Cottage Revival appearance with the stucco applied to the frame and with a steep pitched porch over the entry.
903 N. 6th Street. One-and-one half-story frame house built in 1899 by Robert Grosson. It is oriented with the gable end to the street and rectangle plan shape with full porch of later date supported on round wood columns.
Other Property Types
Neo-Classical Beaux Arts Style
Only one building was constructed in this mode within the district. It is the U.S. Weather Bureau, built in 1909, on 520 N. 5th Street at the highest geographic point within what was then the city limits. The two-story buff colored brick building is topped with a classical balustrade with pedestals and centered cartouche with raised lettering: U.S.W.B. in a decorative swirled pattern. The cornice is modillioned and the building corners are decorated with brick corner quoining. There are porches centered over the principal entry and on the south elevation. The open porches at the second story have brick pedestals and metal balustrades with a broad cornice supported on square brick pillars.
The Robidoux Hill Historic District is ... a significant concentration of mid-late 19th and early 20th century residences sited on the northern hilltop promontories overlooking St. Joseph, Missouri's central business district. Commerce was at the heart of St. Joseph's burgeoning post-Civil War residential districts, including the Robidoux Hill area. Reflecting the stylistic preferences of the aspiring citizenry, the predominantly Victorian houses of the district embody distinctive characteristics of period types; Architecture is based on the retention of historic features reflecting these preferences. The district also retains integrity of location, setting, feeling and association, reflecting the initial development of St. Joseph's semicircular upland pattern of residential neighborhood development, a pattern oriented towards the Missouri River bottomlands and commercial hub of the city.
The impetus for this development was the post-Civil War commercial boom in St. Joseph, a boom precipitated by the demand for a well connected wholesaling center to furnish goods for the rapidly developing Plains and Mountain West (as detailed within the historic context. The relevant period of significance for this registration effort is ca. 1865-1909; the time within which the district's residential architecture rose on the city's northern heights. The district retains the ability to reflect the lives of the not-so-prominent, but significant, middle class entrepreneurs and professionals of the city; a group whose role in the city's enterprises is exemplified by their homes more than the large scale commercial buildings of the city's commercial core. Despite the ravages of time, including wholesale block clearings in proximity to the district, the Robidoux Hill area is a coherent, contiguous sample echoing the beginnings of St. Joseph's prominence as a commercial center and the concomitant development of its residential architecture.
When platted in 1843, St. Joseph had already been established as an important Missouri River trading town. The mid-1840s were marked by further development and the need for additions to the original plat were necessary to keep apace with the burgeoning town. In the mid-1840s various land speculators, including the town founder Joseph Robidoux, began to locate additions to the first plat in an uncoordinated effort to reap profits from the city's growth. Robidoux himself had the majority of the area now recognized as the Robidoux Hill area platted in 1845; within a few years the lots were sold and houses were built on what was the first of a continual series of residential developments located on the hills surrounding the Missouri River bottomlands comprising the older section of town.
Commerce and Architecture
This initial chapter in St. Joseph's growth was associated with the town's increasing importance as an outfitting center for western travelers and emigrants. Later, equally significant, developments made St. Joseph into an important center of 19th and early 20th century commerce. These developments are materially reflected by the development of the city's architecture. The increasingly wealthy upper-class populating the isolated hilltop environs were not alone in their wish to find well located, distinctive, but affordable, housing. Middle and professional class residents, drawn by the well-paying jobs associated with many commercial ventures in the city, found housing interspersed within the neighborhoods on the city's heights. Though the housing they secured was more modest, it did mimic the upper class's taste in design, materials and ornamentation. Of individuals directly identified as residents with the Robidoux Hill neighborhood during its period of historic significance the heavy majority were junior or associate partners in wholesaling and merchandizing firms, professionals or independent small-scale business operators. These residences manifest the city's growth, increasing wealth and enterprise during the late 19th and early 20th century. Found among these residences are the homes of more prominent capitalists including banker John Lemon, dry goods magnate John Richardson and banker/stockyard manager John Donavan. In the main, however, the 61 contributing resources of the district embody the aspirations of successful middle class participants in the headlong accumulation of wealth precipitated by the commercial success the city enjoyed from the end of the Civil War to the decade prior the First World War.
