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Of the 37 buildings that make up Harrisonville’s historic square, 34 are significant for their historical architectural qualities. These buildings constructed between 1880 and 1940 have maintained a high degree of integrity, with some alterations to the storefronts. This includes the historic courthouse at the center of the square, believed to be the third courthouse in Harrisonville. According to court documents from February 5th, 1838, court was held at a courthouse in Harrisonville but the location of that building is currently unknown. There are records of specifications made for “a 1 ½ story, two-room weatherboard building,” but it is debated among historians whether this was ever actually constructed. Some historians speculate that it was the log building at 200 W. Wall, but this has not been confirmed.

On February 14th, 1843 Charles Sims was appointed superintendent and was instructed to submit a plan for a courthouse for no more than $3,000. In March of 1843, his plan was approved and that building was completed in September of 1844. It was used for court business as well as school and church meetings. In 1860, the court issued an order for a new building that would cost $15,000. Due to economic concerns at the time spurned by the recession, citizens protested the construction of this building but their concerns were ignored. However, these plans were thwarted by the beginning of the Civil War and were ultimately dismissed until 1865. When the war ended, the 300,000 unused bricks were sold which provided money for the new courthouse.

On October 14th, 1894, the Cass County court petitioned to levy $45,000 for yet another new courthouse. The following year, prominent Kansas City architect Walter C. Root was contracted to design the new building. It would become the only courthouse in Missouri designed by Root. He completed his plans in 1895 for an Italian Renaissance-style courthouse. In 1897, the courthouse was constructed in the middle of the square and became the focal point of the district. Court convened for the first time in this building on November 3rd, 1897. The courthouse includes an impressive clock tower that was added to the structure in 1909 as well as a World War I veteran’s memorial that was dedicated in 1929 and features a statue of a soldier standing at attention in their uniform. This courthouse is the “oldest remaining building which served as the seat and focus of Cass County government.”

Exemplifying the economic growth and prosperity of western Missouri from before the Civil War to the mid-20th century, Harrisonville’s Courthouse and Historic Square’s abundant history is reflected in its impressive architecture and high level of integrity.

The Harrisonville Courthouse

Cloud, Sky, Building, Window

The clocktower on the Harrisonville courthouse, which was added in 1909 and restored in 2015.

Sky, Window, Building, Tower

The inscription on the front door of the courthouse reads: "A public office is a public trust."

Window, Property, Building, Fixture

The interior of the Harrisonville courthouse.

Picture frame, Table, Furniture, Window

The life-size doughboy statue on the southwest corner of the grounds.

Building, Sculpture, Window, Statue

The Kunze Building today

Building, Sky, Window, Cloud

The Christopher Building today

Cloud, Building, Window, Automotive parking light

The E.G. and A.G. Deacon Hardware and Implements building today

Window, Building, Fixture, Brick

The Emmons Building today

Cloud, Sky, Building, Window

The unique Queen Anne-style building at 104 W. Pearl Street today

Cloud, Building, Sky, Window

The Bank of Harrisonville today

Window, Building, Sky, Fixture

The Cass County Democrat building today

Brown, Sky, Cloud, Window

The Art Deco-inspired D.S. Long building today

Automotive parking light, Land vehicle, Car, Sky

Established in 1836, Harrisonville is one of the oldest cities in Western Missouri. Harrisonville was located as the county seat in 1836 by commissioners David Waldo of Lafayette County and Samueal Hink and William Brown of Jackson County. The following year, the county surveyor Martin Rice surveyed and platted the city into lots and blocks. It was originally platted with four streets surrounding the square: Lexington and Independence ran north and south while Wall and Pearl ran east and west. Plots started selling in 1837 after Fleming Harris was appointed town commissioner. Harrisonville square had been modeled after Shelbyville square in Tennessee, which was laid out in a block grid with the courthouse in the center. This design was adapted among several city squares in states like Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri but fell out of popularity in the early 20th century.

Harrisonville became a prosperous town for a number of thriving businesses. The first business opened in 1837 in a log house on the southwest corner of the square. It was a general merchandise store owned by Henry F. Baker, who came to be known as the “pioneer merchant of Harrisonville.” By the 1840s, businesses continued to bloom on the square – the same decade the second courthouse was constructed at the center of the square. This commercial growth continued throughout the 1840s and 1850s, and the log buildings were being replaced by brick buildings. In 1857, Harrisonville was officially incorporated following three failed attempts at incorporation. By 1860, the town’s population grew to 675 and was the 37th largest town in the county. However, the Civil War was devastating to the region due to the guerrilla activity along Missouri’s western border and General Thomas Ewing’s Order No. 11 which caused the mass evacuation of a large portion of the population. Following this order, most of the commercial and residential buildings were burned down or otherwise destroyed. Recovery was slow after the war, but a new era was born for the city in 1867 when municipal rule was restored. This led to the construction of five new churches and twenty new businesses. By 1875, Harrisonville’s population jumped to over 1,000.

