SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Springfield is home to its share of historic houses, including this 1920s craftsman located in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
According to local realtor and historian Richard Crabtree, Pickwick Place was named for Charles Dickens’ first novel titled “The Pickwick Club.” The neighborhood boasted over 200 lots when it was platted in 1890.
One of those homes is at 956 South Fremont Avenue, where owners have modernized the five-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath property over the years. The property is currently listed for sale with Brooke Evans of Murney Associates.
It now has features like marble tile floors and granite countertops in the kitchen, a 2-car garage with alley access, a whole home generator and a custom basketball court in the backyard.
But the property maintains pieces of its history – the hardwood floors in the living and dining rooms, staircase, fireplace and other woodwork are over 100 years old.
The house is also a classic style from the 1900s called a foursquare. According to Crabtree, the style was also called box on box and had the same square footage on each level of the home.
Thirty-five years before 956 South Fremont was constructed, Crabtree says investors purchased an 80-acre tract of land known as the Greene County Poor Farm. In 1890, they paid just over $25,000 for the property. Adjusted for inflation, that same land would cost over $650,000 today.
The area would become a neighborhood known as Pickwick Place. Early ads describe the land as “high and rolling” and the newly-constructed homes there as “handsome and palatial.”
In 1929, Springfield’s trolley system, called Kickapoo Transit Co, ran through much of central Springfield. This included Pickwick Place, where the trolley passed directly through the neighborhood on Pickwick Avenue. Trolley cars passed just a block from where 956 South Fremont sits today.
Built in 1925 by William H. Rice, the house would belong to Thomas Lyons, an engineer for the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (also known as the Frisco) by 1926.
Thomas, along with his wife Nannie and their children, would live in the house for 18 years. According to his obituary in a 1940 issue of the Springfield Leader newspaper, Thomas Lyons worked for the railroad for 52 years before retiring. Other records from the Frisco Railroad archives show that Lyons was the oldest engineer working for the railroad when he retired in 1931.