Vernacular Architecture in Rural and Small Town Missouri: An Introduction

Editor's note
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Howard Wight Marshall
Art history and archaeology

Conserving a community's heritage is the responsibility — and challenge — of everyone. As communities across Missouri renew efforts to rejuvenate local economies, we look with new eyes at our own architectural legacy. This legacy is right under our noses, yet many town councils, county commissions, state and federal agency staffs in Missouri, and planners of all kinds are just beginning to appreciate and consider the full range of buildings and landscapes in and around a town, beyond the well-known historic sites and old downtown areas. All this is wonderful to see, and long overdue in our state.

It is hoped that this overview of traditional/vernacular architecture, even one that for present purposes excludes our larger cities, may encourage citizens, researchers and planners to consider more carefully the commonplace buildings that infuse Missouri's towns and rural areas with distinctive character — a real "sense of place."

We must save and improve the usefulness as well as the beauty of our existing buildings. To continue simply demolishing older structures and then building new ones is wasteful; that is a typically American habit that causes the people of other nations around the globe to wonder at our shortsightedness. Long after we are gone, the built landscape we leave behind will tell the story of our place and time, testifying to values and shared ideals. The signposts to our heritage will be the cultural landscape — the greatest portion of which is made up of ordinary buildings and familiar places.


  • Traditional structures
  • Built by local people
  • Time-honored methods
  • Apprenticeship


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