A request to provide historic landmark designation to one of Joplin's earliest cemeteries recently received initial Joplin City Council approval.
Fairview Cemetery could receive zoning designation as a historic preservation site on final reading by the council at its next regular meeting, which is slated for Jan. 19. The 49-acre cemetery was established well before the city was incorporated, according to city documents, and is located along Maiden Lane between 10th and 13th streets.
Similar historic designations for three other city-owned cemeteries have already been approved by the council. Osborne and Parkway cemeteries on McClelland Boulevard, south of 32nd Street, and Forest Park Cemetery along Range Line north of Fourth Street were all approved by the council last month for designations as local historic properties.
The designation means that the Joplin Historic Preservation Commission would review proposals for any construction or renovation changes for appropriateness.
During the public hearing for those three cemeteries last month, Councilman Phil Stinnett said he favored the extra layer of protection.
"I think this is a wonderful thing," Stinnett said during the meeting. "A previous administration allowed a fence at the Fairview Cemetery to be torn down. Maybe that will never happen again if the Historic Preservation Commission is looking over it."
Stinnett again brought up the Fairview fence when historic zoning was proposed. The iron fence once ran along the perimeter of the cemetery.
Paul Bloomberg, director of parks and recreation, a city department that also includes cemeteries, said several years ago the fence was removed because it had become a safety issue with erosion of the soil along the edges of the cemetery causing the heavy fence to be unstable. He said the land around the fenceposts had eroded and the posts were falling over, causing fence panels to fall over and break.
City workers could not move the fence farther inside the cemetery's property line because there are graves and headstones along the perimeter of the cemetery, Bloomberg said.
City officials placed the fence sections in an auction of surplus city property in 2017. But when the Globe published a story about the removal of the fence and the listing of it on the auction bill, public uproar prompted the city to pull the material from the auction.
The 1,700 feet of fence sections were then placed in storage, where all but a few remain today, according to Bloomberg.
"Right now we have 194 panels of fencing that are in our storage area at Osborne Cemetery," Bloomberg said last week. He said the city had used six panels to replace a gate at the Range Line entrance at Forest Park Cemetery.
He said there are no plans at this time to use any of the remaining fence sections.
A former chairwoman of the Historic Preservation Commission, Paula Callihan, had called on the city in 2017 to reinstall the fence.
“It looks really sad and lonely now with all that fencing gone,” Callihan said of the cemetery at that time.
In response to the city's decision to take the fencing out of the auction, Callihan suggested that it could be reinstalled or used in other ways. "We need to rethink how we can reuse it," she said.
The date the fence was installed is uncertain, but land for Fairview Cemetery was purchased six months after the city was incorporated in 1873.
Among the early residents buried there are noted ragtime composer Percy Wenrich, who wrote the ballad "On Moonlight Bay." There also are miners, mine owners, some of Joplin's early firefighters, and members of popular turn-of-the-century civic and fraternal organizations.
Among the criteria cited in its nomination as a local landmark:
• Its character, interest or value as part of the development heritage or cultural characteristics of the community.
• Its significance to the city.
• Its identification with those who significantly contributed to the development of the community.
• Distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style valuable for the study of the period when it was established.
• Its embodiment of elements of design, detailing, materials or craftsmanship that render it architecturally significant.