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Abandoned Warehouses – Howsmon, Christman Building’s North Annex in Joplin MO

Abandoned Warehouses: Christman North Annex

Built around 1903, the Howsmon building at 506 South Virgina Avenue was part of the Virginia Street annex, or north annex, to the now beautifully renovated Christman building on 5th and Main in Joplin, MO.  Both the Christman building and the north annex were added to the National Register of Historic Places back in 2006, four years before the north annex would be vacated.

The now abandoned warehouses of the north annex faced Virginia Avenue just off 5th Street, and served for many years as the warehouse for the expansive Christman Department Store.

In 1954, the Kansas City-based company Macy’s bought the company, and the Christman’s managed the store and maintained ownership of the building until 1976, when Macy’s closed the store.  It reopened as the Christman Department Store for four more years before closing for good in 1980. 

Howsmon’s Office Supply moved into the Christman building (501-505 South Main) and the north annex (506 and 508 South Virginia Avenue) shortly after.  The Howsmon’s owned 16 of the 20 properties in this area of downtown Joplin, but in 2010 that came to a sudden end when they merged with Scott Rice company.  They had sold the Christman building back in 2006, and planned to sell their 6 remaining properties to Scott Rise company, but the north annex somehow fell through the cracks.  It sat for almost another decade, deteriorating as each year went by, until 2018 when the roof of 506 South Virginia Avenue collapsed.

Here’s drone footage of the collapsed roof of the Abandoned Warehouses at 506 (footage by Payton Lane):

Attempts to Save These Abandoned Warehouses

Over the years, the city tried to get the owners to make repairs to the abandoned warehouses.  According to this Joplin Globe article,

City staff cited the building owner in 2013 and sought repairs for water damage and leaking roofs and broken windows. But no work was done.

In December 2014, the issue was taken to the city's Building Board of Appeals. Howsmon told the board at the time that the family had been trying to sell the property for 20 years and did not have the money to make any repairs. City staff took proposals to the council in 2016 to try to stabilize the buildings then, but the council would not approve the expenditure.

After the 2018 roof collapse, proposals were asked for by the city, and two companies provided a plan: one for total tear down of both 506 and 508, and the other to try and rehabilitate one building (508), with hopes of saving 506 as well.  The rehab plan won, and the Neal Group started plans to renovate.  However, by August of 2018 it became clear 506 wasn’t salvageable, and the city approved their proposal to demolish 506 South Virginia Avenue.

Before work could begin, a lawsuit was filed by an adjoining property owner claiming damage to, and subsequent inability to rent out, lofts connected to the abandoned warehouses.  The suit was filed by the company Urban Dwellers who claimed that property belonging to Main Street Lofts at 501 Main Street (the Christman building, which the Howsmon’s had sold back in 2006) was sustaining water damage due to structural failures of the north annex.  The suit made demands that BOTH 506 and 508 be demolished.

According to Case.net the suit was dismissed without prejudice on June 11, 2019.  Both 506 and 508 sold for $74,000, presumably to Neal Group pursuant to their original proposal and agreement.  As of 2021 both abandoned warehouses at 506 and 508 were still standing according to Google Street View:

By the time I found these abandoned warehouses near me and took these photographs on June 12, 2021, the Howsmon building at 506 South Virginia Avenue was gone, but 508 still stood.

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