Ideas Wanted: Unique Opportunities for Creative Reuse Projects in the Mark Twain National Forest

Posted on: January 11th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

Written by Jennifer Sandy 

The historic buildings and picturesque surroundings at Markham Springs would provide the ideal location for a bed and breakfast or an event venue.

The historic buildings and picturesque surroundings at Markham Springs would provide the ideal location for a bed and breakfast or an event venue.

Encompassing 1.5 million acres in southern Missouri, the Mark Twain National Forest boasts unique recreation opportunities, wild and scenic rivers, and a variety of significant historic structures ranging from fire tower lookouts to intact farmsteads. Now, for the first time ever, several of these unique historic resources are available for creative reuse through public-private partnerships.

The Mark Twain National Forest is partnering with Missouri’s State Historic Preservation Office, Missouri Preservation, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to seek alternative uses for five historic properties. This is great news, since the historic structures on the Mark Twain National Forest were selected for the National Trust’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2007. At that time, the Forest had hoped to dispose of up to 150 structures due to deferred maintenance and a shrinking annual facilities budget. Since the listing, the National Trust and its partners have been working with the Forest to encourage alternative uses for the most significant of these structures.

The Mark Twain National Forest is accepting proposals until February 15th for the reuse of five historic properties. Markham Springs in Butler County is one of the Forest’s most unique opportunities. The site includes a historic home, a water wheel, a mill house, and a barn, and it is located next to a popular campsite and recreation area outside Williamsville. The large historic home would be a perfect venue for lodging and special events. Another property is the Kofahl Farmstead, which is a distinctive example of early Ozarks farm life along the Big Piney River, and could make a great base of operations for canoe rentals, horse boarding, hiking, or lodging. Other properties are the Burnett School House, the Blount Farmstead, and the Forner Property. 

Volunteers will help replace missing wood siding at the Falling Springs Mill this April.

Volunteers will help replace missing wood siding at the Falling Springs Mill this April.

Click here for detailed information on each of these properties, including history, description, condition, potential costs, and some ideas for alternative uses. 

Potential partners must present a creative vision for the proposed use, have a track record of creating and managing successful alternative use projects, and have a history of timely project completion. Proposals from qualified private development companies, nonprofit groups, and individual developers will be considered. And for those wanting to get involved with the preservation of the Mark Twain National Forest as a volunteer, check out the Passport in Time project (coming up this April) at Falling Springs Mill.

Jennifer Sandy is a program officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Midwest Office.

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