Friday, January 27, 2017

The J.W. "Blind" Boone House: Perspectives through the Years

Blind Boone Exhibit on the first floor of the MU Student Center

In honor of Black History Month in February 2017, the Public Arts Collection at the Missouri Student Unions is pleased to present an exhibit honoring the house of J.W. "Blind" Boone, a prominent figure in the history of Columbia, MO.

J.W. “Blind” Boone later in life. Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri (002313).

The “Blind” Boone House, located on 10 N. 4th Street in Columbia, was the home of John William Boone. He was born in 1864 to a contraband slave cooking for soldiers in the Federal Camp of the Seventh Militia. “Blind” Boone, whose nickname derives from his loss of vision as a baby, first began playing small instruments and later took up the piano after he went to the St. Louis School for the Blind. Later, John Lange Jr. of Columbia undertook Boone’s education in music and career.

Boone had a very important musical career giving over 7,200 piano concerts during his lifetime. His style of playing is seen as the forerunner from which ragtime sprang; he mixed European musical forms with African American folk music. He died of a heart attack on October 4, 1927 and was buried in the Columbia Cemetery.

Boone’s two-story Victorian house was a landmark even during his own time as few African Americans owned such grand homes. Lange built the home in the late 19th century. The original house with its two-story balcony and wooden siding was obscured in the 1930s/1940s when the house was stuccoed and then later given aluminum siding in the 1970s. In 1931 the house was sold to William and Parker Undertakers. In the late 20th century a plan was formed to restore the building as a museum. Restorations benefited from both federal grants and funds from the City of Columbia. The Grand Opening of the house took place on September 28, 2016.

The images on display show the house during various stages of its life history. The historical photograph, courtesy of the State Historical Society, depicts the house at it was during Boone’s day. The painting by Byron Smith, courtesy of the Daniel Boone Regional Library, depicts the house with the modifications accrued throughout the 20th century and as it looked when it was the Warren Funeral Chapel. Most recently, the painting loaned by Heinrich Leonhard shows the house as it has been recently restored; the artist added the car of Blind Boone in front of the house.

Be sure to visit our exhibit, up through the end of February, on the first floor of the MU Student Center. 

Also on view is an exhibit commemorating Black History Month in the Lower Lair of the MU Student Center- check it out!

Blog post authored by Lauren DiSalvo, Curator of Public Arts at the Missouri Student Unions