Seeking S. K. Cho, a downtown surprise

I love historical surprises, like the one I found today. And now I’m on the trail for S.K. Cho, whoever she or he might be. If you know who this 1930s person was or is, I’d love to hear from you.

Yes, I’m a government docs nerd and today, I was re-reading a 2006 National Register of Historic Places document. It covers, “Parts of 7th, 8th, 9th, E. Broadway, Cherry, Hitt, Locust, and E. Walnut Street.” 

I decided to make the information on the report more accessible by typing out the lists of addresses and owners or names of the building.

That’s when I stumbled onto this information: 912 E. Walnut; Cho, S.K. Building, ca. 1930. “A very small, two story, Craftsman style two-part commercial block, with a flat roof and brick walls. It has a small hipped hood along the front and side roofline and a set of three windows in a single second floor opening. The 1/1 windows are newer. The storefront opening consists of a single doorway connected to a display window — the wall of the building runs beneath the display window in lieu of a separate bulkhead. That opening is intack; the door and window are newer. This is the smallest two-part commercial block in the downtown area.”

Cho is a Korean or Japanese family name, according to Google, and I hope this building and this name is a way for me to peek into what seems to be a lesser known part of Columbia’s history — at least to me.

Asia calling 

Columbia has a long connection with Asia, including through the MU School of Journalism established in 1908. Walter Williams, founder of the school, helped found a journalism school at St. John University in Shanghai in 1928, according to this undated article about the Historic Francis Quadrangle on the MU campus.

While the Chinese connection is documented, the Korean or Japanese connections in Columbia seem less visible to me.

That’s where you come in.

Why this matters now

Columbia has a multitude of communities within it and many of them often go unreported, unnoticed or simply overlooked.

The Korean community might be one such community. For example, I know that the Korean First Presyberian Church meets in the First Presbyterian Church at 16 Hitt Street. I know there is a Baptist Korean Church.

But I don’t know the story of the Korean or other Asian communities in Columbia.

I hope you do and you might be willing to share that or step up to tell it because in 2021, Columbia will be celebrating its bicentennial and it’s important that everyone’s story gets told to celebrate this city’s vibrant existence.

How can I get involved?

You have three ways to get involved.

  • Reply to this post or comment on Facebook Comohistoricplaces with the information you know about any community you think should be covered for our 2021 celebration.
  • Contact the CoMo200 folks.
  • Attend the CoMo200 History Working Group meeting. There we’ll be sorting out how to create Columbia’s history. The Working Group meets at 5 p.m. the third Tuesday of every month room C in City Hall.

Are there any other overlooked groups? Are there other stories waiting to be told? It’s your turn. Tell your community’s story.



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