Couple preserves St. Joseph's history, banks on tourism

A California couple just flipped a 1898 home into a bed & breakfast. They said preserving history is a way to attract tourists in the future.

Posted: Sep 18, 2018 7:19 PM
Updated: Sep 20, 2018 6:44 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A California couple just flipped a 1898 home into a bed & breakfast. They said preserving history is a way to attract tourists in the future.

At The Charles Street Bed & Breakfast, Alexis Upton-Knittle and Lloyd Cook show off the 200-year-old brick colonial revival with pocket doors, stained glass windows and original oak floors.

"We have houses in California that are just two-by-fours and stucco and drywall," Cook said. "They work, but the houses here from the late 1800s where the walls are 18 inches thick."

The couple were at a developer's meeting in California when a friend suggested they invest in St. Joseph. After spending some time in the city, they decided to restore a home on Charles St. that had potential to earn money as a short-term rental.

“What you find here, you just can't get anywhere else," Knittle said. "Here would be a $200, $250,000 home and in L.A. would be $2 million or something.”

Knittle and Cook are part of a larger group of renovators, working to wake up the sleepier parts of St. Joseph.  Historic St. Joseph Foundation President, Isabel McGowan said revitalization could drive the economy in a number of postive ways.

According to the newest state figures, tourism brought in about $16.8 billion to Missouri. 

"The fastest growing sector is Heritage Tourism," she said. "People seeking out their own history, their own ancestry, their own genealogy."

Tourism and revitalization projects both spur job growth. More than 300,000 jobs including seasonal, part-time and full-time jobs were created in the tourism sector in 2017 according to government data.

Knittle and Cook said there are many people leaving California in search of a Midwest city with charm and history. 

"I think they would find it here in St. Joe," Knittle said.

It's a bet on an old house they hope pays off in the future.

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