Small remnants of an old neighborhood give us a glimpse into the past.
Often referred to as Old Munichburg, the south side of Jefferson City is known for trademarks such as the historic German brick architecture that lines the streets. A few locals also know it for something else — the hidden alley houses that quietly dot the area.
One of the most prominent alleys is Cedar Alley, which runs approximately eight blocks from Broadway to Jackson Street and parallel to Dunklin Street. Created by architect Wilhelm Vogdt in 1887, Cedar Alley technically begins in Schwartzott’s Subdivision on the corner of Broadway and Dunklin. Several street houses were built on this block with most of them facing Broadway, a few facing Dunklin, and all of them having direct access to the rear alley. Until the 1960s, these alleys were paved in dirt or gravel without sidewalks or curbs.
Tucked away behind The Schaefer House, located at618 Broadway St., is the quaint Saar-Pietsch House withorigins dating back to around 1890. The small building has only two 10-foot-by-10-foot rooms with separate flues and a tiny attic.
In his book, “Southside Sketches,” author Walter Schroeder shares the story of Franz and Marie Pietsch and their son, Paul. When her husband Franz died in 1910, MarieSaar Pietsch lived in her parent’s alley house. To provide for their only child, Marie worked as a charwoman, scrub-bing the steps at the old post office on High Street.
Just behind the Clarence Buersmeyer House, at 608Broadway St., sits a single-story frame California Bunga-low alley house. The occupant of the alley home was the caretaker of horses stabled in the carriage house behind610 Broadway St. (the John Sinclair House).
Another one-level brick alley house, at 206 ½ CedarWay, hides behind the Martin Gipfert House, at 218 W. Dunklin St. The small and attractive residence, originally built for an extended family, features two garage bays separated by a single-entry door facing the alley. The windows on the sides and on either side of a door facing themain house indicate this building was originally designed for residential use, though it now serves as a garage.
Several residences and garage structures still exist inCedar Alley. Behind the two-story brick Joseph and Louisa Pope House at 222 W. Dunklin St. — where Rose-wood Music is now located — sits a one-story, rectangular, rock-faced, concrete-block outbuilding with window and attic openings. It, too, is now used as a garage.
Walter Schroeder remembers using the roof of this garage, which faces Cedar Alley, for the boys’ backstop behind home plate. Foul balls would, “conveniently roll down the tin roof into the waiting catcher’s mitt.”
Just down the street, at 115 W. Dunklin St., Mike andAlison Martin are working to restore the alley house they recently discovered hidden on their property.When they originally purchased the land, they knew there was a second building on the property, but the lot was overgrown.
“The building was boarded up and covered with vines,” Mike remembers. “The roof was shot. It didn’t look like anything other than abandoned space.”
More than five years later, they’ve completely uncovered the space and removed all the junk and trash from inside. They’ve been able to identify it as one of the city’s few remaining alley houses. The structure faces W. Tanner Way and features two floors with a small entryway which expands into what was possibly at onetime a barn. The barn is made of cinder block, which theMartins suspect was done in the 1980s. However, the original structure is still present. In fact, from within theMartins’ alley house, you can still clearly see the original structure with its old wood siding.
While many properties were demolished as the community grew and changed over the years, these few hidden alley houses remain to remind us of what the neighborhood once was. The work the Martin’s are doing is a great example of people who can save places in our community.Their work, along with others on the south side who save these historic alley houses, will help these small and important pieces of history remain for future generations to learn from and appreciate.