Memory Lane – William Porth House
Story by Abigail Jones | Aug 28, 2017
The William Porth House is one of a few structures in Jefferson City to predate the Civil War.
circa 1830 | 2017
Located on 631 W. Main Street, The William Porth House, also known as The Colonial Tea Room, has become a fitting home for The Architects Alliance. Made from a local limestone termed as “cotton rock,” the William Porth House was constructed sometime between 1827 and 1842. The house has then undergone an evolution over the decades to preserve its ability to function in modern society while also serving as a fond reminder of the past.
The Porth House’s namesake, William Porth, emigrated to Missouri in 1842 with his family in tow. Porth became a presiding judge in 1876 and was in office until his death.
In the background of Porth’s life, the Civil War raged on. Records show that the basement of the house was used by federal troops for storage, and historical maps of the area illustrate fortifications constructed around the property’s hilltop overlooking the Capitol. When William Porth died in 1888, his son, Dr. Joseph P. Porth, inherited the house, where he would raise his family. The structure only fostered two generations of Porths before it would be passed to other hands in 1923.
Joseph Porth was perhaps the more notable of the two Porths who lived in the house. The second Porth established a medical practice in the basement of the house, applying the knowledge he had learned while abroad at universities in Berlin, Paris, Vienna, and Greifswald, Germany. In 1903, Joseph added the title of mayor to his growing list of honors. (He was also the county and city physician and president of the Cole County Medical Association.) Unfortunately, his life of travel and medical philanthropy ended with his death in 1923.
Following his death, the Porth family house was sold; in the 1930s it became a restaurant and earned the name “The Colonial Tea Room.” The house deteriorated over the years before, in 1970, the Jefferson City Housing Authority inherited the property and started renovations.
If you happen to take a trip to see the Capitol, we’d recommend stopping at the Porth House as well. Though it may be smaller in stature, the house has just as must historical authority as the Capitol that looms over it from just a few blocks down the street.
Read about more historical Jefferson City buildings here.