Columbia, MO

Exploring the historic David Guitar House in Columbia, Missouri

CJ Coombs
David Guitar House in Columbia, Missouri.Photo bySesamehoneytart, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

A historic home in Columbia, Missouri (Boone County) known as the Guitar House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) on September 9, 1993. It's also been stated the house was referred to as Confederate Hill by another owner.

This two-story house was built between 1859 and 1862. The architectural style is Italianate. One of the elements making the house stand out is the tall narrow windows. The foundation is stone, and the walls are weatherboard. It’s unknown who the architect was.

The house was built by David Guitar who was an officer in the Union forces during the Civil War. A previous owner, Ward Dorrance, named this property Confederate Hill which is believed to be untrue. Dorrance, who was a fiction writer and teacher, owned the home from 1940 to 1953.

There were some additions to the home making it L-shaped. Other buildings on the property include a smokehouse and a cookhouse.

David Guitar

In February 1859, Guitar purchased 72.41 acres of land close to Columbia, Missouri. Guitar, who was also a businessman, increased his property to 862 acres. The house still on a hill sits on less than 27 acres.

Guitar and his wife, Harriet, lived in the house with their 10 children. Some important elements that were still in the home at the time it was nominated for the NRHP are the fireplaces, the woodwork, and the window panes. The then-owners of the home during the nomination process purchased the home in 1956.

Under the dining room and study of the home is an unfinished basement, and under the kitchen is a crawl space. The foundation was composed of concrete and native stone, but the kitchen has a foundation made of brick.

The first floor has high ceilings and the living room, dining room, and music room have fireplaces. Upstairs, there are fireplaces in four bedrooms. The front hallway has a walnut staircase containing decorative elements. There is carpeting on the floors except for the music room which also has a plaster-made ceiling medallion with decorative molding.

Guitar's house was actually a farmhouse. It’s unknown how many owners there were of the house. Apparently, the owners in 1956 were aware of the significant importance of the historic means of the house and did not make a lot of changes. There was a bathroom added to the second floor as well as a large storage closet. The front porch had to be reinforced due to deterioration.

Due to the number of owners, the house was never empty. Some of the changes were necessary, including some modernization. The Late Victorian Italianate architectural style seen in some elements of the house was common in the Midwest in growing cities.

Guitar was considered prominent in Boone County. His brother, Odon, served with Union forces during the Civil War. Although Odon’s house doesn’t exist any longer, the style of his house was similar. Guitar was also commissioned to serve in the military. 

It is presumed Guitar served in the Union forces despite the confusion imposed by owner Dorrance who named the property Confederate Hill. There’s also some assumption that because Guitar was also a slaveholder, he must have been a Confederate. However, there were slaveholders also serving in the Union forces.

Guitar was about 33 years old when he made his land purchase. He increased the land size later. In 1903, Guitar sold his property. He died nine years later on January 2, 1912. There were other owners before Dorrance purchase it in 1940.

The owners of the property in 1956 indicated members of the Guitar family said the house was constructed before the Civil War which would have been between 1859 and the time Guitar was commissioned to serve in the military in 1862.

Guitar was born in Kentucky on May 1, 1827, and died at age 84 on January 2, 1912. As far as which military force he served in, according to the Find-a-Grave site, it was the Union and he is listed as "Captain Co. B, 61st Regiment E.M.M., Union (Enrolled Missouri Militia)." The NRHP nomination form indicated he served in the Enrolled Missouri Militia which is Union, although the form contains an error stating it was Confederate. On this subject, there appears to be controversy and like any controversy, it requires ample research before making a definitive statement.

According to a news clipping on the Find-a-Grave site, which appears to be a copy from the January 2, 1912 issue of the Evening Missourian out of Columbia, Missouri, the subtitle reads, Civil War Veteran Was Head of a Company in the Union Army.

Also, according to the Find-a-Grave website’s information, Guitar and his wife had seven children as indicated in obituary news, but the site lists eight names, and the NRHP form indicated they had 10 children.

The Zillow and Redfin real estate sites indicate the historic home was sold in November 2010 and now sits on 6.3 acres.

When you learn about the people who lived in a historic home, you can often uncover a story that is much richer than just the structure itself.

Thanks for reading! There's always a story in a story.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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