Uncovering the history of the fairy tale cottage at 121 West Boulevard North

History is messy. That’s why writing this piece, The Hansel and Gretel House, about the quaint cottage at 121 West Blvd., North, published in Missouri Life, was so much fun.

But what unusual things have you uncovered via historic homes?

Here’s what I recently learned about one house in Columbia, Missouri.

Often called the Fairy Tale Cottage or the Hansel and Gretel Cottage, many know the house hides a log cabin inside. In fact, many published reports say the log cabin was built in 1911 by its first owner, Arch McHarg, who felled the trees to build the home.

Turns out that’s pretty unlikely. The McHargs bought the lot from Charles Boyle Gordon in 1933. And prior to Gordon’s ownership, the entire plot now occupied by the house was in two sections and owned by completely different individuals. McHarg did, indeed, however transform the log cabin into the Tudor revival home it is today.

But that’s not the only thing missing from previous published reports. Another missing piece is Blanche McHarg, Arch’s wife. Other articles simply leave out her name entirely.

And in the telling of the story of the house, an important owner is often left out as well: Nadine Coleman. She and her husband lived there and added the gardens that make the home the memorable sight it is today. But just as important, Coleman wasn’t just a gardener, she was also one of the early women journalists and an author as well. Turns out she’s the namesake of the woman who resided in the Booneville mansion, Ravenswood. Her mother was widowed and in dire financial straits and had planned to let the mistress of Ravenswood adopt Nadine, but changed her mind and gave her child the woman’s name instead.

How do I know? Because Nadine Coleman wrote a book about it. But no previous reports about the house at 121 West Blvd., North have noted the former owner’s accomplishments. Until now.

That’s what makes historic homes so interesting, you’ll never know what you’ll learn from them.

What interesting facts have you learned from historic homes?

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