Sedalia experienced a building boom in the late 1890s. This happened despite several factors that should have plunged the city and its residents into a period of financial watchfulness and careful spending. During the decade, a depression had struck the nation; the depression was complicated in Sedalia by the local failure of the First National Bank in 1894. The citizens had collected and reserved $92,000 to ensure the location of the Katy Shops in Sedalia. They had also collected and spent between $75,000 and $125,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to move the state capital from Jefferson City to Sedalia.

I. Mac DeMuth’s 1898 pamphlet “A Feast of Cold Facts” documented the building boom by listing the building permits issued for a six-month period ending in October 1898. He identified a total of $94,810 spent on building or remodeling homes or business buildings. Most of the buildings were modestly priced. Though he listed the property owners, he does not describe the buildings or identify the contractors who worked on them.

An indication of another aspect of Sedalia’s building boom appeared in the Sedalia Democrat in December 1896. The article acknowledges that the quality of new homes being built in Sedalia had increased dramatically in the past few years and that Sedalia was “up to the times in her improvements.” As a result, Sedalia was rapidly becoming a “metropolitan city.”

The article describes a “palatial home” costing $15,000 to build. The article also names the contractors who provided the labor necessary to complete the dwelling. The home, built for Joseph Imhauser, was designed by Sedalian W.S. Epperson, an architect whose “good taste and skill … was known throughout the west and whose handicraft can be seen all over Sedalia.” Jerome Moyer served as general contractor.

The building was in the Queen Anne style with elements the Democrat identified as Romanesque Revival and Colonial Revival styles. It used a red brick veneer trimmed with buff brick and limestone relief panels and friezes done by Edward Hurley. A tower accented the northwest corner. The house was topped with a dark green slate roof. The front steps led to a veranda accented with a carved stone archway.

The wrap-around veranda opened onto an “elegant tiled vestibule” that in turn opened onto a reception room. The reception room had a “grand oak stairway” to the second floor and double pocket doors that opened onto the parlors, dining room, and library. The reception room also boasted a “cozy alcove” accented with a “beautiful grilled archway.”

The second story of the house had five “nicely arranged bedrooms.” The second story also boasted amenities not generally common except in the homes of the well-to-do. These included a bathroom, a toilet room, a cedar-lined closet, and numerous cabinets.

The interior trim was done in hardwood, bird’s eye maple, oak, cherry, and cedar. George Dugan of Sedalia decorated the walls plastered by the Graham Brothers with oil painted frescoes.

The light fixtures came from Cassidy and Company of New York and installed by E.R. Ballard. Sedalia plumbing company of Gray, Rippey, and Sutter installed the stem heating system and the plumbing. The Wakefield Tile Company of Kansas City installed the mantle surrounds and tile floors.

The house still stands, a monument to the sophistication of Sedalia’s architect, contractors, and laborers.


Contributing Columnist

Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society. 

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