McMullen: Saving 'the shrine of wishful thinking'
On Thanksgiving night, the people of Sedalia and Pettis County will line South Ohio between Fourth and Fifth streets in preparation for the Sedalia Christmas season.
The grand Hotel Bothwell will light up with the colors of the season — its roof will be the launching point for the herald of the holidays, the annual fireworks show.
And as the sky lights up, the people might just catch a glimpse of the Missouri Trust Building, directly across the street from the hotel. They might quickly register a twinge of disappointment in its current state before another firework captures their attention.
If the Trust building could feel depressed, it would probably feel the most depressed on Thanksgiving night. Just across the street there’s another historic building that has survived and even thrived in the modern age. It’s even got its own event.
There is perhaps no starker contrast in all of downtown Sedalia. Sure, Hotel Bothwell still sits as one of the finest structures in all of Sedalia because it continually stayed in business, so we can’t know if it would stay that way if it was merely the building that used to house the hotel.
All right, so it probably would still be maintained because we’d never want to let down John Homer Bothwell.
Yes, the Trust Building is a magnificent structure and it would be nice to see it restored to its former glory. Though I don’t think we should strive to open it back up as merely a showcase of the building that it used to be. We shouldn’t take the time to restore it if we’re only going to open it back up as a an empty Trust Building.
In that event, we would admire the building much in the same way that we do now: wistfully and from a distance.
I think we should use the building’s natural aesthetic appeal and make it into a place that might attract tourists. No, I don’t mean cheesing it up and selling Trust Building snowglobes and playsets. It is easily downtown Sedalia’s most desirable available location and I think it would be the perfect place for a downtown information center. Your first stop for all things downtown Sedalia.
Imagine a grand museum of the history of downtown Sedalia. Imagine a destination full of demonstrations, impersonators and artifacts. Imagine a grand, rectangular information booth on the first floor manned by downtown experts and filled with information and coupons. We’ll call it Destination Downtown at the Sedalia Trust Building. (That might be cheesing it up a little too much.)
I think the very same requirements that would keep the building sufficiently historic and sufficiently tax deductible are also working to keep it empty.
Now don’t take me wrong: I don’t think it’s a bad idea to offer certain tax breaks and other benefits to individuals who are willing to restore a historic building within certain historic perimeters but I think those requirements can also be a little intimidating for potential new owners.
People love the Trust Building. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone sigh and wish that it could be restored to its former glory. If pure will could fix it, the buildings around it would start looking better from the excess will.
But despite that old chestnut, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of way to go with that will. For the foreseeable future the Trust Building will sit as a hollow monument to good intentions and nice thoughts — a shrine of wishful thinking.
But I think someone will do something before it reaches the point of no return — I hope, at least.
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