In recent years the home of the DreamCatcher skateboard shop, and converted in the spring of 2014 to the Imago Gallery & Cultural Center, this is the largest intact 19th-century commercial building in Columbia, and one of the few known to have been professionally designed. It was built in 1892 for the weekly newspaper the Columbia Herald. The company was owned by Edwin W. Stephens, a prominent local who was president of both the University of Missouri and Stephens College, named for his father James. The building is the work of architect M. Fred Bell, who designed many of the oldest buildings on the University of Missouri’s Red Campus. The Herald building shares many characteristics with Red Campus structures, including an eclectic blend of Victorian styling, tall narrow windows, and ornamental bracketed cornices. Its most prominent feature was a polygonal corner tower topped by a steeply pitched roof. The tower featured large clocks and a whistle that gave a weather forecast and the nightly curfew via a variety of signals. The tower was removed in a 1972 remodeling project but owner John Ott plans to restore it someday with an updated clock.
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The Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts is Columbia's last and grandest movie palace. It opened in 1928 with Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill Jr. In 1953, Commonwealth Theatres bought the theater and ran it into the ground in the 1980s before selling it to United Artists, which wanted to gut the theater to turn it into a multiplex. Thankfully, it was saved in 1987 when the Missouri Symphony Society bought it for their new home. In 2001, Ragtag and the symphony society began raising funds for a new projector; on November 15, 2002, the theater showed its first 35mm feature in almost 15 years, a sold-out screening of Sing-along Sound of Music. The theatre saw multi-million-dollar makeover in 2008, and came under the control of the University of Missouri in 2011, securing a long and glorious future.
The $30 million Cornell Hall replaced Middlebush Hall as the MU business school’s headquarters in 2002 and is the second-largest classroom building on campus. It is named for Harry M. Cornell, Jr., an MU grad who became the chairman of Leggett & Platt, one of the largest employers in Southwest Missouri. Cornell and the company donated the initial lead gift. The Kansas City-based architects, Ellerbe Becket, called the high-tech building a new take on Georgian architecture, prevalent between 1720 and 1830 and revived later in the 19th century. While Jesse is renovated in 2015, the festival is proud to be using Cornell’s steeply tiered 500-seat auditorium.
The Blue Note has been a Columbia institution for concerts, dances and other shows since 1980. The seed was planted in 1975 when Philadelphia native Richard King, on his way to California, made a detour to visit a friend in graduate school at MU. Five years later, after a stint presenting shows at a downtown hotel, King partnered with Phil Costello, a bartender at a place on the Business Loop called Brief Encounters (now Club Vogue). They bought the bar and renamed it The Blue Note, and it became a haven for the best independent rock of its day, including Hüsker Dü's last show, the Pixies and the Replacements. Then in the late '80s, while drinking at Booches, King learned that an old vaudeville house, the Varsity Theater, was for sale. By March 1990, after major improvements, King moved The Blue Note there. King has done mighty work renovating the theater — including the restoration of tiered seating in the balcony — as part of the downtown historic district. The Varsity Theatre (Blue Note) was built in 1927 by Tom C. Hall, a prominent businessman who was also involved with several other theaters in town, including the Hall Theatre, which he built on South Ninth in 1916.
For the fourth straight year, the festival is hosted at Missouri United Methodist Church's 2006 annex, built on the burial grounds of a Wendy’s restaurant. This two-story, stucco-covered building is a prominent feature in the gateway between downtown and the University of Missouri campus. The gorgeous Gothic revival church to its north features Indiana limestone walls with massive pointed arched openings and slender peaked buttresses. It opened in 1929, within a year of the Missouri Theatre's opening across the street.
Built in 1963, the Geological Sciences Building is one of the least-cited designs by Kivett & Myers, credited with bringing modern architecture to Kansas City. Clarence Kivett, born Clarence Kivovitch, started his career by designing the art-deco Katz Drugstore for his uncles, and then, joined by Ralph Myers, went on to design the C-shaped KCI Airport (1972), lauded for having the shortest curb-to-plane walks in the world. During its glory years, Kivett & Myers was the leading architectural design firm in Kansas City, seeding most of the rest of the city’s architecture firms and boasting an international profile. The firm established Kansas City as the world’s capital for sports architecture, by pioneering the design of modern professional sports stadiums including the side-by-side Kauffman Stadium (built 1968-1973) and Arrowhead Stadium (1968-1972). Kivett & Myers is known for its signature, spiral ramps that led to higher echelons of seating. 123 Geology may be modest but this 50-year-old landmark is at the key gateway to the MU quad, perched midway between the iconic Jesse Hall (1893) and Tiger Hotel (1928). T/F is grateful to be utilizing Geology for one year while Jesse is being refurbished.
