Byrd House, Farrar store closer to historic status

Monday, February 19, 2007
The Abraham Byrd House, 2832 County Road 442, west of Fruitland, was constructed in 1827 with rough-cut limestone blocks. The house has been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. (Fred Lynch)

When built in 1827, the two-story Abraham Byrd house was a symbol of success in rural Cape Girardeau County. Byrd was an early pioneer and a prominent farmer. He served as a state representative and a presidential elector in the mid-1800s.

The Byrd house, which still stands on County Road 442, is well on the way to a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

Terri Foley, a historic preservationist, completed the nomination process for the Byrd house. A panel with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources recently approved the nomination, which now goes to the national level.

The house is an example of a popular trend that swept across the Midwest from the late 18th century to the early 20th century, Foley said. The I-house, which usually was two stories with rooms on each side of a central hallway, became a symbol of success in small towns across America, she said.

"The I-house allowed flexibility and simplicity in a style that helped serve the needs of rural farmers and their families," Foley said."Historically, the house was designed to work with the surrounding landscape to benefit those who resided in it. The I-houses would be built among trees to offer protection and to keep the home cool during the hot weather."

The Farrar General Market in Farrar, Mo. has been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. (Submitted photo)

The house also was constructed with 24-inch-thick Missouri limestone blocks. "You don't see many houses completely constructed out of Missouri limestone that are still standing from 1827," Foley said.

Today, the Byrd house is owned by Jim Hickam, who lives nearby on the 127-acre plot of land on which the house sits.

The house has been in Hickam's family for more than 100 years. His great-uncle purchased the house from the Byrd family in the early 1900s and later sold it to Hickam's great-grandmother.

Hickam remembers spending summers at the house when he was younger. Currently, the house, which has no running water or electricity, is used for storage.

"Eventually, I'd like to fix it up, but I'm not sure if that will happen in my lifetime," said Hickam, who is in his 70s.

"I have a niece who may carry on the idea," he said.

Foley also was successful at getting state approval for a Perry County site that could end up on the National Register of Historic Places. The Eggers and Company general store at the intersection of County Road 328 and 343 in Farrar, Mo., and attached house were built in 1894. The store, which at one time housed the only local post office, was in operation until 2006.

"It is significant because it's an example of the local general store and post office, which could have been found in any community in Southeast Missouri a century or more ago but is now very rare," Foley said.

The property is owned by Steven and Ellen Frye, who live in St. Louis.

Foley said the owners are renovating the building and want to turn it into a bed and breakfast.

Both properties should receive approval for the National Register of Historic Places in May, Foley said.

335-6611, extension 246

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