John Impey, right, and Tiffany Patterson at last week's meeting in Jefferson City.

A state panel Friday unanimously recommended that a 1920s-era building on the Houston School District campus be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation approved the application and recommended that the former Houston High School building be placed on the federal registry despite objections from the school district.

The decision comes following a local battle between those wishing to preserve the building and those who say the unused structure can’t be rehabilitated effectively and should be demolished to make way for a new building to serve students. Voters earlier this year turned back a bond measure by only two votes that would have created a new library and classroom space and demolished the building that was constructed in 1921.

Members of Houston’s Impey family and a former member of the Houston board of education, Jim Cavanaugh, supported the federal designation at the Jefferson City meeting last week.

John Impey, who proposed the building nomination, spoke for about five minutes and presented a slide presentation in support of the application that describes the building’s significant to the community.

Impey and a DNR staff member, Tiffany Patterson, developed the application that described the building as “associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.” The detailed paperwork describes the efforts of then school board president C.E. Covert, who rallied the community to pitch in to help construct the building with timber and brick from the county. No contractor

was involved. It estimated the $65,000 building cost about $30,000. The school opened in fall 1921.

Patterson noted at the meeting that the current board of education opposed the designation. In an Oct. 14 two-page letter to Patterson, Superintendent Dan Vandiver noted the board of education did not support the application and asked the panel to consider the objection.

“Because of the nature of our campus and the proximity of other the buildings, the site on which the old building sets is the most logical choice for constructing a badly needed new high school facility,” Vandiver wrote. “It wasn’t until our board suggested to the community that the old building be torn down to make way for new construction that the individual who contacted your department had any interest in the building as an historic site.”

Vandiver noted approval of the application could make it more difficult to move forward. “While our district respects our history, we exist to best serve the students of today in preparing them for their futures. Having the building in question listed on the National Register would hamper our school district in fulfilling its primary mission of educating students,” he wrote.

In a seven-page rebuttal to the letter on Nov. 3, Impey claimed the district’s letter did not reflect the wishes of the majority of Houston residents or alumni.

“The strange determination to destroy our unique history in Houston is an expression of a distinct minority who happen to find themselves, for the time being, with the means to destroy something greater than themselves in its meaning – transcending generations,” Impey wrote to the advisory board.

Since the bond issue’s defeat, the school board contracted with an engineering firm whose report detailed structural issues with building. It was later closed for public use.

If approved in Washington, D.C. by the U.S. Department of Interior, the designation will not hinder any attempt to demolish the structure.

Read documents related to this story online at

Read documents related to this story online at

Application seeking historical consideration

School district’s letter of opposition

Impey letter to state following school letter.

Observations of Jim and Karen Cavanaugh, who attended Jefferson City meeting

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply