Renovation of Jackson's historic district underway

Friday, April 22, 2005

It's not a facade. Jackson's uptown merchants and building owners are serious about this historical district idea.

The green metal panels on the old Dollar General building on Main Street -- where SEMO Specialties and Sports is now -- came down Wednesday. On Thursday, workers removed the plywood that remained underneath.

Before long, the metal facade will be removed from another building on the northwest corner of High and Adams streets as well as an old theater building next door.

The siding on Tractors restaurant will come off soon, and it's very likely that the metal facade on the Siemers building will be brought down.

The changes will come quickly, as property and store owners become contributing members of Jackson's proposed historical district.

The aforementioned buildings would be included in the district even if the facades were not removed. However, in order for the buildings to be eligible for renovation tax credits, the outside of the building must resemble the original look of the building.

Some of the buildings are brick under the current facades. Some of the buildings never were brick, but had stucco fronts.

The Schneider family, which owns and operates SEMO Specialties and Sports, owns three of the buildings where exterior covering is being removed.

Todd Schneider said the family had been talking about removing the mint-green front on the Main Street building for some time, but the talk of the historic district made it the right time to go ahead.

Schneider said the family plans to renovate the third floor and use tax credits to pay for repairs on the building, which was built in the 1880s or 1890s. The Schneiders have no plans to refurbish their other two buildings on High Street. But "we feel the historic district is a good thing for the community and it's a good thing to get in on in if we decide to make improvements later on," Todd Schneider said.

The historic district will include 31 buildings.

Uptown merchant Tom Strickland got the historical movement started in Jackson. He renovated the brick Strickland Engineering building and owns other properties uptown.

The facade removal is the first step in the process, Strickland said.

"Once we get the district formed, we'll start promoting historical lighting," he said. "Some of that will require grant funding. With it being a historical district, that will give us extra points on our application."

Jackson resident Melinda Winchester, working for Lasfer Associates of St. Louis, is doing the research and preparing the nomination. She said the nomination has to be prepared by May 8 for the state Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which will meet in August. If approved, the nomination will be sent to the federal government for official placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

Winchester said her work has been made much easier thanks to the county's archive center and the Jackson Heritage Association, which provided many photos for the project.

"I think this is a positive move for Jackson as a whole, not just uptown," Winchester said. "We've had great support from so many people and that's what it takes."


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