Liberty, MO

The splendor of Jewell Hall: A legacy at William Jewell College

CJ Coombs
Jewell Hall, Liberty, Missouri.Photo byDennis McCoy Mo, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Jewell Hall is a historic building located at Jewell Street between Kansas and Mississippi Streets in Liberty, Missouri (Clay County). The three-story brick and limestone building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 6, 1978. Jewell Hall is also a designated Clay County Historic Site.

Jewell Hall was constructed beginning in 1850 and completed by 1858. The architectural style is Classical Revival. It was one of the first buildings on the William Jewell College campus and by looking at it, you can see why it has become a centerpiece. One of its attractive features is the central portico.

In the mid to late 1940s, the interior of Jewell Hall was remodeled. The original chimneys removed during renovations of 1946-48 were not replaced. Remodeling was performed to have a more modern facility.

Jewell Hall is a landmark in Liberty up on a hill that overlooks the city. Jewell Hall is significant for its association with the Civil War, Alexander Doniphan, and for its contributions as a college from its early days in Missouri and Kansas. Jewell Hall was used as a hospital and barracks during the war.

Dr. William Jewell

In 1843, Dr. William Jewell, a notable physician from Columbia, Missouri, offered $10,000 to the General Association of Baptists toward the endowment of a college. Dr. Jewell, a civic leader also, served terms in both houses of the Missouri legislature.

Dr. Jewell was a force behind getting a state university founded and that's why the college is named in his honor. When trustees met for the first time in Liberty in the fall of 1849, the hill east of town was selected for the site of the college. Dr. William Jewell was at the meeting along with Alexander W. Doniphan and Rev. Robert James, father of Frank and Jesse James.

In January 1850, classes were held in rented rooms in Liberty. At another trustees meeting in the following month, Dr. Jewell was appointed as commissioner to oversee the planning and construction of the college building. He put an ad in the Liberty Tribune asking for sealed proposals. Supposedly, it's not clear whether Dr. Jewell worked from a set of drafted plans or not, or if he was the one who designed the building. He could have decided on a plan or style, however.

Dr. William Charles Jewell died on August 5, 1852, at age 63. His Will left a full-sized portrait by George Caleb Bingham as well as $3,000 for items such as books. Dr. Jewell was laid to rest at the Jewell Cemetery in Columbia, Missouri on land that was part of his father's farm. George Jewell was his father. It's maintained by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Jewell Hall

There were others in the course of history who were associated with Jewell Hall besides Dr. William Jewell. They include Alexander W. Doniphan, George Caleb Bingham, and Waltus L. Watkins.

Alexander Doniphan was famous in his day on top of being a prominent lawyer and politician in Missouri. At the height of his popularity, in 1849, he participated with a Clay County committee to raise funds for William Jewell College. He was one of the original trustees and was active in affairs related to the college until the Civil War broke out.

Waltus Watkins who was a pioneer businessman of Liberty and Clay County raised funds to help get the college established in Liberty. He also belonged to the Board of Trustees. Watkins also had a woolen mill that's also on the National Register. It's part of the Watkins Mill State Park in Missouri.

In around 1867, George Caleb Bingham became a trustee and helped the college especially when it was recovering from the effects of the war. Two of his portraits of William Jewell that belonged to the college were destroyed by fires.

For over a century, William Jewell College has been a respected educational center in the area. Up until 1920, Jewell Hall served as the primary building for classrooms.

For about 100 years, William Jewell College was the chief institution for the education of Baptist ministers, missionaries, and laymen in the state.

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Multi-genre writer and author/publisher with a BA in Eng Journalism/Creative Writing. I worked in law firms for 30+ years and retired early to pursue writing. I was born into the Air Force, so you could say I'm from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, research, history, true crime, reading, art, and travel.

Kansas City, MO

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