Due to ongoing Civil War guerilla warfare, much of the original town of Carthage had been destroyed by 1863. Following the war, the town began to be rebuilt from the ashes. Lead, zinc, and marble mining, plus productive wheat fields, created considerable wealth. This, in turn, led to those who profited from these industries, business ventures, and farming, building stylish Victorian mansions.
Town Square: We began our architectural tour on Town Square, dominated by Jasper County Courthouse. It was completed in 1895 after more than a year and a half of day and night construction. The courthouse, built of native stone quarried locally, was designed in the Romanesque Revival style by architect Maximilian Orlopp, who also designed the Dallas County Courthouse in Dallas, Texas. The building is still used for Jasper County government offices and also contains a historic mural and historic artifacts in the lobby. The perimeters of Town Square contain mostly viable businesses and a wide variation of building styles.
Victorians galore! Main Street and Grand Avenue between the 900s and 1400s are where you’ll find the highest concentration of Victorians. Undaunted by wet weather and drawn to the big homes looming in the mist, we continued our Victorian tour at the head of Grand Avenue in our Hyundai Elantra, with heater and defrost fired up high. Towel at the ready for window shots, it was impossible to resist exiting the vehicle to get a better feel of these imposing mansions up close. So, cameras in pockets and hoods on, we made our way, sometimes on foot, then again by car. One of these days, I’ve got to get a book that clearly categorizes Victorians. Just when I’m beginning to recognize familiar styles, a drove of new ones pops up, seemingly unlimited and bounded only by imagination. This was again the case in Carthage.
Ghostly presences: Not a few of these rambling Victorians are purported to contain ghosts.
The Grand Avenue Bed and Breakfast, built in 1894, is one. Albert Carmean bought the home shortly after the original owner went bankrupt. Albert was a jack of many trades, including circuit court clerk, bank chairman, and owner of a mine and hardware store. He died in 1933 following a brief illness. Especially in fall, his trademark cigar smoke is smelled in the house. An interesting account of a ghost inspection of another Carthage Victorian residence by the Missouri Ghost Hunting Society was found to be quite full of manifestations of not-so-departed spirits.
Just south of St. Anne’s Catholic School, we thought we’d stumbled upon a Civil War unknown soldier graveyard of rows upon rows of white, anonymous crosses, but no, these crosses symbolized the 4,000 unborns whose partially begun lives are cut short by abortion every day, making a powerful and controversial statement. The Catholic presence is strong in Carthage. Not much further south lays a monastery dedicated to Mary, home to Catholic Vietnamese seminarians and priests.