Wanted: A buyer for downtown’s ‘crown jewel’

Doug Kneibert - Contributing Columnist

The skyscraper age dawned in America in the mid-1880s, when the Home Insurance Co. of Chicago erected an astonishing 10-story office building. Sedalia built its more modest version about the same time, when the four-story Missouri Trust Co. went up at Fourth and Ohio.

The famous Chicago skyscraper no longer stands. A lot of effort is going into seeing that Sedalia’s Trust Building, described as the “crown jewel” of the Downtown Historic District, will escape that fate.

Charged with that task is the 11-member Friends of the Sedalia Trust, which is trying to market the building to a developer. But first it had to be repaired and protected from the elements.

As is the case with all vacant structures, the ravages of rain, snow, ice and wind took a toll of the Trust Building, and the Friends determined to protect if it from further damage. That required a new roof and north wall, sandblasting and tuck-pointing of the limestone exterior, and numerous other repairs.

None of that came cheap. The Downton TIF District set aside $495,000 for the work, most of which has been spent. But at least the building is now structurally sound and weather tight.

“We didn’t try to make it perfect, but to fix all the major problems and clean it out,” said Meg Liston, Friends secretary and my guide when I recently toured the building.

The first two floors are suitable for commercial use, she said, with the top two reserved for apartments, preferably luxury units. The building is said to be the finest example of Romanesque-Chateauesque architecture in central Missouri. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, which makes developers eligible for significant tax credits.

As for selling it, “We’ve made that a lot easier now,” said Aric Snyder Sr., president of the Friends board. “It was in bad shape, it was in scary shape.” He said the board is asking $300,000 for the building and two adjacent office spaces that it purchased.

Snyder has a family tie to the Trust Building, as his grandfather, Cornelius Snyder, made the last deposit just as the bank closed its doors for good in the bleak early years of the Depression in 1932. “This crazy old building was speaking to me,” he said, explaining how he got involved in trying to save it.

Bob Walters, board treasurer and point man for marketing the building, said the internet is the main vehicle for that, and he envisions ads being placed on the web site of the National

Trust for Historic Places in addition to the Friends site. He said the market is “strong” for the tax credits – both state and federal — associated with the preservation of historic buildings.

None of the board members I talked to had any illusions that selling the Trust Building was going to be easy, but they are determined to do all they can to prevent the razing (where cost estimates are in the $150,000 range) of what Snyder called a downtown “landmark and icon.”

As for finding a buyer, Snyder expressed some confidence.

“I am an optimist — I believe so, and I hope so.”


Doug Kneibert

Contributing Columnist

— Doug Kneibert is a former editor of the Sedalia Democrat.

— Doug Kneibert is a former editor of the Sedalia Democrat.

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