The County Assessor’s office had estimated that our house was built around 1930 but we wanted to see if we could discover anything more about its origins.
In our county, deeds are only computerized back to the 1980’s so any title search older than that requires a physical search through large books of hand-recorded deed transfers, and I soon got the knack of deciphering Palmer cursive. The documents are understandably old so the room is kept at a frigid 65 degrees (you can see from the photo below that my fingers are so numb I can barely hold my phone still.)
I started working back from the most current owners but hit a snag and lost the timeline so instead I tried working forward from the beginning. We knew the house was located in Backus Subdivision (originally part of Garth’s Subdivision, a large tract of land between two established neighborhoods that had been used primarily as farmland) and I eventually found that L.S. and Elizabeth L. Backus purchased the entire tract and transferred it over to their company in 1926. Soon after, they began selling the individual lots.
On July 19, 1926, Horace Wren and his wife Ruth purchased a lot. Before then the couple and their children, William and Virginia, had been living with her parents over on Windsor. I don’t know if Horace built the house himself but my mother pointed out that this was the same time period in which her grandfather built his family a house in Corona, California—and one just about the same size. The neighboring homes are brick with fireplaces while ours has siding and lacks a fireplace so I’m sure they were on a budget. It must have been quite a step up for them. They had a third child in the house, Horace Jr., making that five people in our little two bedroom bungalow.
Horace owned the Recreation Barber Shop on the corner of Hitt & Broadway, one of many in town catering to the college boys at the University of Missouri. I have to say, they found quite a niche:
With a few years though, circumstances changed for the Wrens. I’m sure the depression meant more haircuts at home and many barber shops, including the Recreation Barber Shop, closed. Horace took a job with Tiger Barber Shop (still going strong today on Ninth Street) but between 1930 and 1935, they lost the house. William and Virginia were on their own by then but Horace, Ruth and Horace, Jr. ended up moving out and renting a house on Rogers—just a few doors down from the apartment I rented before moving here to Aldeah.
It was a sobering discovery, realizing the original owners of our house took the same journey as I, only in reverse. The excitement I felt moving into our home would have been mirrored by their disappointment. Still, the Wrens left us with a wonderful legacy—a well built house in a close knit neighborhood that would last for years to come.
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