Wally Kennedy: Historic home yielding to new development

·3 min read

May 19—Connie Sweet remembers well that day in 1970 when she walked into the George Washington Moore home at 903 S. Madison Ave. in Webb City.

The three-story house was a gift to her for her 25th birthday from her husband, Larry.

"I fell to the floor and started crying," she said. "It was so beautiful. It's breaking my heart and my family's heart to know that it is coming down. It was an honor to live there for 53 years."

When word spread that the historic home was to be razed to make way for a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurant, Sweet was criticized on social media for letting the property fall into disrepair and for selling it as a commercial property instead of a residential property. Her troubles were detailed in a recent online report by Bob Foos of the Webb City Sentinel.

Sweet, 77, who is known as "Sweet Connie" by her friends, said those who have criticized her don't know the full story and certainly do not understand the depth of the loss that she and her family are feeling. She said the property has been on the market for more than 11 years and that she tried to find a white-linen restaurant, a funeral home or a legal firm that might be interested in its redevelopment.

"For all of those years, this house was available for someone to restore," she said. "No one stepped forward."

She said she hoped that maybe someday it could become a museum for Webb City because of its historical significance, being the home of a former Webb City mayor. Moore built the home in 1908 in what was then the outskirts of Webb City.

Parts of the house, including some woodwork, will be salvaged. That, Sweet said, gives her some comfort. Having relocated to Northwest Arkansas, she said she will not witness the demolition of the house this summer because it would be too painful.

Holding back the tears, she said, "People don't know the whole story. We don't expect the haters to understand that it's breaking our hearts. But life goes on."

The Moore home is one of several historic properties along Range Line Road in Joplin and its counterpart in Webb City, South Madison, that have been torn down to make way for new commercial developments. A recent loss on Range Line Road was the historic Hoffmeister property. Other residential properties on South Madison, though maybe not as grand as the Moore home, are on the market for redevelopment, continuing a trend that has been going on for some time and will likely continue.


Pham's Pho Best Vietnamese Cuisine has reopened after being temporarily closed by a fire that caused smoke damage to the restaurant.

The April 13 fire originated in the El Vallarta Mexican Restaurant, which is directly south of Pham's Pho in the Range Line Marketplace shopping center at 2330 S. Range Line Road.

The fire, which was caused by combustible materials being stored too close to a heat source, destroyed the interior of the El Vallarta. It has been gutted.

A spokeswoman for Pham's Pho said she had not heard whether El Vallarta, a popular spot on the strip, would return to that location.

Opening next month

Workers preparing the interior for the new Jersey Mike's Subs in Joplin told me last week there is a good chance the restaurant will open in June, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Jersey Mike's Subs will be located in a storefront at 1702 S. Range Line Road between the AT&T store and 5-Star Nutrition.

The shop will be one of seven openings this year in Missouri.

Contact Wally Kennedy at wkennedy@joplinglobe.com.