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Joplin's Historic Murphysburg homes to be restored, turned into museums

JOPLIN, Mo. — Two Historic Murphysburg homes located on 4th and South Sergeant Ave. in Joplin are currently in the process of being restored and turned into educational museums.

The historic museum sites will showcase “Victorian culture; Joplin, Missouri and United States history during the 1890s; architectural styles and the art of preservation and restoration,” according to Joplin Historical Neighborhoods.

Joplin Historical Neighborhoods was established by local couple David and Debra Humphreys in 2017 after their purchase of three prominent historic homes — the Charles and Wilhelmina Schifferdecker Home, Edward and Margaret Zelleken Home, and Alfred and (wife) Rogers Home.

In 2018, the team of craftsmen that make up this project began to form.

The Humphreys are working with Joplin Public Historian Brad Belk and St. Louis Preservation Architect Michael Englebert Griffin to “restore these homes to their original significance” and open them to the public for tours and more.

The homes

In 1875, German immigrants Charles Schifferdecker and Edward Zelleken moved to Joplin after being partners in a brewing business in Baxter Springs, KS. They purchased the Sergeant Ave. lot of land in 1890 and the construction of their homes began.

Their homes were part of the first substantial urban development of Joplin — Murphysburg, and they each reflect their owner’s personality and taste.

  • The Schifferdecker house, located at 422 S. Sergeant, is a Romanesque structure inspired by the castles along Rhine Valley in Germany.

“He [Charles Schifferdecker] fell in love with the castles… He decided to do something that he reminisced about,” said Brad Belk.

Schifferdecker brought in craftsmen from Germany to achieve an authentic look, which included a three-story circular tower.

  • Next door is the Zelleken house, located at 406 S. Sergeant. The three-story Queen Anne style home is more delicate in contrast to its neighboring home.

“The interesting thing about Queen Anne is that there’s metal, brick, wood and all kinds of things. So they used multiple materials,” said Belk.

The Zelleken home features a wrap-around porch, its original staircase, and more bedrooms compared to the Schifferdecker home.

  • Two structures between the houses, a carriage house and garage, are also being renovated and will be utilized in the museum site.

The carriage house will be transformed into a theater where guests will watch an introduction film at the beginning of their visit. The film will be an overview of what they are about to see at the historic museum homes.

The garage will be turned into a “mini history museum” that can be visited while waiting for the next tour to begin.

The project will also include the Rogers house across the street, 621 W. Fourth St., but work has not yet begun on it.

The restoration

Over the years, the homes have endured considerable damage and wear and tear. For example, in 1991, a horrific fire damaged the third floor of the Schifferdecker house — the servant’s quarters.

Many historically accurate repairs have already been done. The team found bricks from the 1890s in St. Louis to replace damaged bricks on the Schifferdecker home.

“We can find anything and everything you can possibly imagine. So that’s what we’ve done. We really want to stay authentic with what we’re doing,” said Belk.

The restoration is also being built for longevity. The roof of the Schifferdecker home is now made out of slate and should last about 200 years, according to Belk.

“We still have a long way to go and it’s been extremely challenging. We found things that we didn’t know until we started examining further. When we started peeling back the layers, we ran into some things that really had to be addressed,” said Belk.

“These are going to be here 100 years from now, 200 years from now because of the detail and what we’ve done… We’re guaranteeing that,” he continued.

When completed, each home will be filled with artifacts from the Victorian era and look much like they would have in the 1890s.

In the future, you will be able to visit theses homes in all their glory and learn so much more. To stay updated on the project, visit Joplin Historical Neighborhood’s website.