Friday, March 19, 2010

The Munichburg Corner

Who the heck was “Hans Doppelbock Schmutznickel”??

Okay, he’s just a joke—I only show you this “conceptualization” to get your attention. Now that I’ve got it, and you’ve maybe chuckled a little, I have something important to tell you. And timely.

(No offense to anyone who actually might be a “Schmutznickel.” I thought I was just making it up . . .)

Here’s what’s going on: Our neighborhood organization is the Old Munichburg Association. Please follow the Web link for more information on them. In a nutshell, “Old Munichburg,” also called the “South Side,” is Jefferson City’s historic “Germantown” neighborhood.

The OMA is currently doing a fundraising campaign to pay for an official Old Munichburg welcome sign, with stonework, lighting, and landscaping, right on the corner of Jefferson and Dunklin, at the very heart of this historic neighborhood’s business district.

This intersection is where the ECCO Lounge and all its predecessors have been since the 1860s, where the old Capitol/Moerschel Brewery was, where the South Side Drug Store and Cole Co. Bank used to be, as well as the Western Steam Bottling Works, the Dunklin Theater, Tanner Bros. Machine Shop and Garage, and Tanner Funeral Home.

It’s within sight of where Milo Walz had his furniture store and offered folks credit during the Depression, where Urban Schell sold ice cream and sodas out of a little hut, and where “Chicken Schmidt” sold shoes.

This “Munichburg Corner” will be on the same city block as Busch’s Florist, Coleman Appliance, and Central Dairy.

Here’s the best part: The OMA was able to coordinate its efforts with the amazing renovation begin done on that whole line of buildings on the south side of the 100 block of East Dunklin. The architecture, ironwork, sidewalk, and other design will be in keeping with the materials and styles being implemented across the street. What a great opportunity!

Okay. If you’re familiar with Jeff City and Old Munichburg, you know that this is basically an inner-city neighborhood that has declined in the past decades. The OMA, comprising business owners, local residents, and others with an interest in this district, has been doing tremendous work in improving the situation.

This is an organization that gets things done. Here’s a list of accomplishments since they organized in 2000:

--20 properties, including about 12 in a contiguous district, have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. (With more to come, I understand.) This was a huge undertaking, and a major accomplishment.

--establishing a Neighborhood Watch program—if you lived here, you’d know how much this has helped cut down crime as well as create more of a “community” feeling among neighbors.

--spearheading the effort for Jefferson City to forge its partner-city relationship with Muenchberg, Bavaria (where lots of “Munichburg,” Jeff City immigrants hailed from).

--creating and putting up “Historic Old Munichburg” banners to identify our area (I’ll bet you have no idea how expensive those cost, even with the design work donated by a member).

--promoting the district’s businesses with brochures, as well as through overall “branding” of the district via events, banners, and so on.

--working with the city to improve curbs and sidewalks, establishing a Community Improvement District with voluntary extra taxes so we can have such repairs done uniformly, well, and soon.

--continuing to lobby the city for policies that encourage landlords and others to maintain and renovate their properties, to get rid of derelict vehicles, and empowering landlords to evict tenants who don’t pay or engage in criminal activities.

--providing and maintaining several flower planters at conspicuous locations at intersections, to beautify the area.

--purchasing the decorative, historic-looking covers for street sign posts in our district (I admit I was skeptical of the usefulness of this project, but they really do look great and they help make the area look lots better).

--establishing and continuing an oral history project of older folks who have connections to the neighborhood.

--cosponsoring a local Habitat for Humanity house, which in this case involves renovating a quaint older home instead of razing and putting up a blah new one.

--partnering with Central United Church of Christ in reestablishing the tradition of Kristkendelfest Christmas celebration.

--and finally, sponsoring “Jefferson City’s Oktoberfest.”

This last began as, and remains, the OMA’s chief fundraiser. It started out as a relatively small event with traditional German entertainment, a handful of crafts booths, and bratwurst meals served out of a trailer. And, of course, the weiner dog races.

It’s grown into a festival that takes up about two city blocks, with dozens of vendor booths, two different stages, a beer garden, a nice big kids’ zone, full meals served out of the Central UCC gymnasium (Central Church is very generous to let the OMA use its property—they help with the food service and provide baked goodies, too) . . . and an old car show, the weiner dog races, which grow every year, and one year, even a small circus.

The Oktoberfest is now officially called “Jefferson City’s Oktoberfest,” because there’s no question that this is a citywide festival, and the entire city benefits from it, not just our neighborhood. And no, it’s not easy to host a festival like this, which has grown each year.

So here’s where we’re going: The OMA has been diligently saving up its profits from ten years of festivals for something that will make a real impact. At one time, there were plans for a pocket park that would be visible from the Expressway, but that, I think, has become unfeasible, for several reasons.

Meanwhile, with Messrs. Kolb and Rollins doing such great work on the 100 block of East Dunklin, and willing to share their design staff with us, we have a tremendous opportunity here with the “Munichburg Corner.”

They’re building it out of stone that was salvaged from the destruction of the historic old Nilges Grocery store a few blocks south on Jefferson. The stone wall will be angled and have iron decoration that reflects the ironwork you see throughout the district and that being used across the street.

It will have a big metal “Old Munichburg” sign with raised lettering, and it will be lighted. The area around it will be landscaped.

If you think this isn’t expensive, think again. And this is one of the big-ticket projects the OMA has been wanting to do for a long time—you see, this old neighborhood doesn’t have any “green spaces”; when these houses were built, the “boonies” were right over the next hill!

So here is why I’m asking you to pay attention: To help pay for this project, and allow the OMA to do so much more—like replace its now-ten-year-old banners—we’re asking you to buy a paver or brick.

They cost $100 or $200, depending on size, and you can get them engraved with the names of people or places you want to memorialize. (Like good ol’ “Hans Doppelbock Schmutznickel” above!)

These bricks and pavers will be there at the corner, in the walkway in front of the sign.

Think about it. Families, friends, teachers, good folks who didn’t leave any kids to remember them . . . local businesses you recall (I wonder if anyone’s bought a brick remembering Hott & Asel Butcher Shop? or the old Broadway School? or what about the Deeg family? or the Lohmans?) . . . or any other persons, places, or things that should be memorialized.

Or, you can put your own name on them, as a donor, or the name of your business! There’s even an option for putting a logo on a brick (see the link below for more information on that).

You need to act quickly, though! Construction of the sign and walkway will begin very shortly and will be finished by May 1—of this year! In order to get your bricks or pavers included as part of the original construction, you need to get your order in by April 1!

Information is available at the Web site of the Old Munichburg Association, or you can call Cathy Zumwalt at (573) 635-6524.

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