J.W. “Blind” Boone historic home makes Columbia standout, boosts economy

Completing the renovation of the J.W. “Blind” Boone home at 10 N. Fourth St., got unanimous approval by the Columbia City Council on Monday, June 3, 2013.

The shell of the house was preserved, painted red and saved from termites and demolition by the purchase of the city in 2000 and subsequent work, but until last night, it needed another $326,000 to make it habitable and available for the many plans the J.W. “Blind” Boone Heritage Foundation has for it.

But perhaps the greatest plans for the house came during Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp’s comments. He said historic structures such as the Boone home are fundamental to Columbia’s economic development, giving the city its own geographic, cultural and historic personality. “We’re not anywhere, any town,” he said during comments prior to the vote.

Trapp and others also called the home an inspiration. Boone, born in 1864 to a run away slave and U.S. Union bugler, was blinded at 6 months old, a step taken to save him from “brain fever.” Despite his handicap, Boone went on to learn to play music, later composing his own works and playing at concert halls throughout the nation, with some evidence he played internationally. He is credited with contributing to ragtime music, the forerunner of jazz, which led Anthony Stanton to note the global importance of Boone’s legacy, noting the global popularity of jazz.

The house could potentially give Columbia a bigger spot on two different maps. In presenting information on the Boone home, Columbia Parks and Recreation Director Mike Griggs said there is a movement to create a statewide music trail from St.Louis to Kansas City, and a civil rights trail, both of which would include the Boone home.

As Clyde Ruffin, president of the Heritage Board noted, Boone overcame two obstacles, disability and race. The city’s plan for the house calls for completing the interior renovations and then turning the building over to the J.W. “Blind” Boone Heritage Foundation.

Griggs noted the relationship would be like that of the city and the Boone County Historic Museum and Galleries. The city owns Maplewood, a historic home, and the surrounding park, but the facilities are managed by the Boone County Historical Society.

According to Ruffin, plans for the use of the building once it is renovated include a small display of Boone artifacts while the rest of the facility would be used for activities including instructional space.

No matter what happens in the future, the Boone home has already put Columbia on the map. The Blind Boone Ragtime Festival is held annually, this year June 10 and 11, 2013, in the Missouri Theatre. Also, the house where Boone lived from 1889 until his death in 1927 is on the National Register of Historic Places, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s stamp of approval for a nationally important site.

What historic sites in Columbia make it more than just a small college town to you, which historic place and buildings tell you Columbia is special? What historic places do you think contribute to Columbia’s economic development?

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