The 1880s saw a period of economic growth in Harrisonville with the Kansas City and Southern railway coming to the city in 1885. The same year, “a vein of brick clay was discovered in close proximity” to the city and a brick and tile factory was established. Several of the wooden commercial buildings were replaced with brick, and by 1890 all the buildings on the north side of the square were brick. In 1887, the population had grown to 2,587 and by 1889 there were six railroads, providing Harrisonville residents access to Kansas City and St. Louis. Commerce continued to flourish, and several of the buildings housing these businesses are still extant. In 1880, the building at 116 S. Independence housed E.G. and A.G. Deacon Hardware and Implements, later known as Deacon Hardware Company. This is one of many examples of vernacular architectural design along the square. It also included “Victorian affinities” such as the blind arcade cornice and glass mosaic transoms. Today, the building houses Service Tech Solutions.

The buildings at 100 and 102-104 S. Independence on the west side of the square were built in the Italianate architectural style between 1884 and 1885. The Kunze Building at 100 S. Independence housed the Kunze Jewelry business owned by Ludwig Oswald Kunze, known as the “trustworthy jeweler.” This is the oldest business house in Cass County. At 102-104 S. Independence was a drug store which then became a dry goods store and finally the post office in the mid-1890s. Today, the building is a Smile Doctors and a boutique. The Christopher Building is located at 104 E. Pearl Street on the east side of the square. It originally housed the Christopher Brothers store which sold boots and shoes. This is another example of the vernacular style that dominates the square. The architecture is notable for its plate glass display windows and cast-iron Corinthian columns. Between 1886 and 1891, seven more commercial buildings were constructed on or near the square. Included among them is the still-extant Emmons building constructed on the west side of the square following a fire. John Volle’s bakery and Wallace Boardman’s harness shop were its first occupants. These businesses occupied the building for twelve years. Today, the Emmons Building houses Salon 114 and Joni Fashions. The building at 104 W. Pearl Street constructed between 1886 and 1891 is significant as the only example of a Queen Anne-style building in the district. Originally a beer bottling works, saloon, and then printing office, it became the Memorial Hospital in 1946. As of 1889, Harrisonville had three banks: the First National Bank, Bank of Harrisonville, and Allen Banking Co. The First National Bank was constructed in the Italianate style and failed in 1893, making it the first bank to fail in Harrisonville. Just a few years later in 1897, the final courthouse was constructed.

The Harrisonville square saw two devastating fires in 1900. On February 5th of that year, a fire that began in the basement of C.C. Granberry at 115 E. Wall Street spread in both directions, destroying several buildings along the square. This included the Bank of Harrisonville, which was rebuilt in stone at 113 E. Wall Street. This building has the highest level of integrity in the district. Five months later, the second fire destroyed the Evans Opera House and prompted the establishment of a fire department. New construction and reconstruction due to the fires dominated the first decade of the 1900s. During this time, a building at 203 E. Wall Street was constructed for the “Cass County Democrat,” the oldest and most widely circulated newspaper in Cass County which had been founded in 1881. At 200-202 E. Pearl Street, the Del K. Hall Building was constructed and became the third location for the post office until 1925. It also housed “The News,” another Cass County newspaper. During the 1910s and 1920s, only two buildings had been constructed while the older buildings continued to find new uses for new commerce opportunities. In 1925, another fire began on the square at 103 S. Lexington which spread to 101 S. Lexington. The facades of both of these buildings suffered damage and had to be reconstructed. Between 1939 and 1940, the D.S. Long Building was constructed just off the square for use as a medical office, indicating continuing commercial growth in this region. It stands out for its eclectic design and Art Deco-inspired architecture, unique to the area. This building maintains a high degree of integrity.

Marian M. Ohman. Encyclopedia of Missouri Courthouses. (Columbia: University of Missouri-Extension Division), 1981, n.p. See also History of Cass County. 124-125.

Linda F. Becker and Cydney E. Millstein (April 1993). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Harrisonville Courthouse Square Historic District" 

National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, MO State Parks. March 11th, 1994. Accessed February 12th, 2023.

Old Historical Courthouse on the Square, Cass County. Accessed February 12th, 2023.

Cass County, American Courthouses. Accessed February 12th, 2023.

History of the Harrisonville Historic District, The City of Harrisonville. Accessed February 12th, 2023.

Historic Resources of Harrisonville: Courthouse Square Historic District, MO State Parks. Accessed February 12th, 2023.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

The City of Harrisonville

The City of Harrisonville

The City of Harrisonville

The City of Harrisonville

The City of Harrisonville

The City of Harrisonville

The City of Harrisonville

The City of Harrisonville