] Around Columbia: July 2012

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sam Walton Used to Live Somewhere Around Here - I Think

Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, graduated from Hickman High School here in Columbia, and then went on to take his bachelors degree in business at the University of Missouri before starting his retail career in Oklahoma. That is if you do not count some clerking he did at a local five and dime here. It would be stretching it a bit to call Columbia his official hometown since throughout his life he moved around the Midwest a lot, and he was not born here in Columbia.  However, becoming the richest man in the world, and founding a retailing giant that become a social institution, counts for something so Columbia should at least make the attempt to lay some claim. I started thinking about this after doing some reading.

Sam Walton's autobiography, Made In America, is everywhere. If you go to many yard sales you are likely to eventually run across a copy, or you could check out the book section of any thrift store.  You can even get a copy at the library.  More on that later. I think there is something like one copy of the book  for every single person living in America. Despite the availability I avoided reading it for years, and when I finally got around to it was pleasantly surprised to find it was actually worthwhile reading.  I recommend it. At the same time I read the biography Sam Walton:  The Inside Story of America's Richest Man by Vance H. Trimble. I did not like it as much.   I am proud to say I purchased neither book, but checked them out at the same time from our very own Daniel Boone Regional Library. It turns out both books were written around the same time -  when Mr. Walton was dying.  The biography by Trimble is bland, and certainly treats the subject of the book gently, but it does contain a lot more detail than the autobiography.  One of those details is that Sam Walton lived on Rosemary Lane during his stay here.   1309 Rosemary Lane to be precise according to the unauthorized biography by Trimble.

I know Rosemary Lane.  It is a short street that runs east to west, and is about one long city block long.   Many years ago it started out as a middle class, single family dwelling, residential neighborhood.  Because of the close proximity to the Mizzou campus, which is literally right across the street, Rosemary Lane is now mostly campus student housing. That seemed to have started even in Sam Walton's time when his family rented out three of the four upstairs bedrooms to students (Trimble).  At this point I doubt if there are any property owners who actually live on the street themselves.  Instead the houses appear to  have all been divided up, and the rooms rented out to students or their fellow travelers. I thought it would be interesting to drive by and take pictures of the former Walton residence, and write this story about it. Problem is, the house appears to be gone.  It seems to have been replaced by the Sigma Chi parking lot.  Fraternities have expanded their foot print in the neighborhood and one of the casualties was 1309 Rosemary. So, I photographed the neighborhood, and where the house used to be.

This view is facing  west.  College avenue is about fifty yards away, running  north and south, and you can see the University of Missouri campus right across  the street past College Avenue.  1309 Rosemary would have been to the right, where the fraternity parking lot is located although that is not visible in this photograph.

Below is the parking lot, referred to above,  which stands about where 1309 Rosemary Lane would have been located.  This is at the very west end of Rosemary Lane less than  thirty foot from College Avenue.

This is a house that would have been one or two houses down from 1309.

Moving a little further down facing the North side of Rosemary.  The view now includes another house as well as the one pictured above. These two houses give you an idea of the architectural style on the street which I actually find very nice.  I love the porches.

This is a view facing east.  Parking is allowed only on the south side of the road.

I am disappointed that I could not provide you with a photograph of the actual home where Sam Walton lived during his stay here in Columbia.  I do feel though, that you can get a sense of what it was like.  The homes were multi-storied and spacious with rather small yards, and the University of Missouri campus was literally right across the street.  In the 1930s, when the Walton family resided there, it must have been a very pleasant neighborhood. It still has a lot of character. 

I hope that neighborhoods like this in Columbia can be preserved, and do not succumb to blight or the encroachment of new development such as that which has already occurred around the edge of Campus near College Avenue.

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