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Historic Jackson houses undergo preservation work

The Frizel-Welling House in Jackson received extensive structural work by Legacy Preservation Enterprise. The non-profit organization plans to open the historic house as a museum. Photo by Jay Forness

Several historic residences in Jackson are currently being preserved by Legacy Preservation Enterprise, with at least two educational sites expected to open to the public over the next five years.

Steve Ford, founder of Legacy Preservation Enterprise, spoke at a historic preservation event hosted by the John Guild Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution last month about the organization’s work and progress.

The organization’s biggest project is the Frizel-Welling House, located at 209 West Main Street in Jackson. Ford said he hopes the house will become a museum highlighting the historic nature of the house and it’s past residents.

“It’s a ready-made museum once it is done,” Ford said. “It was completely furnished with antique furniture and for all practical purposes, the house was in the same family for nine generations – and these people didn’t throw anything away.”

Ford said he received all the contents in the house when he purchased it – including original documents and artifacts from the 1800s. “The fact of the matter is that the contents were probably worth more than the house was,” Ford said.

The house, which is the second oldest residence in Jackson, was originally built by Joseph Frizel in 1818. Frizel married Sarah Bollinger, whose father built the mill in Burfordville. Joseph and Sarah’s daughter Elizabeth Frizel married Charles Welling, who built the second major addition to the home in 1838.

Ford said both Joseph Frizel and Charles Welling hold significance to Jackson’s history. Frizel was among the founders of the first Masonic Lodge in Jackson, and the first meetings were held in the Frizel-Welling House.

Welling was the founder of the Presbyterian Church in Jackson, with the house serving as the initial home for the church. In addition, the house served as the site of the first public library in Jackson. “There’s a lot of history associated with this house,” Ford said.

Included in the artifacts found in the house was an original Masonic apron made by Sarah Bollinger, a list of all the original members of the First Presbyterian Church and handwritten constructiontion documents for the original church that burned in a fire.

“Some of the paperwork was moisture-damaged or mouse-eaten, but a lot of it was in pristine condition,” Ford said. “It’s just amazing that it survived all these years.”

Ford said he bought the Frizel-Welling House after reading an article in The Cash-Book Journal about the property being for sale.

“There was a church that wanted to buy the property and tear the house down to build a parking lot,” Ford said. “ I wanted to preserve it and restore it, and I remember having to interview and explain my vision for the house before they agreed to sell it to me.”

Ford said the first thing he did after purchasing the home was to put all the artifacts and antique furniture into storage. When he began the restoration, he found that the house was in worse shape than expected.

“That house needed a lot more work than anybody envisioned,” Ford said. “It literally was about to fall down.”

Ford said the house was constructed with a timber frame and all the sill beams that supported the house were rotten and termite-eaten. He credited his brother John Ford for stabilizing the house through internal bracing and jacking up the house to replace the sill beams and redo the foundation underneath.

“Almost all of beams, if they were still intact, were hollow from termites,” John Ford said. “A lot of the beams were just crushed because there was nothing on the inside. I think the termites moved in the day after they finished building the house.”

Steve Ford, who currently lives in Tennessee, said his brother has done the majority of the work at the Frizel-Welling House over the past six years. “I couldn’t have done what I’ve done so far without John’s help,” Ford said.

Ford said the house still requires “realistically, two to five years” of work before it can open as a museum, but that the house is now structurally sound.

“The hardest work for the Frizel-Welling House is done – the foundation and the sill beams,” Ford said. “The next steps are putting flooring back and redoing the walls. We will probably do it in stages, so that we can open up parts of it at a time.”

Legacy Preservation Enterprise also owns the Abraham Byrd House, which Ford said is much closer to being opened to the public compared to the Frizel-Welling House.

The Abraham Byrd House was built in 1827 and is located on County Road 442. Byrd was an early pioneer and prominent local farmer who served as a Missouri state representative and presidential elector.

Ford said much of the work for the house has been completed, including the addition of historically accurate front and back porches, a new metal roof and a new restroom facility at the site of the original summer kitchen.

In addition, KW & Company LLC did tuck-pointing work at both the Abraham Byrd House and the Frizel-Welling House.

“They took all the plaster off at the Abraham Byrd House and tuckpointed all the stone, both inside and outside,” Ford said. “Some of these stones are huge. Its mind boggling how they originally got some of these stones up into place.”

Ford said they have added back the plaster to some of the interior walls, but have left some of the walls exposed so guests can see the stonework.

Unlike the Frizel-Welling House, no artifacts were found with the Abraham Byrd House when Ford purchased the house. “It was kind of a mess and full of trash,” Ford said. “There really wasn’t any neat artifacts or anything like that. There was very little worth salvaging.”

Ford said he hopes to furnish the house with 1800s period furniture and open the house up for living history events. He added that most of the work at the house is done, but there is still some cleaning and final touches remaining.

“It’s been under restoration and is nearing completion other than replacing the windows,” Ford said. “I think I’ve been waiting for about three years for those windows.”

Ford said he hopes the Abraham Byrd House will be open to the public in the next year or two.

Legacy Preservation Enterprise also owns the Taylor Twins Garden, located next to the Frizel-Welling House. The garden, which opened in April 2017, features native plants to the area. The garden is named after Ford’s mother and aunt, Lucille Taylor Ford and Louise Taylor.

Cassi Bock Holcomb designed the Taylor Twins Garden. Ford said she is now working on a period garden and landscaping around the Abraham Byrd House using native plants.

Ford currently owns two other historical houses in Jackson that could become future Legacy Preservation Enterprise projects.

Ford owns the Criddle House, known more commonly as the Rock House, and the Henry Taylor House at 950 Greensferry Road.

The Ford family currently uses the Criddle House, which was also owned by the Sander and Ellis families over the years, as their “family gathering place.” Ford says he hopes to use the Henry Taylor house as their gathering place once it is restored, as Henry Taylor was his great grandfather.

Ford said the Criddle House could be transferred to the Legacy Preservation Enterprises and used to display various local history and art exhibits. Ford added he hopes to also establish a public nature preserve near the Henry Taylor House to be named after Ford’s father Charles Shelby Ford.

More information about Legacy Preservation Enterprise can be found at www.legacypreservationenterprise.org.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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