(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Looking down the hallways of south St. Joseph's Livestock Exchange building, a person can only imagine what once was.
"It was gorgeous. It was very ornate and had a huge atrium with skylights and wonderful ironwork," said local historian Kim Schutte, who has done a lot of research on the building.
As many as 300-400 people once worked in the 60,000 sq. ft building. Paperwork can still be found in the hallways dating back to the 1940s and before. The stories about the building go back even longer.
"The story is that that was kind of a little speakeasy during the prohibition period," Shutte said, while giving a tour of some of the third floor offices.
Today, now vacant for about a decade, what originally took $125,000 to build back in 1899 will now take millions to bring back to usable shape.
(SOT: All Purcell, Community Volunteer: "It's so disappointing to see the decay that it's in," said Al Purcell, who has been working for several years with area businesses in south St. Joseph to try and spur new development.
Despite the big challenges the building presents, some are dreaming big. There has been some behind-the-scenes work going on to see if the building can be saved and re-purposed.
"You figure for some, it might be daunting but in a broader context it is a wise investment," Purcell said.
Still a striking figure in south St. Joseph, the Livestock Exchange building has character and history. Some envision it as a possible destination location for business and even entertainment.
"(It would be good), whether it be a venue for young folks, whether it's music," Purcell said.
Schutte sees potential for mixed use.
"Offices for some of the industries, event space," she said.
Everybody agrees that it will take a lot of work.
"I think it will take 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years plan," Purcell said.
However both Schutte and Purcell agree it's work worth undertaking.
"It means everything to the history of St. Joseph. St. Joseph was built on the back of this building and the industries around it," Schutte said.
Click here to see how Omaha, Nebraska has renovated their Livestock Exchange building.
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