|A rendition of Arnold House by Lucianna Gladney Ross from Hazel Lee Looks at Jefferson County|
My name is Amy Barnes and I am a Realtor® and social entrepreneur. But, ahead of these things, I am most importantly a mom. This project is dedicated to my daughter Mia, and this page was created to tell why I have chosen to spend time on a piece of my past. My hope is that it will inspire others to do the same.
Starting with a definition and disclaimer: The concept behind this preservation project is called Universal Design, also known as Inclusive Design or Design For All. If you are not familiar with the term: "Universal Design is a process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health, wellness and social participation." -Edward Steinfeld and Jordana L. Maisel (Authors of the textbook Universal Design, Creating Inclusive Environments).
As a 150 year old building, there were some things that could not be changed about it without altering the structure at huge expense or removing pieces of the past, so it was rehabbed to illustrate a fictional history lesson. The lesson being: the people who lived in it as a home throughout time were cognizant of the fact that it takes an entire family to keep a house going, and in their ongoing efforts to remain together as a family in the place they all loved, they made sure everyone could move about it freely...
|309 Elm May 31, 2014|
It has been nearly 4 years since I started physically working on 309 Elm, more than that counting the time spent cleaning it when I had it listed for sale. But for all intents, purposes and wholeheartedness, it has been since May of 2014 when my fiancé, Tom Stewart, bought it from the family of Lucianna Gladney Ross so I could make it into what it needs to be to help convey the importance of universal design and making sure things are designed to be used by all.
Since then, this building has taken a lot out of me...definitely my blood and on more than one occasion too. And as disgusting as it sounds much of my sweat--especially in the summer with no air conditioning. And I would be lying if I didn't admit to having cried enough tears over this place to justify a levee. But as hard as all those things were to bear at the time, what’s interesting is that I would do it all again without hesitation, because it has given back to me the reality that, if you visualize something--no matter how wild or crazy it seems YOU CAN AND NEED to make it happen because it is the fulfillment of a dream….. and dreams are what keep the world moving forward.
|Second Grade Amy|
309 Elm Street is listed as a ‘contributing resource’ to the town of Kimmswick, Missouri in the National Register of Historic Places. My siblings and I attended St Joseph Catholic School in Kimmswick and the town was part of our lives because our family lived on Montebello Road. My earliest recollection of visiting 309 Elm Street is when it was a Christmas shop in the early 80's. It is not a big place but it is quaint and cozy and I loved it then and still do. It was built in 1865 and was home to an immigrant named Bernard Klein, a St. Louis saloon keeper who may have also had a saloon directly across the street from 309 Elm, according to records in the Kimmswick Historical Society. For many years after Mr. Klein's ownership it was also home to some of the Arnold family, whose ancestors founded the town of Arnold, MO. For that reason many people know the building as Arnold House. To show respect to both former owners the building now bears signs remembering each.
|Remnants of the past.|
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with one of its former residents, the late Ralph Davis, who told me he and his wife lived in the house the first couple years they were married, somewhere around 1950. Mrs. Davis baked cakes and sold them out of her kitchen. According to Mr. Davis, they did not live there long because the house was so cold in the winter and his wife wanted more modern conveniences. More recently, a former neighbor told me he remembers the building was briefly a Porter Paints store, which definitely explains the metal Porter Paints sign fixed to the wall along the steps leading to the cellar. Actually, we used Porter Paints to paint the shed on the property when we first purchased it and still have some of the iconic striped cans leftover so they too will stay here as a nod to that owner. Needless to say, it is awesome to have that permanent reminder of life lived here because it really does add to its colorful history. I can only hope that as history continues to happen as each moment passes, someone will be talking about the things we do here someday too.
|Mia and Mommy Florida 2001|
The history behind my participation in this story began in the mid 90's when life took me to Florida where I eventually met someone who would forever change my world for the better and that person is Mia, my only child and the love of my life. Mia was born with a spinal cord injury known as spina bifida and as a result, she has little to no feeling below her knees and uses canes, a walker, and wheelchair to navigate her life. She also has internal issues that affect her body's ability to do things on its own and spends a good amount of time and energy every day dealing with these circumstances in order to stay healthy. Today, at sixteen years old, she has had 14 surgeries, and as irrelevant as all this may seem to a rehab project, it makes up the huge ‘WHY’ behind my entire project. Each of these experiences has raised our awareness as a family that very simple changes can be made in construction projects that make life easier to live for a person with mobility limitations, adding to their quality of life and allowing them to be the best they can be.
|Mia March 2002|
The path that led me to find out about Universal Design began when Mia was a baby. As a young mom, I needed to be able to work according to my own schedule so I could care for her. Selling real estate seemed like a good way to go because I love looking at houses and liked the flexibility being an independent contractor would allow. In September of 2002, I moved back to MO and we lived with my parents in our family home on Montebello. Real estate turned out to be a very demanding job but with the help of my family and friends, I did it and honestly could not have done it without them. I am glad I did too, because it opened my eyes about a lot of things that need to be changed.
|Second Grade Mia|
|Tom and Mia 2009|
In 2010, as our real estate office was in a transition period switching brands. Our broker Larry took a poll on what real estate company we should align with among several he was considering and I voted for Real Living, reasoning the name aligned with the direction real estate needed to be going: focusing on accommodating the needs of REAL people because that is what being a good real estate agency does. Real Living Gateway Real Estate is what we are to this day.
In 2012, I was invited to take part in an advocacy training program called Partners in Policymaking. It was there I learned about the brilliant but simple concept I had been seeking all along: Universal Design, where thoughtful planning meets function AND aesthetics.
|Time well spent. Please check into it.|
|An important message.|
|Tom, Amy and Mia April 2017|
Now, almost three years later, we are ready to show off the inside. Influenced by a lifetime spent visiting an antique clubhouse that my mom's side of the family shares, it's a rustic gallery of sorts and furnished with items collected from my real estate travels and life in general. As my first official universal design project, it is the headquarters of our social enterprise, providing us a legitimate base from which to expand our current portfolio of related projects--all focused on social change through the arts, culture and active living. All of these projects stemmed from our first project, Helping Kids Together, which was started when Mia was in elementary school as a way to bridge social gaps between kids with and without disabilities. Marketed as 309 elm, Arnold House provides a unique stage for us to produce pop-up events in addition to being offered for rent to groups for private events and meetings. All of these uses will provide revenue streams to keep the preservation of Arnold House going forward while helping us raise awareness of the importance of inclusion through our business activities and ultimately, help kids together.
In totality the rehab of Arnold House is not yet finished because now that the inside is ready, we need to tackle Phase II. Being able to move about freely on the inside of a building is useless if people can't get in or out of it safely and with dignity. Phase II encompasses the hard and landscaping portions of the property as well as other improvements that will allow us to expand our range of services offered to the public. I created the piece below to help those who assist with Phase II understand my plans for this property and see the issues that need to be corrected in the process of making the improvements.
|Amy & Mia, planning flower beds on Easter 2017|
April 18, 2017