Memorial Hall begins nomination process for the Historic National Register

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Memorial Hall, Joplin landmark of nearly 100 years, is set to begin its nomination process for the Historic National Register. The first public informational meeting was held Tuesday, September 1 in the council chambers of Joplin City Hall. 

Matthew Pearce, principle historian of Preservation and Design Studio, gave a presentation with a question and answer following about what the process looks like for an entity to become recognized on the Historic National Register He said that the National Register of Historic Places is a catalog of American culture composed of “tangible elements of our archaeology, history, architecture.” 

“I would love for Memorial Hall to be on the national register list,” said William mounds, Joplin Historic Preservation Commission commissioner said. “Whatever its future, this is an important step, I think, for it. Like the presentation, the presenter mentioned tonight, I think it’s more symbolic—I mean, of course there could be some more tangible aspects to this, but it’s just is a representation of what this hall has meant to this community and I think that’s very important.” 

Pearce described that there are certain types of national register properties, which include district, site, building, structure, object. In line with that, there is also an evaluation that the entity must pass in order to be recognized. This evaluation begins with that it must possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. Pearce said the entity must have a “high degree of most of these aspects.” Additionally, there are four criteria for evaluation, which include events, persons, distinctive characteristics, historical/pre-historical. 

Pearce discussed how these specifically apply to Memorial Hall, saying they are mainly focusing on the events and distinctive characteristics of the Hall. He said they’re focusing on these aspects because the Hall was greatly used for entertainment and recreation, but also its distinct type of architecture and artistic value due to the Hall’s architects—the Michaelis brothers—represent a work of a master. 

“… That’s essentially what a national register nomination is, is an argument as to why the place is significant, or building is significant, and here’s why,” Pearce said. “If we’re making an argument for architectural significance, it’s association with August and Alfred Michaelis—they were two of the most prominent architects in Joplin. … From and entertainment and recreation perspective you can talk about the different types of performers who came through. The fact that this was, the building was really the place to go, historically, for performers. …” 

The timeline for the Hall’s nomination for the Historic National Register looks as follows: November 2 Preservation and Design Studio will submit a draft nomination to SHPO; December 21 Preservation and Design Studio will submit a revised nomination to SHPO; February 5 a second public information meeting will be held; March 5 will be the presentation of the final nomination to Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Pearce said that if Memorial Hall is accepted on to the national register, the expected listing date is March 2021. 

“I think it benefits the community because it is a representation of the community,” Pearce said. “And it was a community center, it was built to recognize veterans and service members who had given their lives, who had lived in the city of Joplin. It has served historically as a gathering place and it can continue to serve, historically, as a gathering place. … the fact that it hasn’t already been torn down in favor of something else tells me something that the place is significant, that there are people here who care about it. …” 

There are clear distinctions between what a national register does and what it does not do, according to Pearce. He described that when an entity is recognized by the national register it does not restrict use of property, require continued maintenance of the private property, require owner to give tours of the property or open it to the public, guarantee funds or restoration, and more. Though, it does provide recognition of a property’s significance in history, architecture, archaeology, or engineering; provide limited protection when a property is endangered by a federally funded or federal licensed action; provides owner the opportunity to apply for matching grant-in-aid for restoration/rehabilitation when funding is available; and more. 

“Well, I think that some people feel like it has been forgotten and a little neglected with the current issues its suffering right now, so this is a step that obviously the commission has been working on for a little while, it’s not something we just do overnight, but I think it does show the community that we care about this building,” Mounds said. “And then also, I think, and this is long term—there’s a long process here—but if we can get to the point where we can get some of those tax credits and help us repair the building, which is a long road to navigate—we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves—but that would obviously be a very good thing for this community as well.” 

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