Though tardy, I would be remiss if I did not remark on the good news that Neosho has a new location on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Neosho Wholesale Grocery Company (most locals know it as either the Nicsinger or the Shaffer Building), at 224 N. Washington St. (across from Twin Rivers poultry processing plant), was officially placed on the National Register on April 16, 2013. You may have seen some press coverage several months ago when it was first nominated.
“The Neosho Grocery Company Building provides an excellent example of the Warehouse/Industrial Building property type,” states the National Park Service report. “It was the original headquarters for one of Neosho's early wholesale grocery companies, and served as warehouse space throughout the period of significance. Historic warehouses of any size or type are rare in Neosho; this building provides a notably large intact example.”
According to the same National Park Service report, the oldest part of the building, the two-story half, was built in 1908 as Neosho Wholesale Grocery. The southern addition, the three-story section, was built around 1922. At the time, it was one of two wholesale groceries operating in Neosho, the other being Haas Wholesale Grocery, just down the street (most locals know that building today as the Ratliff Building, after its last major use), and already on the national register. Neosho Wholesale Grocery “is second only to the already listed Haas building in age, size, and level of styling” the report states.
Neosho Wholesale Grocery filed for bankruptcy in 1923.
In 1925, the building was purchased by Fred North, according to the same report, and became the North Transfer and Storage Company. The North family was heavily involved in the commercial dairy business and later ran one of the first car lots in the city.
The North Transfer and Storage business was sold to Charles Austin in 1934, but apparently continued to operate under the North name until the building on Washington was sold in 1942, states the report.
The building later housed Camp Crowder Dry Cleaners during World War II, a sign painting operation, general storage, and served as a factory for The Bone Dry Shoe Company until the mid-1970s.
The Nicsinger Uniform Company operated out of the building from 1977 (having registered with the Missouri Secretary of State office in December 1976) until 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. It closed in the early 2000s, and the building has since been purchased by developer Jay Burchfield. Burchfield was also the major developer behind the rehab of the Newton Place senior apartment building, originally built in 1906 on the northeast corner of the town square and known as the Haas (or Newton Hotel) Building, and the Greystone Place retirement home, originally built in 1916 on Jefferson Street, and utilized first as the Neosho High School and later the Neosho Intermediate School. Burchfield intends to convert the building at 224 N. Washington St. to apartments as well.
Page 2 of 2 - “The interior of the building is largely unfinished,” states the National Park Service report. “Most interior spaces have original wooden posts and beams, exposed brick walls, and wood floors. The third floor of the south section features a painted wall sign, which reads ‘Neosho Wholesale Grocery Co.’ The building looks much as it did in the 1920s. It is one of the largest and most intact early wholesale facilities in Neosho, and a good example of the property type ‘Warehouse/Industrial Buildings, 1858-1956.’”
It may not seem that historically significant to the average observer. But as someone noted this past week to a coworker, and I’m paraphrasing here, “If I could safely travel back in time I would stop people from tearing down these old buildings.” He was referring specifically to Neosho, but the same might apply to any of our local communities. To me, workmanship still counts. More importantly, old buildings help tell the story of a place. They should be preserved.
Wes Franklin serves on the board of directors of the Newton County Historical Society. He is also public relations/events coordinator for the City of Neosho. Call him at 658-8443.