Columbia Female Academy
This building is now the oldest building in Columbia
Article originally published In Columbia Tribune on December 28, 1986
Whatever Happened to the Columbia Female Academy?
By Francis Pike of the Tribune Staff
Now known as Niedermeyer Apartments, the building at South Tenth and Cherry streets is the oldest building in Columbia. The school was also known as the Lucy Wales Academy in honor of its first school mistress, a native of New England. When built in 1837, it was a one-story brick building 40 feet wide and 25 feet deep. The original outer walls remain today as the nucleus of the Niedermeyer building.
In 1833, Gen. Richard Gentry who had five daughters to educate, led the organization of the academy. The school operated from 1833 until 1837 in the Presbyterian church located on Walnut Street. The lot for the new building on Cherry Street was bought Feb. 26, 1837, for $175.
In 1853, the school had 122 pupils. Sometime between 1851 and 1854, $1,800 was raised by private subscriptions to add a second story and an ell.
in 1856, the Baptist College (now Stephens College) was established, and the Female Academy passed out of existence. The building might have been used to house Union soldiers during the Civil War. The next public record indicates that Dr. Samuel Victor, a Columbia pharmacist, purchased it June 20, 1865, for $1415. Victor rented it out as a residence until his death in 1895.
The property was sold to W.F. Cunningham and his wife, Susan. In partnership with Turner S. "Squire" Gordon , "the old Academy lot" was converted into a hotel, known as the Cottage Hotel, and in 1897 the Cunninghams sold the hotel to F.W. Niedermeyer, who with Gordon added two wings to the building and made it the center of Columbia citizens' social and cultural life. Perhaps the greatest moment in the history of the building, by now known as the Gordon Hotel, came on the night of June 3, 1902, when members of the Phi Beta Kappa Society gave a dinner for Mark Twain, who was to receive an honorary degree from the university the next day.
in 1910, Gordon sold all the furnishings that belonged to him. Niedermeyer retained the ownership of the property and rented it to the University of Missouri for use as the Department of Domestic Science. In 1921, Niedermeyer decided to reopen the old building as Neidermeyer Apartments.
An application has been made for the structure to be placed on the National Register, and next year, its 150th year , would be the appropriate time for a celebration in honor of the old building's association with the educational, social and commercial history of Columbia.
Reproduced with permission from The Columbia Tribune