The Case of the Copper Cornice

Jopliners are no doubt familiar with the history of the Connor Hotel. Perhaps a presently lesser-known history is that of how the hotel’s national historical distinction was supposedly removed. According to accounts archived, a Memorandum of Agreement was drawn to essentially replace the Connor Hotel’s listing in the National Register with that of the Joplin Carnegie Library. 

Naturally, stipulations abounded. The first of which was that the Carnegie building had to in fact be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. The second stipulation was that the Missouri State Historic Preservation Officer be given an opportunity to solicit workable plans for re-use of the Connor Hotel. The third stipulation was that “If no feasible re-use plans are submitted, the site of the Joplin Connor Hotel, and adjacent parcels, will be cleared for the purpose of constructing a new Joplin Public Library.” Included in the third stipulation was that the City of Joplin salvage and preserve certain architectural details of the Connor Hotel. The fourth and fifth stipulations stated that the items salvaged and preserved be incorporated into the interior, exterior or landscaping of the new public library or “other use that will benefit the citizens of Joplin and serve as a reminder of the Joplin Connor Hotel.” The sixth stipulation was that within thirty days of the Connor’s demolition, the appropriate parties take the action and notify the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places and request the Connor Hotel’s removal from the register. This memorandum was signed in December of 1977.

As one who looks at the Northwest corner of Joplin’s 4th & Main Streets can see, all of the memorandum’s stipulations were met. Well, sort of. Listed among the items to be salvaged and preserved were the wall murals from the hotel’s lobby; the lion-face keystone; the caryatids; the frieze panels from the east and south elevations of the hotel; segments of the lobby’s marble balustrade; segments of the copper roof balustrade and four copper brackets from the hotel’s cornice. Although the Connor was demolished in 1978, these architectural details (sans the murals and marble balustrade segments) were lying in an open field northwest of the airport building as late as 1983, as evident in the following Polaroids taken that same year:

Eventually, the two decorative frieze panels and the two caryatids made their way to the Joplin Public Library and the lion-face keystone to Missouri Southern State University, as stipulated by the memorandum. Also, the hotel’s murals were installed in the then-new public library’s small meeting room, which is visible from the building’s west entrance. It’s unclear, however, what became of the marble and copper balustrade segments, as well as the four copper cornices. Perhaps they lie still, in some field. Just as the Joplin Connor Hotel listing lies still, in the field of the National Register of Historic Places, though thirty days have long since passed. (http://www.dnr.mo.gov/shpo/jasper.htm

…On a lighter note, the following photograph of the Connor’s exterior is tucked among the archives:

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