JOPLIN, Mo. —
A tornado-damaged house with ties to Joplin’s earliest days and Mayor Thomas Cunningham is at risk of being demolished.
Local history supporters are trying to find help for the two-story stone house of the late J.T. Goodman and his wife, Yvonne, at 2725 S. Schifferdecker Ave.
J.T. Goodman died last year about three months after the house was damaged in the May 22 tornado. He was in hospitals for about two months with a respiratory illness, and while there, tarps covering the damaged roof deteriorated, allowing water to infiltrate the house and mold to grow. Before that happened, he had settled his tornado claim and had received a check.
As a result, the insurance company would not cover the mold and water damage, said his son, Ray Goodman, of Columbia. That left his mother too little money to repair the house.
“The house symbolizes a lot to me and my mom due to the emotional connection with dad,” the son said. He said his father knew the house was part of Joplin’s history, but the details were obscure.
“Dad said that at one time, the house had gambling downstairs and was a house of ill repute with ladies upstairs,” Ray Goodman said. “Otherwise, we didn’t know much about it.”
Joplin’s rip-roaring mining days were a likely setting for bawdy houses, but Leslie Simpson, of the Post Memorial Art Reference Library, is researching the property and cannot be certain. She said a lot of stories have been told about the property over the years without verification.
Her research has traced the property to a 1858 land grant, and it could be the house itself was built in 1873, the year that Joplin was incorporated as a city.
J.T. Goodman was born in Joplin; his father was a miner during Joplin’s lead and zinc boom who died of black lung disease. J.T. Goodman was partial to the place because of his roots.
He was a naval officer for 20 years. “He came back after traveling the world, and his favorite place was on that front porch,” Ray Goodman said of his father and the house. “If there is no work on the house, it will have to be bulldozed. I couldn’t stand that because I feel that some part of him could still be there.”
City action to condemn the house is pending with the Building Board of Appeals.
Jeff Oliver, a building inspector, said the board will expect the next update on the status of the house at a meeting April 13. It has been on the agenda for three previous meetings.
“It’s up to the board” how long the matter will be pending without action, Oliver said. “If they (the Goodmans) are showing they are making some kind of progress, the board will continue to work with them.”
Simpson recruited history buffs to go to the last building board meeting on behalf of the Goodmans to try to help buy them more time to try to save the house.
The reason she believes the house may have been built in 1873 is because a mortgage deed of $7,500 was recorded then. But she is not sure if that’s what the record represents.
“The only thing I know for sure is that Thomas Cunningham and his wife, Sophia, bought the property in 1879. I can’t tell if they lived there,” Simpson said. “They leased some of it out for mining in 1890 and 1891. Cunningham died in 1922. After various lawsuits to determine who got what, his sister Mary Arnold and his half brother Barton Duncan divided up the property. It’s Mary’s share that ended up as the Goodman property,” according to Simpson.
Cunningham owned an 80-acre farm around what is now 26th Street and Maiden Lane, next to what then was the mining town of Blendville. He got involved in mining and then established the Bank of Joplin. He was mayor in 1897 and gave the land for Cunningham Park in 1898.
Joplin’s early day lawmen, City Marshals J.W. Lupton and W.S. Norton, also held an interest in the property at times during those years, according to land records.
Simpson said she would appreciate anyone who may have information about the history of the house to contact her at the Post library, 782-7678.
Ray Goodman said he and his mother are trying to arrange to stabilize the roof, hoping they can find a buyer or someone who wants to repair the house.
Knowing now that the house does have ties to local history, he said he feels like “as stewards of the property, we have an obligation.”
Ray Goodman is a Columbia firefighter. He was among those who came to Joplin’s aid shortly after the tornado struck to help conduct search and rescue. He worked on rescue efforts at the Home Depot store, where seven people died.