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Moreau Drive Historic District

Jefferson City, Cole County, MO

The Moreau Drive Historic District [‡] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.


The Moreau Drive Historic District is located in the southeast part of Jefferson City, Cole County, Missouri. Its location was originally considered suburban, made accessible by the expansion of streetcar routes in the early 20th century. [See: Streetcar Suburbs, 1888 to 1928] The topography is hilly, with an elevation gain of more than a hundred feet from the lowest point in the district to the highest. Almost all of the primary buildings within the district are single family residences, set back from the street with a minimum 15' building line on lots that average between about 47 feet wide (on the lower end of Moreland and Elmerine) to about 100' wide (these wider lots are located at the southern end of Moreau Drive).

The Moreau Drive neighborhood is a residential community in southeast Jefferson City. The district boundary is irregular, with streets branching out from either side of Moreau Drive. Moreau Drive is a section of the historic country road which led from Jefferson City to a crossing of the Moreau River. The district begins where Moreau Drive originates at the intersection of Clark Avenue and East Atchison Street. From this point, the boundary branches west to include Hillcrest Avenue, Fairmount Boulevard, Fairmount Court, Oakwood Drive and Vineyard Square. East from Moreau Drive, the boundary branches to include the first block of Lee Street, Elmerine Avenue, and the first block of Moreland Avenue. Moreau Drive's termination at Hough Park Road marks the southern boundary of the district.

To the south and east of the district are modern subdivisions developed after the period of significance. To the northeast is a section of Jefferson City which is roughly contemporary with early developments in the Moreau Drive district, but is platted on a grid. This section is typified by more modest houses than those in the district, and the area suffers from loss of integrity and has many new infill houses. To the northwest and west is Lincoln University, a historically African American university.

Although different styles and house types are represented over a long period of significance, the Moreau Drive Historic District stands as a distinct entity characterized by winding streets, hilly topography, common materials, property types (almost exclusively single family residences) and, with a few exceptions, a consistent scale. In addition to the residences there is one educational building, the historic Moreau Heights School (now the Moreau Montessori School). Bungalows and four squares are the dominant house forms in the area, demonstrating a mix of architectural styles. The residences within the survey area are generally set back from the street; most of the lots were platted with setback lines ranging from 15 feet through much of Wagner Place to 60 feet on Moreau Drive in Fairmount. In sections without setback lines (including Virginia Place and Fairmount East), front yards are generally comparable to those with 15' or 20' setbacks.

Few of the streets in this hilly neighborhood are perfectly flat. In cases where the street is fairly level (running parallel to the contours of a hill), it is common for houses on one side to be significantly higher or lower than those on the other. The neighborhood's growth was dependent on the automobile, and most properties have driveways which lead to detached or basement garages (most of which are located on side or rear elevations). For example, of the twenty Virginia Place houses facing Lee Street in 1939, the Sanborn map indicates that nineteen had basement garages. This feature was made feasible by the steep building sites, where a "basement" garage could actually be entered at grade from one side of the house. In 1939, 13 houses on Oakwood had this feature, and two did not. The two without basement garages were the two houses just east of Fairmount Blvd, where the terrain was flatter than the sites on the other side.


The Moreau Drive Historic District represents a significant and intact cross-section of single-family architectural styles and property types which together create a uniform and coherent neighborhood. Several of Jefferson City's most significant examples of early 20th century styles and types are located within the district boundaries. The core of the historic district, in the Wagner Place and Fairmount Place plats, are Jefferson City's first "residence parks," planned suburbs based on designs by one of the nation's most significant early 20th century landscape architecture firms. These places are characterized by winding streets which follow and take advantage of natural topography. Mandated setback lines are built into the plats, and lots are generally wide. Outside of these seminal plats, the streets included in the historic district are from the same general period and follow similar principles.

The period of significance reflects the primary period of development in the Wagner Place, Fairmount Place, East Fairmount Place, Shaw and Pollock, Vineyard Square and Virginia Place subdivisions. It begins with the construction date of the earliest extant house in c. 1847. The year 1950 is used to end the period of significance. This date represents the end of the period of major new construction in the district. After this date, most remaining buildings constructed in the district were infill projects that were not architecturally compatible with the existing neighborhood.

