If you read the local newspaper, and if you're reading this now it means you probably do, you've read that the Neosho building at 224 N. Washington Street is up for placement on the National Register of Historic Places (see Feb. 14 Neosho Daily News).
Ozarkers that we are, we don't typically refer to buildings by their actual street address but by what they were utilized as. That said, many folks know the red-painted brick structure across the street from Twin Rivers Foods as the Shaffer Building, as it last housed Shaffer Sportswear Manufacturing, which once made jerseys for our U.S. Olympic teams (China made them for the last Summer Olympics).
According to the nomination for placement on the national historic registry, the oldest part of the building, the two-story half, was built in 1908 as Neosho Wholesale Grocery. Old fire insurance maps indicate that the southernmost addition, the three-story part, was built sometime between 1916 and 1926. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1923.
In 1925, the building was purchased by Fred North, according to the article, and became the North Transfer and Storage Company. So in that 10-year span between fire insurance maps, was it Neosho Wholesale Grocery or North Transfer and Storage Company who built the three-story addition? Neosho Wholesale Grocery owned the property for most of that time. The report presented to the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation states that Neosho Wholesale Grocery built the south-side addition. But it did make me pause and wonder (hey, I'm extremely detail-orientated).
According to the Daily News article, the building later housed Camp Crowder Dry Cleaners, a sign painting operation, general storage, and served as a factory for The Bone Dry Shoe Company and the aforementioned Shaffer Sportswear Manufacturing.
However, a friend of mine asked that I not let the history of the building be documented in print without mentioning that before Shaffer Sportswear there was the Nicsinger Uniform Company.
Many local folks remember Nicsinger, and many also worked there (as many as 80, I am told). Nicsinger was most recognized for manufacturing school band uniforms, which were delivered all over the nation. In fact, I recently saw one for sale on Ebay. It had Neosho, Mo. on the tag.
According to Missouri Secretary of State records, Nicsinger Uniform Company registered as a business corporation on December 21, 1976. It filed for bankruptcy in November of 1989, according to contemporary newspaper articles, but was still technically in business as of at least May 1990.
Shaffer Sportswear Manufacturing filed as a corporation with the Missouri Secretary of State on April 15, 1991, and it may be assumed occupied the building shortly after that. I really haven't looked that hard, but I'd like to know when Shaffer closed its doors in Neosho. Shaffer House L.P., the limited liability company under which the building would be renovated, was formed April 7, 2006, so Shaffer Sportswear left sometime before then. Shaffer Sportswear Manufacturing, of Neosho, Mo., is still listed all over the internet, so it couldn't have been TOO long before April 2006 that it closed. I just haven't found when, in my cursory internet search.
Page 2 of 2 - Nicsinger Uniform Company and Shaffer Sportswear Manufacturing were in business for roughly the same length of time, and Shaffer WAS the last business to occupy the building at 224 N. Washington St., so I suppose it's OK to call it the Shaffer Building. But not long ago I did hear someone refer to it as the Nicsinger Building.
I guess it just depends on the generation.
Wes Franklin serves on the Newton County Historical Society Board of Directors. He is also public relations director and events coordinator for the City of Neosho. Contact him at 658-8443.