Columbia, MO

Legacy of Maplewood: Columbia's Nifong Park

CJ Coombs
Historic Maplewood House, Columbia, Missouri.Photo byHornColumbia, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1877, Slater Ensor Lenoir and his wife, Margaret Bradford Lenoir, built this historic home called Maplewood. The Lenoirs were an early pioneer family. The house is located at Nifong Boulevard and Ponderosa Drive in Columbia, Missouri.

This two-story home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) on April 13, 1979. The City of Columbia purchased the house and its surrounding 60 acres in 1970.

The home is now part of the Frank G. Nifong Memorial Park (official name) and is operated by the City of Columbia Parks and Recreation and Boone County Historical Society. Visit here to see some interior images.


This red brick dwelling is considered a dressed-up farmhouse with its bracketed cornice, slightly arched windows, and central portico. From about 1972 to 1976, the house underwent some major renovations to return it close to its original state without compromising its historic integrity.

When the house was nominated for the NRHP, other structures on the property included a carriage house, two barns, servants' quarters, a root cellar, and a pump house.

The porch on the house is a reconstruction based on photos of the original porch. In 1920, the original one was removed because an enclosed porch was built across the full length of the front of the home. During restoration in 1975-1976, that porch was removed so the appearance of the home could return to how it appeared in the late 1800s as much as possible.

The home is called Maplewood because of the original grove of sugar maple trees. To the south and west of the home are two large barns. The smaller one was a stock barn. The larger barn, or the Maplewood Barn Theatre, is a community theatre. In the off-season months, it can be rented for events.
Photo byFacebook/Maplewood Barn Theatre.

Originally, Maplewood was part of a farmstead on more than 400 acres. The City of Columbia owns 60 of those acres and it became the Historic Nifong Park. About 12 acres on the northeastern portion of that plot are part of the property listed on the National Register. This includes Maplewood and associated structures.

The Maplewood house is a museum and furnished accordingly. Most of the interior furnishings were original pieces belonging to the Lenoirs and Dr. Frank G. Nifong. The house is also the headquarters of the Boone County Historical Society.

Tours of this historic home are available by appointment from April 1 through October 31 each year. As the house was built in 1877, it's not ADA-accessible. If you want to schedule a tour, call (573) 443-8936 or email

Slater Ensor Lenoir

Maplewood was built by Slater Ensor Lenoir, a successful farmer. Lenoir was the son of early pioneers in Columbia who were natives of North Carolina. They left for Missouri in 1834. They bought 320 acres and built a two-story brick home known as Greenwood, which is also listed on the National Register. That was Slater's childhood home.

When Slater was old enough, he took care of the family's farming business with his mother and sisters after his father died. He also attended the University of Missouri. Being adventurous, he went to California searching for gold in 1850.

In the spring of 1864, Slater married Margaret A. Bradford. They lived at Greenwood until Slater's mother died in 1877, which was also the year his Maplewood home was completed.

In 1887, their only child, Lavinia, graduated from Christian Female College where she was trained in music. She later met a successful doctor and surgeon who was from St. Louis. His name was Dr. Frank Gosney Nifong.

Slater died on January 17, 1929, at age 95. His wife, Margaret, died on November 18, 1928, at age 95.

Dr. Frank Gosney Nifong

Dr. Nifong was a surgeon, philanthropist, and community leader. He was born on January 19, 1867. His parents were from Madison County, Missouri. After attending Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, he entered Missouri Medical College in St. Louis.

In 1889, Dr. Nifong was an intern at St. Louis City Hospital. In 1891, he started his private practice. He also taught at Missouri Medical College.

On February 7, 1900, Dr. Nifong married Lavinia Lenoir. They lived in St. Louis for some time. Lavinia missed her parents and Columbia, so in 1905, they moved to Columbia and lived at Maplewood with Lavinia's parents.

The Lenoirs added modern amenities to the home such as heating, lighting, and plumbing. They were probably happy to have their daughter back too. Dr. Nifong became associated with the Dean of the Medical Department of the University of Missouri. He worked on developing and improving the medical program at the university. He also taught operative surgery and was in charge of clinical surgery.

Dr. Nifong cared about medical care being provided for the rural communities. He was influential in the founding of Boone County Hospital. He belonged to different medical associations and was helpful with a new Department of Health Education at Stephens College in Columbia. Also important, Dr. Nifong was a benefactor of the community of Columbia.

In 1949, Dr. Nifong and his wife, Lavinia, honored her parents with a donation of $100,000 and 172 acres of land to the National Benevolent Association (Disciples of Christ) as an endowment to build the Lenoir Memorial Home, now known as Lenoir Woods.

In 1953, once again, the Nifongs donated $100,000 toward the building of a new wing named in their honor at Boone County Hospital.

After the deaths of Frank and Lavinia Nifong in the 1950s, the remainder of the estate was deeded to the Benevolent Association. In 1966, the Benevolent Association, which managed the Lenoir Home and the Nifong Estate, offered Maplewood and 60 acres to the City of Columbia at half the appraised value. With help from the State of Missouri, the City purchased it for a park.

In 1974, the City of Columbia designated Maplewood's restoration as an American Revolution Bicentennial Project. The house was restored for an official dedication and opening to the public on July 3, 1976.

Dr. Nifong died on July 4, 1955, at age 88. His wife, beautiful Lavinia, died on May 26, 1959, at age 90. They had no children.

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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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