In the late 19th century, Moreau Drive was designated on maps as a "Country Road" which connected to the city grid at Dunklin and Atchison Streets and from there ran southwardly toward the Moreau River. Prior to formal platting, the lower section of Moreau Road is listed in directories as part of Rural Route 4.

At least two buildings within the district remain from the 19th century. The oldest is the Edwards House at 1122 Moreau Drive. According to Kremer, it was built by John C. Edwards, the ninth governor of Missouri, but probably sold before it was completed. Local histories relate that this is one of several properties along the southern fringes of the community which was occupied by Union troops during Confederate General Sterling Price's 1864 advance on Jefferson City. Finding the city too heavily fortified, General Price halted his march just south of the district. The Edwards House is believed to be individually eligible for National Register listing. The second confirmed 19th century building is the house at 1302 Moreau Drive. It is said to have been constructed as part of the Leslie Dairy Farm. The Moreau Drive survey assigned it a date of 1870.

By the beginning of the 20th century, most of the rest of the area was divided into two large parcels. At the northern end, most of the area that would become Wagner Place was part of the County Fairgrounds. Fairmount Court's oval plan is said to have been sited on and inspired by the fairgrounds' dog track. Southeast of the fairgrounds was the Lincoln Institute Farm. Some believe that at least part of the bungalow at 1203 Moreau Drive was built in the 1890s as part of the farm. If some portion of the existing structure was built for the Lincoln Farm, it has been heavily altered and does not appear to retain any historic association.

The choice of Hare & Hare was a significant one. Already known for landscape designs in and around Kansas City, the firm had a growing reputation for just the kind of garden subdivision that the public was now demanding. Sidney J. Hare (1860-1938) had worked in Kansas City's Engineering office with landscape pioneer George Kessler and was known as an expert on cemetery design by 1901. In the following year he began his own landscape architecture practice. His son S. Herbert Hare (1888-1960) was one of the first six students in the country's first landscape architecture program. In 1910, Herbert joined his father's practice. The firm worked in design and planning, quickly developing a national reputation. Hare & Hare is recognized by the Cultural Landscape Foundation for its importance in the field.

In 1913, the firm began a collaboration with developer J. C. Nichols which resulted in Kansas City's 2500-acre Country Club district. After World War I, their best known work was the planned town of Longview, Washington; the versatile pair became respected for city planning as much as for landscape architecture. They were also selected by George Kessler to continue his Kansas City planning efforts after his death (1923).

"For the first half of the twentieth century," historian Gary Kremer writes, "Moreau Heights was easily the most fashionable neighborhood in Jefferson City. Numerous well-to-do families constructed large, unique home that continue to impress visitors today." The vast majority of dwellings within the district were constructed between 1913 and the mid-1930s. Remaining undeveloped lots were generally developed in a compatible character, with houses following the same general styles, until about 1950.

During the period of significance, builders used the full range of architectural styles that were common in the region at that time. Buildings reflect tradition-bound revivalist styles (Classical Revival and Colonial Revival) as well as uniquely American developments (Craftsman and Prairie). As a result, the neighborhood is significant as an excellent collection of the styles of the period, including both high style and vernacular dwellings. More than any other neighborhood in Jefferson City, the Moreau Drive Historic District embodies the distinctive characteristics and the range of house types and styles of the first half of the 20th century.

Building techniques and materials within the district vary as much as the styles. As in the oldest parts of the city, brick is the most common material. As the 20th century progressed, brick was freed of its structural function, and the district has many examples of brick veneer over tile and frame structures. Variations of red brick remained popular, but variegated schemes, brown, and yellow-tan brick were also used. Brick was also used as trim on stuccoed buildings. Stucco is used as both a primary and secondary exterior material. Several houses in the district make extensive use of modern siding which mimics wood. Stone is also found as an exterior treatment throughout the district, both as a structural system and a veneer. Tile is also used, both as a structural system (often under stucco) and an exterior material (notably in Vineyard Square).

