Old staircase finds new life during restoration process | Story


A curved staircase, handcrafted from native maple harvested when this nation was still in its infancy, was reduced to ashes in the late afternoon of Wednesday, January 8, 2020, when a major fire ravaged the interior of the Hannibal house numbered 308 N Sixth.

Neighbors watched, over supper hour, as a full command of Hannibal’s firefighters focused their attention not so much on the fully sunken two-story brick structure, but rather on the neighboring houses to the north and north. south, barely holding on to more than an arm. on each side.

Save the neighboring houses they have made; but when the embers died down, there was only damp rubble left in the brick frame at 308 N. Sixth.

Due to the building’s proximity to neighboring homes, insurance regulators felt that demolition should be done brick by brick, rather than by machine, in order to protect the integrity of neighboring structures.

Gordon Harrison, a soft-spoken Hannibal businessman, has a great appreciation for the past. Entrepreneur, his mission leans, as far as possible, towards valorization. He visualized the charred remains as an opportunity to restore this shell of a house, which was built in the heyday of the Hannibal Wood years, and which once served as the residence of some of Hannibal’s notable citizens.

Harrison purchased the structure and pledged to turn the old house into a new one, rebuilding the interior using materials salvaged from other old buildings that could not be saved.

After removing 40 dump trucks of debris from inside the structure, Harrison got to work.

Period staircase

Today, almost two years after the fire, the most unique feature of this almost restored house is its maple staircase.

To fully understand the importance of replacing the staircase that burned to ashes in the January 2020 fire, we must go back in time to October 2020, when the city ordered the demolition of a dilapidated house: a two-storey frame structure at 218 S. Maple.

Gordon Harrison set out to demolish this house, plank by plank. He salvaged the wood in collaboration with his company, Mark Twain Architectural Salvage Supply Co., 901 Lyon.

This task included dismantling the maple staircase, which coincidentally was an exact copy of the staircase that burned down in the January 2020 fire.

“It had the same twist and the same steps” as the staircase that burned down. “It could have been done by the same person. It fit like a glove, ”Harrison said at the North Sixth Street home.

Nearing completion

Now, with the restoration of 308 N. Sixth nearing completion, he is eager to put the house back on Hannibal’s tax base as an occupied residence.

“It’s in perfect condition,” Harrison said. “The structure is rock solid, with a hewn limestone foundation. You won’t see a single brick or stone that has settled.

He plugged the interior, rewired it and sealed it, insulated the house and used all the period moldings. Each window – destroyed by the fire – has been reconstructed in the period style.


Research undertaken by Esley Hamilton in the 1980s and by this author reveals that this house was most likely built around 1885. It is located in historic Central Park in Hannibal.

Originally, a pre-Civil War house stood on Lot 7 and used the entire town lot.

Joseph Rowe, who lived at 420 N. Fifth in 1885, commissioned the construction of two brick houses on Lot 7, Block 31, and these two houses remain in place today, thanks to recent efforts by firefighters from Hannibal and Gordon Harrison.

Who walked these stairs?

So who went up and down the original maple staircase – in all its glory – in the house that was originally numbered 306, and in 1913 would become 308 N. Sixth St.?

1888: Mrs. Honnour Brady and her grandchildren, Charles B., H. Honnour and Mary V. Williamson.

1892: Charles T. Hayward, President of Hayward Grocery Co.

1894-97 Rev. James H. Malcolm, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, and Lily M. Davison, servant.

1901: Philip H., Anna, Milton P. and Miss Mary Knighton.

1903: Joshua P. Richards Jr. and his wife, Ella Richards.

1907: The Reverend Edward P. Little, Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, and his children, Harold L., and Miss Isabel.

1909: Reverend Hunter Davidson and his wife, Elizabeth, pastor of the Trinity Episcopal Church.

1914, 1918: Rev. AG Van Elden, Rector of the Episcopal Church of the Trinity.

1920-1923: Rev. Wm. SW and Mabel Raymond, Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church.

Staircase on avenue de l’Érable

Regular readers of this column will recall an article published in 2020 regarding the house of 218 S. Maple. Miss Mary Pettibone, as Colonel James Tilly Barber’s new wife, was living in this Italianate / Eastlake style house on the northwest corner of South Maple and Lyon, Hannibal, at the time of her marriage in 1884. She died two years later .

Today the staircase of the house where she lived as a newlywed has a new lease of life at 308 N. Sixth.

Note: The history of the 218 S. Maple can be found at:

Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as Editor-in-Chief of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as the foundation for the founding of this region. Books available on Amazon.com by this author include, but are not limited to: “The Notorious Madam Shaw,” “Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri,” and “The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870.” She can be contacted at Montgomery.editor @ yahoo.com His collective works can be found at maryloumontgomery.com


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