The Houston House

Newburg
Phelps County

Newburg, Missouri is first and foremost a railroad town. Founded by the St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) Railroad in 1883-84, the town served as the major refueling point between St. Louis and Springfield. The first structures to be erected at Newburg for the purposes of the railroad were the Frisco roundhouse and the “Railroad Hotel and Eating House,” known today as the Houston House. Both of these structures opened for business on 1 January 1884. Construction began on the white frame, three-story Colonial Revival Style hotel building in 1883 by William H. Harris, who had previously operated a hotel and restaurant in Dixon. Following the relocation of the Frisco’s division point to Newburg, he set out to establish a hotel and restaurant for the developing community, railway employees, and the passengers traveling along the Frisco Line. For three generations the building not only serviced the railroad clientele but also served as the Harris family home. After the death of William Harris, his daughter Martha Elizabeth “Matt” Houston took over the operations of the building. It is at this time that the building took the name associated with William Harris’s daughter. Despite the fact that other such establishments existed along First Street, the Houston House was widely renowned for its hospitality, food, and ambiance. Today the building is threatened by decades of flood damage, rising damp, and a fire that ravaged the third flood in the mid-1970s. Subsequent renovation efforts went unfinished in the 1990s, leaving some of the building’s outer walls to become cracked and exposed to the elements. In 2004 the Newburg Community Revitalization Program Group purchased the building. This group has since operated the Houston House as a weekly soup kitchen in an effort to raise funds to help with the building’s maintenance and upkeep. With much work still to be done, it is hoped that by being listed on Missouri’s Most Endangered Historic Places, that a renewal of interest for the building will help generate not only awareness for the building’s condition but will also to help raise the much-needed funds for the preservation of this historic building that many consider to be the heart and soul of the Newburg community.

Listed in 2014 and as a watched property in 2015, 2016 and 2017.


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