The home of John William “Blind” Boone at 10 N. Fourth Street is a perfect example of history that could have been lost, but for the efforts of dedicated volunteers and public funding.
The residence of an African-American pianist who played and composed ragtime and classical music and resided in Columbia until his death in 1927, it was nearly lost to renovations and decay.
Boone was one of the most famous men from Columbia, but after his death in 1927, his home was sold and once housed the Stuart Parker Memorial Funeral Home and then the Warren Funeral Chapel. The Warren enterprise was the only African-American-owned business to survive the urban renewal razing of the 1960s, according to a Special Business District and Central Columbia Association website publication.
But when the city purchased the home in 2000, it had termites and structural damage. It required nearly half a million dollars in improvements.
Now the home is slated to become a museum dedicated to the life and music of Boone.
The home itself isn’t very special; it is simply a two-story wood frame home, but the history it embodies is priceless. Despite being born during the Civil War and then becoming blind through efforts to reduce a fever by removing his eyes, Boone’s slogan as a touring pianist and composer was “Merit, Not Sympathy Wins.”
An annual ragtime festival is named in his honor. The two-day festival, “The Original ‘Blind” Boone Ragtime & Early Jazz Festival will be held on June 9 and 10, 2010 at the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts on Ninth Street.
A play about his life, “Nobody plays like Boone,” will be held at 6:30 p.m. on May 16, 2010 in the Second Baptist Church, 407 East Broadway, Columbia and at 6:30 p.m. on May 21, 2010. in The Blue Note Theatre at 17 North 9th Street, Columbia. It was written by Mary Barile and will feature a performance by Clyde Ruffin, a professor of of theatrer at the University of Missouri. He also is president of the Blind Boone Heritage Foundation, senior pastor of Second Missionary Baptist Church, which is adjacent to the Boone home.
This State Historical Society of Missouri MoHiP Theatre production is sponsored, in part, by the Columbia Office of Cultural Affairs, the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the University of Missouri Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative. For further information, visit the MoHiP Web site.
For more information about the Boone home and its history, see these two articles: