The Mid-town National Register Historic District was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 13, 1989. It is located within the enter of a large residential area in the north central section of Springfield, MO, and comprises the City’s largest remaining concentration of historic residential architecture. The historic neighborhood is bounded on the north by the Commercial Street NR Historic District, on the south and southeast by tow major institutions — Drury University and Ozark Technical College, and on the west by the City’s Government Plaza district which includes facilities for Springfield Public Schools, City Utilities and County and City Government offices.
The Mid-town district consists primarily of single family houses built between 1870 and 1939. Both vernacular and high style residences are situated in the area and reflect the growth and development of both Springfield and neighboring North Springfield which were merged in 1887. The establishment of Drury College in 1873 had a positive impact on the area during the late 19th century as faculty members settled in the surrounding residential community. The arrival of the railroad in 1870 also resulted in significant commercial expansion in the community and many businessmen and railroad employees alike found Mid-town a desirable place in which to live.
The oldest houses in the neighborhood exhibit Italianate influences with bracketed cornices and low hipped roofs. Gable front and wing or t-plan houses with Queen Anne and Colonial Revival detailing make up the larges concentration of dwellings. American Foursquare, Craftsman bungalow, and Tudor Revival residences are also found throughout this architecturally diverse neighborhood. These buildings, in general, share a unified setback from block to block and are situated on grid platted streets characterized by mature trees and brick and concrete sidewalks.
Today, the Midtown National Register District is experiencing at its central core great vitality and interest in its preservation as a unique and desirable area for family living. Its location and historic character are significant attractions which the Midtown Neighborhood Association promotes through events such as the Victorian Christmas Homes Tour, July 4th Neighborhood Parade, and Spic N’ Span Fall Neighborhood Clean-up. Numerous restoration projects are evident on most blocks within the district’s center. A Midtown Neighborhood Plan has been adopted and updated with input from various groups within the community. Unfortunately, areas of concentrated loss of contributing historic building’s have create large gaps in the contiguous boundaries of the district. Moreover, the district is experiencing the erosion of its edges due to demolition of buildings by institutions within or adjacent to the neighborhood that are expanding. Historic single family dwellings have been altered for multiple dwelling uses or office uses due to zoning district designations which are contrary to the original uses found int eh neighborhood, insensitive alterations of buildings has occurred due to the lack of enforceable guidelines, and lack of maintenance on many buildings has allowed for demolition by neglect and has had a cancerous effect on neighboring properties. Even historic buildings within Drury’s Campus, portions of which are National Register-listed, have succumbed, including Harwood hall, named for one of the College’s founders, which was demolished for a new library.
Since the National Register historic district was created in 1989, the district has experienced a loss of 24 contributing historic properties. In one area of the district along North Summit and Clay Streets, 13 contributing buildings have been demolished. The District has seen the loss of its oldest building at 1538 North Benton Avenue. Many other historic resources remain threatened. The greatest challenge for residents of Mid-town and for the City of Springfield is achieving a delicate balance to sustain long term preservation of this very valuable, yet fragile community resource.