At the center of the Fine Arts Building housing MU’s departments of theater, music and art is a theater named after the legendary Professor Donovan Rhynsburger. In 1925, the professor became the producing director of The Missouri Workshop Theatre, started by a small group of aspiring student thespians, and which presented 250 productions over the next 35 years, including rooftop plays every summer on top of the education building. Essentially a one-person department during its early years, Rhynsburger played the multiple roles of teacher, director, producer, and scenic, lighting, and costume designer. Professor Rhynsburger founded a one-act playwriting contest, won in 1930 by journalism major Tennessee Williams. In 1960, his dream of an academic program in theatre, housed in a fully equipped facility, was finally realized with the completion the building. Rhynsburger, who played Abe Lincoln in one show, demanded the theatre rows fit his long frame. Over the years, several notable actors have worked on the Rhynsburger stage, including Chris Cooper, Tom Berenger, Cleo King, Melanie Moore and Jon Hamm.
With its 90-foot-tall bell tower featuring a gold cross against a blue mosaic tile panel, the church is a noted landmark in downtown Columbia, just to the south of Ragtag’s “Hittsville” complex. Built in 1966, the church building is the latest incarnation of a congregation with deep roots here -- it is the second oldest church in Columbia, having started at Tenth & Broadway in the 1820s. In the Vietnam era, the church started to host the Chez coffehouse in its basement; the Chez swarmed with pickers and grinners of all kinds, becoming one of Columbia’s biggest alternative havens. The venue continues on an occasional basis to this day. In 2009, the church built a fellowship hall; in 2011, it graciously opened its doors to T/F, which it gives an international theme for the weekend.
Built in 1928 and, at nine stories, still the tallest building downtown, the Tiger Hotel and its impressive ballroom hosted Columbia's biggest social functions. It provided a convenient stopover for salesmen and other travelers who arrived by train. The rise of the automobile, however, sent the hotel into a long period of decline as new hotels popped up along the interstate. At one time, the Missouri Theatre planned to house a hotel above it, but when the owners of the Tiger heard about that, they threatened to put a theater in their building; cooler heads prevailed and they each carved out their own niche in the downtown. Ambitious plans to renovate the property over the years bankrupted several owners, but a massive renovation in the mid-1990s revitalized the hotel into a senior living center. A group of local owners – John Ott, Dave Baugher and Al Germond – restored the Tiger sign on the roof and erected new neon signs on the street entrance in 2003 before selling to Canadian businessman Glyn Laverick in 2011. Laverick converted the building into a boutique hotel with 62 rooms that opened just days before the 2012 festival. For the festival, True/False renames the ballroom after local icon Forrest Rose, a well-loved columnist and stand-up bass player who passed away in March 2005 and whose graceful prose and soulful community spirit embody the very best of Columbia.
This little-known and rarely-seen downtown landmark is owned by the local chapter of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, whose mission is to "to improve and elevate the character of mankind." It is one of 10,000 lodges in 25 countries. The second floor hosted a sewing project designed to employ women during the Great Depression. The building appears to have housed government offices on most of the ground floor from the 1940s through the late 60s, with the lodge hall above, and hosted the Ragtag Cinema between 2000 and 2008. It is one of the few, if not the only historic lodge hall in downtown Columbia. The Odd Fellows’ peak membership was on the eve of World War I with 3.4 million active members, but the Great Depression caused a decline as fees became out of reach for some; additionally, the New Deal overlapped the social mission the group spearheaded. The IOOF claims be the largest fraternal order in the world under one head, and has generously lent the temple on the second floor to us for T/F weekend.
The Ragtag story begins in 1997 when Paul Sturtz met David Wilson at a show by Mr. Quintron at the now-shuttered Shattered nightclub. The last downtown movie house had gone dark, and so they concocted the Ragtag Film Society. Richard King opened the Blue Note to them Sunday and Wednesday nights, and they showed the first film in 1998 with a couple of "borrowed" 16mm projectors. Cut to three bright entrepreneurs — medievalist Tim Spence, farmer Holly Roberson and baker Ron Rottinghaus — who schemed how to make Ragtag a seven-day-a-week storefront cinema, which opened in 2000 and moved to its current digs in 2008. “Hittsville”, as we like to call it, was built in 1935 and first used as a Coca-Cola bottling factory and then as the Kelly Press printing plant. In 2013, the smaller and cozier auditorium was renamed "The Willy Wilson Theater" after the Scottish-born actor, designer, math teacher – and father of David Wilson. Ragtag is sometimes credited with saving Columbia, but people tend to exaggerate about such things.