The architectural distinctiveness of the district lies primarily in the retention of physical characteristics associated with Victorian style family housing types. Although many of the resources contributing to the district lack individual distinction, they retain sufficient historic character to allow them to contribute to the district's historic quality. The density of contributing resources is sufficient to convey a coherent quality. A number of intrusions, however, are found within the boundary of the district; most are vacant lots, modern homes and small commercial buildings which have been placed on lots previously holding historic buildings. One currently noncontributing building, a commercial/manufacturing property (1909, 1912; 1920) located at 601 N. Fourth, is considered potentially eligible for listing; it is anticipated the current development of a St. Joseph commercial context will enable an assessment of this property's significance to be made at a future date. Many properties associated with the period of historic significance have fallen to deterioration, neglect and destruction, leaving some blocks with a lower number of contributing buildings, nonetheless, a good number of historic buildings have withstood the test of time. At present slightly under 90% of the existing buildings of substantial scale are contributing elements to the district. All of these contributing buildings have been found to conform to the minimum registration requirements outlined in the property type definitions formed for the St. Joseph MPS.
As a whole, the period of significance for the Robidoux Hill Historic District is restricted to the period of its construction (c.1865-1909) and closely parallels that outlined for the historic context "Wholesaling Distribution" in the St. Joseph MPS, namely, between 1865-1914.
Two contributing residences within the district are of Greek Revival style. These residences, 524 N. Sixth Street and 612 N. Sixth Street, were both built in the late 1860s. These two buildings date to a period later than that established for the property type GREEK REVIVAL RESIDENCES in the St. Joseph MPS: this persistence of stylistic preference goes beyond the height of this style's popularity locally and nationally. Both buildings, however, are good representative examples of the type and method of construction and are included within the district as contributing elements. Special consideration for inclusion within this district nomination has been given the Beaux Arts-style United States Weather Bureau Building found at 520 N. Fifth Street. Built in 1909, this building housed the local weather bureau until 1954; after serving in this capacity the building was adapted to apartments. The conversion to apartments has not compromised the outstanding quality of the external Beaux Arts elements. This contributing building is significant within the area of ARCHITECTURE. The period of significance for the building is restricted to 1909, the year of its construction.
The Robidoux Hill Historic District is a significant enclave of historic residential buildings bounded on the east by modern development and the Hall Street Historic District; on the north sparsely inhabited lots, modern and deteriorating buildings; on the west by a hill slope, open space and neglected structures, and on the south by the modern central business district of the city. On each axis there is a perceptual break from the district boundary, although the Hall Street District, with its mansions, forms an important and less discrete change from the district. The character of the two districts is recognizably different, however, where they abut; the Hall Street properties are substantially grander in scale and ornamentation, especially where the boundaries of the two districts are parallel in a one-half block area of North Sixth Street.
Many of the qualities identified as significant in the Robidoux Hill Historic District are also found in the Museum Hill area of the city. This area lies approximately one-half mile southeast of the Robidoux Hill district. These two concentrations of historic buildings are separated by modern development. Comparatively speaking, the Robidoux Hill district is distinguishable from the Museum Hill area by its earlier development, closer proximity to the commercial heart of the city and smaller size; it is anticipated that the Museum Hill area, and other significant concentrations of historic residential architecture, will be the subjects of future registration efforts.
Atlas of the City of St. Joseph, Buchanan County Missouri. Wm. Floyd and Co., St. Joseph, 1884.
Birdsall, Williams and Co. editors. History of Buchanan County and St. Joseph, Missouri. St. Joseph Steam Printing Co., 1881.
Building Permits, City of St. Joseph. Office of Building and Inspection, City Hall, St. Joseph, MO.
Campbell, Robert A. ed. Campbell's Gazetteer of Missouri. R.A. Campbell Publishing, St. Louis, 1874.
Fatheringham, H., compiler. St. Joseph City Directory, 1859-1860. J.A. Millam's Ben Franklin Book and Job Printing Establishment, St. Joseph, MO, 1859.
Historical and Descriptive Review of St. Joseph, Missouri. New York, 1889.
An Illustrated Review of St. Joseph, Missouri. C.H. Dunn and Co., 1887.
McDonald, E.L. and W. J. King. History of Buchanan County and St. Joseph Missouri to 1915. The History Publishing Co., St. Joseph, MO, 1915.
Property Tax Records. City Hall, St. Joseph, MO.
Rutt, Chris. Daily News, "History of Buchanan County and St. Joseph, Missouri." St. Joseph Publishing Co., St. Joseph, MO, 1898.
History of Buchanan County and the City of St. Joseph and Representative Citizens. Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago, IL, 1904.
St. Joseph, Missouri, The Electric City; Historic and Descriptive Review of St. Joseph, Missouri. New York, 1889.
St. Joseph, Missouri, Its Location, Surroundings and the Attractive Features. 1900.
St. Joseph Today. Chamber of Commerce, St. Joseph, 1927.
Symington, Susan. "Robidoux Hill Architectural Survey, Saint Joseph, Missouri." Report to the St. Joseph Landmarks Commission, 1985.
5th Street North • 6th Street North • Franklin Street East • Hall Street • Louis Street East • Michel Street East • Robidoux Street