Each year, Missouri Preservation, the statewide nonprofit organization for historic preservation, announces a list of the most endangered historic sites in Missouri. The announcement takes place at one of the chosen sites, and this year Southeast Missouri is in the spotlight.
The 2013 announcement will be made Tuesday, May 21, at 1 PM on the grounds of the Henry Miller House in Bloomfield. Built in the 1840s, the house stands near the terminus of the Bloomfield Road. Of course, the folks in Bloomfield never called it the Bloomfield Road; for them, it was always the Cape Road. Even today, the home's address is 106 Cape Road.
During the Civil War, Bloomfield was in the middle of a tug-of-war between North and South, with the town reportedly changing hands 20 times. Even though the Henry Miller House fronted a military road in a hotly contested area, it somehow avoided destruction during the war. As a result, it's one of the oldest -- if not the oldest -- remaining homes in Stoddard County.
Following the war, Louis Houck visited Bloomfield on horseback as part of a group of traveling lawyers. In his memoirs, published in the Southeast Missourian, he described visiting Bloomfield and the Henry Miller House:
We reached Bloomfield at noon where I stayed at Henry Miller's. Henry Miller was one of the leading men of Stoddard County. He had been County Judge, County Treasurer, and owned big bodies of land in the County. He had been a director and was one of the promoters of the Fulton & Cairo Railroad of Missouri. He house was on the Cape Girardeau and Bloomfield road, a large two-store frame house with a porch as long as the house in front of it and he entertained travelers. In the big room where his transient guests usually assembled before meals, was a tremendous fireplace, over four feet wide which greatly impressed me especially when I stopped there, afterwards in winter and the fireplace was filled with blazing wood.
A story in the Dexter Daily Statesman from 2011 describes how the house changed hands numerous times over the years, eventually falling into disrepair. Efforts have been made starting in 2009 to restore it, but work has been stymied by various problems, leading Missouri Preservation to highlight the property on their most endangered list.
The rest of this year's list is a tightly guarded secret. Their press release hints that nominations "came from all corners of the state." All will be revealed on Tuesday.
Following the announcement and news conference in Bloomfield, a reception will be held in Cape Girardeau at the Oliver-Leming "Missouri Flag" House at 3 PM. The Oliver-Leming House has been beautifully restored -- it's not endangered at all -- and so I'm guessing the reception is intended to draw attention to this historic preservation success story.