Hardware store in the 80'sEmployees of Mrs. Morgan's Tearoom in the 1980s.Sketch of the building.Mules pictured outside the building.

Let Us Remember

by Jacque Fritch

I know everyone is busy taking care of family and friends right now, but just for a moment, let’s stop to ruminate about the Alspaugh & Cowley Hardware building that used to stand at the corner of MO 13 and MO 116. Since 1897 it stood there staring at all that came through Polo, but it finally collapsed last month. During those 123 years, only six different families owned the building: Fowler, Alspaugh and Trowitch, Morgan, Zeikle, Cook and Sanders. Talk about taking care of family! This building sheltered and supported not only the owners but the community of Polo for well over a century.

In 1983, a local paper wrote a column titled “The End of an Era”, a copy which is included in the later mentioned Historical Society book, which I will relied on for many of the following facts. The article tells us that it was a hardware store/funeral home in those earliest days up till 1983, but it was far more than that in the upstairs and after hours.  

It was a local hub for city activities including operas, concerts and live stage shows. Alspaugh & Cowley purchased the Opera Company in 1923 from its original owners, who were mostly members of that same first family who built the building itself, the Fowler’s. The live stage shows were presented for the longest time and movies began in the early ‘30s. 

Given that the funeral home therefore shared space with an entertainment venue, one story that circulated, as shared in the Polo Missouri Reminisces 2012 published by the Caldwell County Historical Society, was as follows: 

“The 10 cent picture shows were above Alspaugh’s Hardware Store. Do you remember that if Tyler had a body in the funeral home downstairs the show was off?  Everyone prayed, “Please don’t die on Friday!”

The early days also shared this same building with school and town activities including basketball games, graduations, roller skating in the ‘50s and more. So another memory shared from the Historical Society booklet is about the “skating rink also located above the hardware store, where they rented clamp on skates.”

In the years after the hardware store/funeral home businesses, the old building then housed three different antique stores (Zeikle, Cook and Morgan) and a tea room (Morgan). Mrs. Morgan generously shared some pictures including one of her staff after working an event, along with other pictures of the downstairs, all from 1983-1993. The wall of drawers (pictured) remained from the original hardware store which Mrs. Morgan said she used for spices. She also mentioned a mezzanine level in the building, which lent itself to use for entertainment and events. There was beautiful stained glass. The building did stand vacant for a few years between owners, but the most recent owner used it as an ice cream parlor and later a fireworks shop.

So, please remember the old building not only for the shelter and support it provided but also as the neighborhood hub that it became to everyone that thrived in the Polo area. We salute the owners, families and patrons of this fine building and the great care they gave each other through the community that developed around the building over 120 years. Please also watch for more of this story on the Caldwell County Historical Society website, where more stories and pictures will be shared as they are received. If you have pictures to share, please send to the Caldwell Historical Society and we will post the best ones there.

Sources for this article include:

  1. Polo Missouri Reminisces 2012, published by Caldwell County Historical Society, still available at the Museum in Kingston, Missouri, which includes the newspaper article mentioned.
  2. Caldwell County Courthouse records for the building, located in Kingston, Missouri.
  3. Pictures and memories of former owners of the building, Faye Morgan and Mrs. Paul Alspaugh, as shared with Judy Vilmer of the Historical Society and Jacque Fritch, volunteer.
  4. Postcard of artist rendering shared by Faye Morgan, artist Donna Carrington of Kansas City. 

The Caldwell County News

101 South Davis
P.O. Box 218
Hamilton, MO 64644
Phone: 816-583-2116

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