SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — In the heart of Midtown, there are a slew of homes that vary in style but are brimming with charm and historical interest.  

That’s the case for 1612 N. Jefferson Ave., a home built in 1930 by well-known Springfield architect and builder Carl Bissman. It was considered “…the largest and most interesting…” of the homes being built at the time.   

From the street, the house (currently listed for sale) is quiet with white siding, black shutters and a few trees out front. A collection of cobbled stones creates the walk to the front door, where a sign sits at the right, humbly declaring “Buckner-Bowe.” 

In addition to being an homage to two of the home’s previous owners, that same sign designates the property as part of the Midtown National Register Historic District.  

About Midtown and its homes 

The Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation (also known as Missouri Preservation) added the historic district to its annual Places in Peril list in 2001, after it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.  

According to an article from Missouri Preservation, Midtown’s houses were built between 1870 and 1939. The area contains both modest and high-style homes, which reflects “…the growth and development of both Springfield and neighboring North Springfield which were merged in 1887.” 

Courtesy of the Springfield Leader and Press via newspapers.com

The arrival of the Frisco Railroad in 1870 and the establishment of Drury College in 1873 meant that railroad employees, businessmen and college faculty needed homes, and found Midtown a suitable place to settle their families.  

Many of the homes in Midtown are Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles, with American Foursquare, Craftsman bungalows and Tudor Revivals sprinkled in. 1612 N. Jefferson Ave. is among a few Colonial Revival style homes that Bissman designed and built.  

When the Midtown historic district first appeared on the Places in Peril list, the article from Missouri Preservation spoke to the loss of some structures in the area, stating in part:  

Moreover, the district is experiencing the erosion of its edges due to demolition of buildings by institutions within or adjacent to the neighborhood that are expanding. Historic single family dwellings have been altered for multiple dwelling uses or office uses due to zoning district designations which are contrary to the original uses found in the neighborhood, insensitive alterations of buildings has occurred due to the lack of enforceable guidelines, and lack of maintenance on many buildings has allowed for demolition by neglect and has had a cancerous effect on neighboring properties. Even historic buildings within Drury’s Campus, portions of which are National Register-listed, have succumbed, including Harwood Hall, named for one of the College’s founders, which was demolished for a new library.

Since the National Register historic district was created in 1989, the district has experienced a loss of 24 contributing historic properties. In one area of the district along North Summit and Clay Streets, 13 contributing buildings have been demolished. The District has seen the loss of its oldest building at 1538 North Benton Avenue.”

From the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation’s write-up about Midtown’s addition to the 2001 Places in Peril list

Built for Buckner 

One thing that is clear about the names in front of 1612 N. Jefferson Ave. is Harold Buckner was the first to live in the home.  

Buckner was a Missouri native, born in 1883 in the town of Mexico, Missouri, which is roughly 40 miles northeast of Columbia.  

Records indicate Buckner was married to his first wife, Grace Rucker, in 1907. After their marriage, they’re mentioned in Audrain County newspapers when they visit their families in Missouri after moving to Mississippi for Buckner’s work as a lumber salesman.  

Courtesy of the Springfield Leader and Press via newspapers.com

By 1916, Buckner has divorced Rucker (she did not pass away until many years later, in 1972) and remarried, this time in Texas to Miss Pansy H. Taylor.   

While in Texas, it appears Buckner’s chosen career had changed (even if for a short time). Based on a draft card from 1918, he was working as an assistant manager for a wholesale poultry dealer by the name of A.W. Jonte in Fort Worth.  

Just over a decade later, Buckner has arrived in Springfield and is living with his mother. In 1929, a wedding announcement appears in the News-Leader, proclaiming Buckner’s marriage to Miss Gladys Williams. At the bottom, the piece references Buckner’s recent divorce from his third wife, a wife OzarksFirst could not identify.  

In the year after Buckner’s marriage to Williams, he employed the help of Bissman to construct the house at 1612 N. Jefferson Ave.  

It was one of a handful of Colonial-style homes Bissman built throughout the city. Three were finished in August 1930 and the Buckner home would be finished by October that same year.  

Their daughter would be born in 1932. By the time Mary Martha arrived, Buckner would begin a five-year battle with a “lingering illness” and eventually pass away in 1937 at the age of 54. His widow, Gladys, passed away over 30 years later in 1971.  

Preserved by Bowe 

Russell G. Bowe was a native of Missouri, born in St. Louis in 1932. He married his wife June in 1953 and spent a 35-year career working for the Frisco.  

In 1998, Bowe purchased 1612 N. Jefferson Ave. and was involved in the Midtown Historic Association. He was an active participant in other community events, including the Moon City Garden Club, the Springfield Fourth of July Parade, the Missouri Representative Assembly and more.  

The Springfield News-Leader documented Bowe’s community efforts and advocacy over the years. He served as a representative on The Good Community Retreat, an effort spearheaded by Springfield community leaders back in 1996 with one job: “…to come up with two or three problems the city should focus on in the coming year, then create measurable projects to combat them.”  

Bowe was also a voice against a 2002 proposal from Springfield Public Schools that intended to raze two older buildings and a church near Midtown to expand parking for Central High School and the Kraft Administrative Center.  

“We love this neighborhood and I almost cried when you tore down the other house,” said Bowe in the February 20 edition of the Springfield News-Leader. “I don’t want to see you destroying more of our buildings.”