Antique pocket doors — key pieces in the continuing restoration of Joplin's Schifferdecker House — are finding their way back home thanks to a local restaurant owner.
Locating and identifying the doors and arranging for their return has been about a two-year project involving staff members of the Joplin Historical Neighborhoods project, employees of TAMKO Building Products and Del Rio Bordertown Cafe owner David Lowry.
Joplin Historical Neighborhoods Inc. is an effort to create a living history museum at three neighboring houses in the historic Murphysburg residential district. It is a project of a trust involving David and Debra Humphreys. He is the president and CEO of TAMKO Building Products Inc. in Joplin.
The doors are believed to have been sold years ago in an auction at the house, said Brad Belk, preservation director and curator of the historical neighborhoods project. He said those involved in the project received an anonymous tip that the doors were at Del Rio, 1801 N. Range Line Road.
Preparing for their return has been a two-year effort since the project's architect, Michael Engelbert Griffin, working with TAMKO employees, set out to locate and identify the doors, which match two other sets of pocket doors in the 1890s house.
Once the doors were determined to be part of the decorative flavor of Del Rio, co-owner David Hays said, they were donated for the Schifferdecker project.
"When the original owner opened this restaurant in 2002, he found those doors at an auction or somewhere, and he purchased them and put them in that room," a side room in the restaurant, Hays said.
"That's all I knew about them until Michael Griffin called me and told me that those are the original doors to the house and he would love to have them back." When he was contacted by Griffin, "it kind of jogged my memory that we did have them, and I was glad to give them back," Hays said.
As part of the effort, the doors were reproduced for the restaurant by the Taylor Brothers Construction Co. of Goodman, and the reproductions were installed where the original ones had previously hung.
"They did an excellent job in reproducing those doors for me, and I thank them a lot," Hays said.
"We got measurements and drew up a sketch off the originals and just re-created them," said Robert Taylor, co-owner of the construction company, which does finish and rough carpentry work of all kinds.
The original doors are 130 years old, but the wood for them is from old-growth flowering ash that likely was 100 years old when the doors were built and "which you really can't get anymore," Griffin said. The reproductions are made from oak. Ash and oak are similar in their attractive grain and ability to take stain finishes.
"And they are a little heavy," brother and co-owner Jeremiah Taylor said of the doors. "They are really similar to the originals."
"It's very rewarding" to be a part of the restoration work on historic house, Jeremiah Taylor said. "It's a very unique but definitely an enjoyable experience."
Griffin had been at the restaurant a few years ago on a scouting mission for the doors. He said there are pocket doors on the main dining room but that those are unlike the two sets that remain in the house.
"After lunch we wanted to walk through, so we turned the corner to the side room and there they were," he said.
Griffin said the recovered doors will be returned to their original location between the home's formal living room where the tower exists on the southeast corner of the house and the dining room.
"I think they were removed probably in the 1940s when they converted the house into a funeral home," which then was the Hurlburt-Glover Mortuary. "They took the whole wall out between the living room and the dining room where they could have (funeral) services," he said.
"Because we're doing restoration to the period when the Schifferdeckers lived there, 1892 until 1915 when they passed away, we're putting the wall back, and having the doors is just key" to the project, Griffin said.
Recovering the original doors "is a huge step forward" that will provide future visitors an authentic view of Victorian life in Joplin's affluent households, Griffin said.
Charles Schifferdecker was an early Joplin entrepreneur and businessman with his friend and neighbor, Edward Zelleken. Schifferdecker, his wife and her mother, who lived in the house, died within two months of each other in 1915.
The Joplin Historical Neighborhoods Inc. project is turning the early-day homes of three affluent Joplin families into a living history museum. Those are the homes of Charles Schifferdecker family, 422 S. Sergeant Ave., the Edward Zelleken family, 406 S. Sergeant Ave., and the A.H. Rogers family, 621 W. Fourth St.