An early 20th-century view of downtown Springfield.
(Courtesy of the Springfield-Greene County Library District)
Regardless of where one starts on the timeline, it’s undeniable that downtown Springfield has changed a great deal.
These days, many people nostalgically reminisce its heyday; a heady time when Saturday-morning shoppers crowded the streets and stores. That period was built on a legacy dating back to the 1830s, when the city officially began. Springfield grew up quickly: By the end of the 19th century, it was no longer a frontier town. It was the Queen City of the Ozarks.
But Springfield’s growth wasn’t destined to stop. It wasn’t long before it became the birthplace of Route 66, and home to the nationally acclaimed Ozark Jubilee. That period, however, was followed by a time when the city went south — literally. When businesses began relocating to Springfield’s up-and-coming south side, it left downtown nearly destitute.
Not all, however, was lost. A few businesses remained in the district the entire time, and are still in operation today. They’re landmarks, elders of downtown’s resurgence, each with a unique story to tell.
Keep reading to learn about 12 of the longest-running ones in bunch.
Downtown Springfield, circa 1865
(Courtesy of the History Museum on the Square)
To be included on the following list, Ozarks Alive determined criteria that all businesses must meet:
- Location: According to the Downtown Springfield Association, the City Improvement District (CID) defines downtown Springfield as the area from Chestnut Expressway to Elm Street, and from Grant Avenue to Kimbrough Avenue. All of the businesses included on this list are found within those parameters.
- Money: All institutions included here see money exchange hands.
- Continuity: All of the businesses mentioned have been in continuous operation in downtown Springfield.
When work began on this project, it was found that no “official” complication exists of the longest-running businesses. That said, compiling this list was a collaborative effort: In addition to research, several local historians checked the list. However, while every effort was made to avoid any oversights, there is always a chance that a business was missed. If there seems to be an omission, please comment at the end of this article.
Edit: It has come to our attention that Inland Printing Company, established in 1904, and Traders Printing Company, established in 1925, should’ve been included on this list. We sincerely regret these omissions.
The businesses and organizations
150 years: Springfield Newspapers (1867)
The Springfield Leader — precursor for today’s Springfield News-Leader — began in 1867. Click here to read about its history from people who worked there over several decades (including Hank Billings, who has been writing for the newspaper since 1943).
129 years: Y.M.C.A. (1888)
Springfield’s first YMCA was organized in 1888, and in its early years, filled a social void in the community. The first building was constructed in 1901; the second (known today as the Downtown Ward YMCA) was finished in 1913. Click here for more.
108 years: Landers Theatre (1909)
Springfield’s Landers Theatre came to be in light of a blaze: Less than two weeks after the nearby Baldwin Theatre burned to the ground, plans for the new playhouse were announced. Click here for the full story.
107 years: Elkins-Swyers Company (1910)
Elkins-Swyers Company wasn’t born out of a traditional business model. Instead of grand plans, it was a couple of shoeshiners on the square who — after listening to local men talk while working on their shoes — decided opening a printing business would be a good idea. Read more here.
105 years: Hoover Music Company (1912)
Hoover Music Company has been a supporter of local musicians since 1912. The business begun at the hand of its namesake, H.L. Hoover, who could easily have even dubbed Springfield’s Music Man. Learn more here.
94 years: Herman Lohmeyer Funeral Home (1923)
When Herman Lohmeyer Funeral Home began in 1923, it wasn’t the first of the family’s influence on local funerals. The Lohmeyer legacy actually dates back to 1882, when German immigrant August Lohmeyer became an undertaker. Click here for more information.
94 years: Shrine Mosque (1923)
The Shrine Mosque wasn’t the first gathering place for large-scale local events. The Convention Hall, constructed in 1913, came first. But after plans emerged for construction of the Shrine Mosque in 1920, the Convention Hall didn’t stand a chance. Click here to learn more about how the mosque came to be.
94 years: Systematic Savings Bank (1923)
When Systematic Savings Bank began in 1923, it wasn’t called Systematic. Instead, folks knew it as Fidelity Savings and Loan — and they also knew that the institution was filled with Shriners, evident by early advertisements. Click here to learn more about the financial institution’s development and how it survived the Great Depression.
87 years: Springfield Blue Print and Photo Copy Co., Inc. (1930)
Springfield Blue Print came to be because of a couple of come-heres from Joplin. In 1930, Charles A. McCann and his wife, Marie, moved to Springfield and opened the business. Click here to learn more.
76 years: Moseley Office Supply (1941)
The year was 1941 when Moseley Office Supply opened its doors. But in those early days, selling office supplies wasn’t its primary function. Instead, typewriters were the way to attract customers. Learn more here.
74 years: Walnut Street Barber Shop (1943)
Cecil Johnson saw the start of Walnut Street Barber Shop in 1943. Over the years, many barber shops have come and gone from the downtown scene — but Walnut Street has always stayed. Click here for more.
70 years: Taylor’s Drive-In (1947)
Taylor’s Drive-In came to be in 1947 when Bob “Coach” Taylor founded the establishment with his wife, brother and sister-in-law. From evening hangout to lunch mainstay, Taylor’s has become a landmark in downtown Springfield’s eating scene. Click here for the full story.