The American Foursquare form was popular for its compactness and versatility. Early foursquares often have the form most frequently associated with this name—an almost cubical volume with a hipped roof. There are also many examples in the neighborhood that have a horizontal orientation but are still considered foursquares because of the 2 x 2 facade. One recognizable foursquare plan is repeated on different streets in the neighborhood, but concentrated in the 900 block of Moreau Drive. This plan, which has a somewhat unbalanced facade with one wide bay and one narrower bay, generally has a full-width porch and a single story attached garage. Repetition of the same basic house helps us understand how a building's appearance can be changed by its decorative details. At 922 and 918 Moreau, this house has a gable roof with wide eaves supported by knee brace brackets in the Craftsman style. At 920 Moreau, the same basic plan is embellished with a hipped roof; instead of 311 windows with vertical panes, the house has 6/1 windows. This house has a more traditional appearance, a vague sense of some kind of indistinct revival.

Many foursquares in the neighborhood are more individually distinctive. The red brick foursquare at 1114 Moreau Drive has wide bracketed eaves and a tile roof. At 1210 Moreau Drive is a foursquare with an Ozark Rock exterior.

Even more prolific in the neighborhood is the bungalow, a form usually limited to 1-1/2 stories and distinguished by its low-pitched roofs. The bungalow form is most often associated with the Craftsman style, although some examples that can be considered generally bungaloid are more traditional than Craftsman (as at 1021 Fairmount Blvd.).

The Moreau Drive Neighborhood Survey was the city's first to focus on a neighborhood that was the product of 20th century development, but other potentially significant neighborhoods exist from the same time period. Comparisons with unsurveyed areas and research in historical texts indicate steady growth in the built environment to accommodate the swelling population after the Capitol relocation question was settled in 1911. Much of the new development was focused at the other (western) end of the streetcar system, which followed West Main as far as Vista Road.

Historian Julius Conrath, writing for Ford's A History of Jefferson City (1938), listed "Woodcrest, then Fairmount Place, succeeded by Forest Hill and Vista Place," as the "handsome additions laid out in the outskirts" following the final settlement of the State Capital location in 1911. "All these additions," he adds, "have been built up with beautiful and substantial residences surrounded by fine trees and handsome gardens."

The most striking feature of the three other additions which Conrath puts up for consideration, when compared to the Moreau Drive Historic District, is their use of straight lines and right angles for streets. As platted in 1913, Woodcrest included 113 lots on seven blocks not much more than a dozen blocks south of the Capitol.

This area is architecturally not unlike Moreau Drive, especially in terms of some of the fine revival style houses constructed here. House siting, though, is specifically adapted to the grid. For example, many of the lots feature fences (often historic) separating the yards from the sidewalks. The subdivision may lack integrity: the center block is overwhelmed by a modern nursing home, and some of the surrounding blocks include vacant lots.

Forest Hill and Vista Place are subdivisions closer to the western terminus of the streetcar line. Vista Place includes six blocks that rigidly adhere to the grid at Main Street and Vista Road. Dominated by bungalows, it displays more of a single style and type than the Moreau Drive district and lacks its representative variety. Forest Hill is a single street alongside the east side of Memorial Park. The double block includes a variety of mid-sized revival style houses with some foursquares and bungalows. Many lots include mature trees. The subdivision's single street is straight (except for a 20 degree tum or veer halfway down its length).

A brief assessment of these subdivisions indicates that the Moreau Drive district stands up to architectural comparison with the best local subdivisions of its day. It retains integrity, is of generally high quality, and in its variety displays an illustrative variety of the styles and types of houses available to builders and clients.

The Moreau Drive Historic District marks Jefferson City's first major departure from the gridiron plats which had characterized its 19th century development. Subdivisions in the district feature winding and curving streets which are inspired by the topography and by Hare & Hare's initial plat for Wagner Place, creating a cohesive neighborhood. In addition, the district features an intact collection of representative styles and types of single family dwellings which stands out for its variety, quality, and integrity.

‡ Adapted from: Lynn Josse, Moreau Drive Historic District, Cole County, MO, nomination document, 2013, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Elmerine Avenue • Fairmount Boulevard • Fairmount Court • Harding Street • Lee Lane • Lee Street • Moreau Drive • Moreland Avenue • Oakwood Drive • Vineyard Square