The Community Courtyard has a rich history in Plattsburg, which continues to this day, as it serves as the go-to venue for many of the community's organization. (Above) The Community Courtyard serves as host to the Plattsburg Artist Coalition's annual art show last November.
BY STEVE TINNEN
THE CLINTON COUNTY LEADER
Not all ideas turn out to be what they were first intended to be.
That’s the thread in what is one of Plattsburg’s most essential and historic buildings – the Community Courtyard, conveniently located at the corner of Second Street and Maple Street in downtown Plattsburg.
It might be a surprise to many that the courtyard will be celebrating 25 years of service to the organizations and individuals who have enjoyed its welcoming, renovated, spacious confines. The milestone will be ushered in with a special meeting on Thursday, May 19, at 7 p.m.
Dr. James Hobbs, who has served as president of the Courtyard board, said this meeting is not a plea for money, but rather for guidance and ideas as they move forward. He and his wife, Grace, have served on the committee since its inception.
“I guess you could say we are forever members,” laughed Hobbs as he and Grace talked about their involvement. “We, along with many others, including some who moved from Plattsburg a long time ago, have donated time and resources to make this building what is has become – a vital part of life in Plattsburg.”
Grace said they were members of the former Friends of the Library group. The initial focus for the building was to be a permanent space for the Martha Haines-Luckenbill Library. When the library district failed at the ballot box, the focus changed to offer space for the youth of the community.
The Friends of the Library sought funding through the State of Missouri’s Neighborhood Assistance Program in 1994. This provided tax incentives, which reached a robust 70-percent tax credit. The Friends also received a substantial gift of Enron stock from a former resident, which gave the group an important one-time boost at a formative time.
“The blessing of getting that stock and selling of that stock before it collapsed got us off the ground,” said Jim.
Without a doubt, the blessings and charmed life of the building is part of its history. The Community Courtyard traces its history back to the 1850s, when the two-story brick building was the home for a carriage works and livery stable business. Over the years, it became the site of the Chicago Skate roller skate factory, an auto dealership, and a cabinet shop.
Before the formation of the Friends of the Library, the building was not on sound footing during the 1980s, and its value was diminished. Its fortunes changed when Jim Patrico and his wife, Suzanne, moved to Plattsburg in 1988. Their entrepreneurial spirit led them to purchase the building for what seemed like a very reasonable price of $35,000. Patrico said that, initially, the chances of the building being a success seemed distant. That's when the idea arose for it to be the permanent home for the Martha Haines-Luckenbill Library. It was great in theory, but voter approval was needed to form a library district and fund the operation.
When the initiative failed, the gears needed to be shifted to a new direction for what the 12,000 square spaces would become.
Once the Neighborhood Assistance Program became the financial vehicle, money became available to begin renovations. Jim Hartzell of Hartzell and Sons Construction joined with volunteer crews from Hallmark Cards to complete the needed renovations. Two years of renovation converted the space into an upgraded community center with a roomy, two-story atrium, a wide-open second floor, and meeting rooms and a courtyard on the first floor.
The board in 2001 changed the not-for-profit organization’s name to the Community Courtyard. Since that time, they have installed a second-floor kitchen, an elevator and added cosmetic features.
Over the years, the courtyard has also served as the home base for many community efforts, including the Clinton County Genealogical Society, GED classes, alcohol and drug rehabilitation classes, youth activities, public meetings, art fairs, baby contests and community dances. The Community Courtyard has hosted events for the Fall Festival, economic development groups and other organizations.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the venue saw an uptick in weddings. Tracy Pincus, who began as manager of the courtyard in 2015, believes that it has a bright future as a wedding venue.
“We are able to accommodate the brides with a newly-remodeled dressing room,” said Pincus. “With the help of Jan Schwarz, we transformed the space into a nice dressing room. Weddings are a higher-ticket item, but we offer a do-it-yourself option or a turn-key pricing for wedding planning.”
Pincus stressed that the venue will continue to rent space for affordable prices to accommodate the community residents and organizations.
“We know that our local people count on us, and we are there for them,” she said. “We continue to put money back into our community and we partner with local organizations, as well.”
Jim and Grace Hobbs both echoed that sentiment, which has been the building's driving force throughout the years.
“We are hoping for a good turnout for the community meeting on May 19,” they said. “We need fresh ideas and new people to take an active role in planning the future for one of Plattsburg’s most precious assets. We love the building and its history. And we want it to continue.”
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