Historic homes + facts = amazing stories

I love historic homes because inside of them — inside every home — is a story. No need to add color, make anything up, each house offers a tale worth telling.

The aptly named “Fairy-tale” house at 121 West Blvd., North is no exception. But until last year, the story got one big fact wrong. No fewer than five published reports tell the tale of Arch McCard felling the trees to build the little log cabin inside this Tudor Revival cottage.

121 West Blvd historic picture of log cabin with ladder. Courtesy of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Commission and FitzImages Photography.
121 West Blvd historic picture of log cabin with ladder. Courtesy of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Commission and FitzImages Photography.

Unfortunately, that isn’t true — and the truth is even better. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever know who built the log cabin, but documents show that it is likely that Arch McHarg and his wife Blanche McHarg renovated the log cabin into the lovely little cottage we know and admire today. However, my research shows that McHarg did not own the property until after 1911, so it is unlikely he felled the trees to build the log cabin — no matter how many articles say he did!

There is a photo, however, of what it might have looked like prior to the McHargs turning it into the cottage it is today. By the way, today the house is called Creekstone Cottage and is a vacation rental owned by Leigh and Sean Spence. Check it out on this Facebook page.

What new found truths have you found out about historic homes in Columbia?

Now, we know the McHargs owned the home because a 1941 buyer of the house said so — in print. Nadine Coleman was a feature writer before journalism was equally open to men and women and in 1990, she wrote about the four homes she owned and renovated in Columbia, Missouri, including the house at 121 West Blvd. N. She had a full-page spread in the Sunday, Dec. 16, 1990 Columbia Daily Tribune (p. 33) and told how she and a friend were walking by the house and decided to ask Mrs. Harg for a sprig of ivy. Coleman learned the house was for sale for $1,500 and recounts that soon she’d bought the “little neglected log house, which had no kitchen when we bought it…”

In addition to Coleman’s article on the house, this deed conveying the property in 1941 confirms her memory of the name of the owners.

Yet, in between 1941 and the house becoming the long-time home of Herb and Betty Brown, the information about Nadine Coleman and the McHargs was lost, and that’s too bad. Because that’s what I truly love about historic homes, they are places where the stories of our community are saved and loved, so we can savor later these stories of the past.

The best part of uncovering the truth isn’t that we now know McHarg probably didn’t cut down the trees for the log cabin inside the house. The best part is recovering a story about a woman who nearly passed out of the historic records of this house. And a story of a woman who made her mark in houses and in journalism. For a journalist like me, passionate about historic homes, it just doesn’t get any better than that … until the next story I find inside a historic home.

What stories have you found inside historic homes? Leave me a comment above so we can all learn the stories these homes carry inside.

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