Emmaus Homes

The Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation announced its list of historic Places in Peril for 2018 at a press conference in Kansas City Friday. Incorporated in 1976, Missouri Preservation is our state’s premier statewide historic preservation advocacy non-profit organization, and has been publicizing a list of endangered historic places for about 15 years. Properties on the list range from a train depot in Bethany, to an entire neighborhood in St. Louis. Properties might be endangered for a host of reasons including inappropriate development, neglect, lack of funds, improper city planning, and absenteeism. For a full list of the properties and those listed on the Watch List see https://preservemo.org/

Included on this year’s list is The Emmaus Home Complex in Marthasville which began as a seminary for the German Evangelical Church in Missouri. A campus of five buildings was completed here by 1859. Four of these remain in various states of repair, those being the Farm House, Bake Oven, Friedensbote (Messenger of Peace) Publishing House, and the Dormitory. The College Building itself was lost to a fire in 1930. The seminary was in operation at this site until 1883, when it moved to St. Louis and eventually became Eden Seminary. In 1893 the campus in Marthasville became known the Emmaus Asylum for Epileptics and Feeble Minded. The campus grew to a total of eight substantial buildings including a chapel, by 1928. In more recent years the religious denomination became the United Church of Christ and the two campuses the church body owned – this one in Warren County for men, and the other in St. Charles County for women – became known simply as the Emmaus Homes. This is an important historic site, having been constructed by some of the tens of thousands of Germans who emigrated here beginning in the 1830s. In the area the first Evangelical church west of the Mississippi was constructed, and this marked the beginning of the Synod of the west, known as Der Deutsche Evangelisch Kirchenverein des Westens. The buildings in the complex are unique in that they are of sturdy limestone construction in varying German styles by German immigrants. They are representative of the tenacity of some of Missouri’s earliest Germans, and are unique in that most are original with very few modifications over the years. Through the years the approach toward caring for the handicapped and developmentally disabled has also changed, and care for the residents at Emmaus has shifted from large institutional settings to smaller group homes. Emmaus has indicated that they wish to transition all clients away from Marthasville by 2020. The Emmaus Homes Board of directors has initiated steps toward listing the campus on the National Register of Historic Places to help lure a potential developer for the property that is respectful of its history and to make a reuse of the campus eligible for the state’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program. It is hoped that by listing as one of Missouri’s Historic Places in Peril, Emmaus will continue to try and find a suitable new owner and reuse for this historic campus. For Emmaus contact information call Missouri Preservation at (660)882-5946.

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