Saturday, June 6, 2009

No Longer That Haunted House on 5th Street

Now that Laura’s house no longer looks like the “Haunted House on 5th Street”, we’re at a stopping point and wondering what to do about a porch. I’ve scoured the library and other resources, and learned that photos of the house during Laura’s day are virtually non-existent.

I sent out a call to Steve Chou, a local historian on Hannibal. You may have read two of Steve’s books displaying photos of Hannibal during the late 1800’s and also mid-1900’s. If you haven’t, these are musts for even the most lukewarm of Hannibal buffs:

Hannibal: Bluff City Memories

This book mostly shows photos of Hannibal in its Heydays
(late 1800’s to 1929) when it was a wealthy, bustling town
in a lumber and steamboat economy.
Buy a copy.

Hannibal: The Otis Howell Collection

Otis Howell was a photojournalist with the Hannibal Courier-Post from 1945 to 1980. In this book are shots of buildings, street scenes, and scenes from everyday life in post-war Hannibal. This book should be part of the library of every Hannibalian baby boomer and folks who are interested in the Midwest during the years after WWII up to 1967. Buy a copy.

As a former bonafide local (I went to high school and junior college in this town), I like referring back to the photos of places that continue to exist – and there are many despite the local pastime of demolishing historic structures. This urge to destroy has left gaping lots in much of downtown Hannibal which are now being slowly infilled.

So, a quick e-mail to Steve (easy enough to find through Friends of Historic Hannibal) asking him to delve into his vast collection yielded this response:


I have watched the work progressing on the house and have been very impressed. I am so glad to see Hannibal's historic past preserved.

I have looked through my archives and unfortunately have not come across any photos that would be of any help to you. I am, however, always coming across new material, and will let you know if I find anything of your house. Residences are a lot tougher to find images of; I have quite a few photos of old homes in Hannibal, but the chances of having an image of one specific house is, as you can appreciate, somewhat remote. I thought I might see part of your house in views of the old YMCA, or in panoramic shots, but so far no luck.

You might contact the YMCA - they might have other photos of the old Y which might show your house; it's worth a try.

Good luck, and as I said, I will continue to see what I can find.

Steve Chou

So, until I can locate old YMCA photos, I’ve decided to search Google images for houses similar to ours. This will be the topic of my next post.

In my research on Victorian porches, and this one in particular, I learned that porches were not necessary built with the house. From my research on the original house plan, the Laura Hawkins house was initially built without a porch.

The same went with our chateau next door. Remember our chateau from previous posts? That porch was not built to the house until two years later. This view is strong evidence of that…

Note how the originally built stone facade
is obscured at the top by the newer porch ceiling.

So our journey now takes us through the annals of historic photos and of course through eBay, a good and major source of 1800’s architectural buys. Stay tuned…

The Saga Continues

Work continues to progress on the front part of the Laura Hawkins house, and we will let these photos speak for themselves…

As we continue from our last episode...

Remnants of an old planter are getting ready for a haul.

The front door, especially, gets the treatment.

Well Hello Laura. It's so good to see that turret back
where to it was - after being covered for over 70 years.

In the middle of our job, community service calls. Hannibal was fortunate and smart enough to create a new position of "Executive Director of Downtown Hannibal Development". Our new director Wesley Knapp hails from Galveston where he was immensely involved in that town's restoration efforts. Wesley made a call for volunteers to help on a nearby house being rehabbed.

This particular project is part of the HeRo program, a "Dream Initiative project in Hannibal. Backing up here, the "Dream Initiative" is a statewide program that provides selected communities technical & finanancial assistance needed to revitalize their downtowns.

The HeRo program (funded by the Missouri Housing Development Commission) provides funds for an assortment of renovation work for qualified homeowners. For 2008, $119,000 in state dollars were received locally through the HeRo program and allowed work to be undertaken at five homes within Hannibal’s DREAM area. This is one of the houses, which is located a block east of the Laura Hawkins house, on 4th Street.

The crew. That's Wesley in the light green shirt.

The house had already gone through nearly $20K of lead abatement and now volunteers were needed to remove the very dilapidated porch. The porch would be stored as reclaimed wood.

Ron, our guy, examines the porch
for the best way to bring it down.

We'll do this one board at a time.

And thar she goes.

There's no shortage of projects like this needed throughout Hannibal. The town needs so much of this and volunteers who can help make it happen. Back at the ranch...

The priming of the old girl commences.
Remember that burned out part of the turret?
This will receive the board and shingle treatment.

The primer job goes very quickly.

The finishing crew.

It's looking more and more like the original Laura all the time.

Before the shingle restoration & priming,
Laura's home looked like a haunted house.