History is everywhere in Lexington, Missouri.
It’s in the small businesses that line the town’s picturesque Main Street. It’s on the tongues of its residents. It’s in the swirling waters of the Missouri River, through which steamboats snaked in the mid-19th century. It’s even literally embedded in part of the town’s courthouse, displayed proudly for all to see. A cannonball, a stark, black speck lodged into one of the white columns of the building, remains a constant reminder of the aftermath of the 1861 Battle of Lexington, both a turning point in the early months of the Civil War and now a major tourism draw for the town of 4,700.
But nowhere is Lexington’s history as proudly touted as in the homes of its residents, a selection of whom will participate in Lexington’s 64th annual Historic Homes Tour, Sept. 9 and 10.
Sponsored by the Lexington Tourism Bureau, the event will feature homes that will be familiar to veteran visitors, as well as a couple of new homes, chosen in part due to the recent restoration efforts of their relatively new owners. Two of the houses new to the tour appear on the National Register of Historic Places.
Both owners of the homes that will be new to the tour say the key to maintaining the homes’ historical integrity, appearance and feel is in salvaging discarded materials, as well as attempting to match paint colors, woods, and furnishings as closely to the originals as possible.
Janae Fuller, 403 Highland Ave., is one resident new to the tour this year. Her off-white, one-and-a-half-story home, built in 1853, employs the Greek Revival style of architecture, and is flanked by a log cabin on its left side.
“I had to gut (the house) and start from scratch,” Fuller says of restoring the home, occupied by a German family and their descendants throughout its history. “I bought the house in ’99 and moved in last year. I did some chip work on the paint color, and it’s called ‘tea garden.’ I got as close to the original as I could. It’s kind of an off-white – I think (the original owners) took white paint and mixed linseed oil into it, and that’s how it became off-white.”
Fuller says a big part of her initial work on the home’s exterior involved trying to extract vines that had grown around the building – a gentle process, done with the care needed to keep the original exterior intact.
“That’s just something you learn,” she says. “This was a labor of love.”
“The stairs were originally carpeted, so I took that out to expose the original wood,” she notes, pointing to the main staircase. Nearly every room in the house features at least one exposed, original brick wall as well.
Fuller’s kitchen originally was the house’s porch, a fact evidenced just by examining the wooden floors.
“You can tell it used to be the porch because there’s a little rise in the floor,” she explains. “It was cut into two rooms, so we stripped it and started over again. The cabinetry was all salvaged, and the trim on the all of the doors was salvaged.”
Fuller, who has a friend who does demolition and salvage work, was integral to the restoration and decoration of her home – and made sure everything would be cost-effective, too.
“It took on its own life,” she laughs. “I really didn’t have to buy very much.”
Down the street from Fuller lives the Nitcher family (712 Highland Ave.). Also a brick Greek Revival-style house, the elegant Antebellum home overlooks the Missouri River and includes two-story porches.
Like Fuller, Greg and Laura Nitcher have spent a long time restoring house with careful attention paid to its original look.
Outside, the porch of the house is being restored, and new, white columns will be arriving in time for the tour. Inside, Laura says, wooden kitchen cabinets are being installed, as well as a coffee bar.
“We’ll have pantry closets, and the doors will match the kitchen,” she notes. “Our goal is to have it done by the time of the homes tour.”
Greg and Laura, who bought the house without ever setting foot inside of it, moved to Lexington from Olathe, Kansas, last May, and say they were fortunate enough to be able to purchase several pieces of original furniture from the previous owners. Those pieces include two massive wooden cabinets, measuring 12 feet tall and festooned with ornate decoration – one in the kitchen, and another in the parlor, which is decorated a brighter blue and yellow.
“I wanted the colors in this room to be brighter because it was originally so dark,” Laura explains. “We were hoping that (cabinet) would stay. You have to have a house like this to have something like that.”
Laura says that in addition to having bought several original pieces from the previous owners, estate sales have come in handy when securing furnishings.
Like Fuller, too, Greg and Laura continue to incorporate the floors’ original wood and the walls’ exposed brick, in order to emphasize the home’s age.
Other highlights of the Nitcher home include a second-story, wrap-around balcony overlooking a lush garden, a library complete with a framed 1869 map of Lexington, and Dresden porcelain figurines and vases throughout, much of which came from antique stores.
The second story of the house boasts a high-ceiling room that serves as Laura’s workout and sewing room, from which one can take in a breathtaking view of the Missouri River; three guest rooms (including one for the Nitchers’ grandchildren, who stop by to visit often; and the master bedroom. In all, Laura says, the house also has a total of 11 fireplaces.
Greg and Laura say there remains plenty of restoration projects they’d like to tackle, but for now, they simply wish to complete their current projects before welcoming visitors into their home this September.
“This house has a lot of character. We’re very proud of it. We put a lot of love, sweat and tears into this house.”
Greg nods in agreement. “This place is magical,” he adds. “It has such a feel to it.”
More information on Lexington’s Historic Homes Tour
Lexington’s 64th annual Historic Homes Tour will feature visits to both private residences and businesses. In addition to the Fuller and Nitcher houses, other scheduled stops on the tour include:
- The Anderson House, 1101 Delaware St.: Built in 1853, the home was once called, “the best arranged dwelling west of St. Louis.” The home was designed in Greek Revival style, which fell out of popularity shortly after the end of the Civil War. During the Battle of Lexington, both the Confederate and the Union armies used the home as a hospital. The exterior of the home still bears bullet holes from the three-day battle.
- The Wiedner Home, 1621 Main St.: The home features beamed ceilings, built-in bookshelves, pocket doors, vintage light fixtures, and original wood floors. When entering, visitors will walk through an arched entry with columns. The house was built in 1904.
- The Havrish Home, 1502 Reed Lane: Restoration work on this home is finished, and includes all-new wiring, HVAC, plumbing, a new slate roof, and reconstructed chimneys. Dates on this house vary, with a brick dated to 1840, as well as an abstract going back to 1868.
- The Worthington Home, 1717 Bloom St.: A Victorian cottage referred to as “Lili of Lexington” by its owners, the home was built sometime in the 1890s. The home includes three porches, a fenced yard, and an added 1,000 square feet of attic space.
Sponsored by the Lexington Tourism Bureau, the tour will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, and from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10. Tickets are available for purchase online at www.visitlexingtonmo.com or at the bureau’s address, 1110 Main St. in Lexington. You also may call the bureau at (660) 259-4711.
Words: Corbin Crable | Photos: Silas Cook