A crossroads of business
in downtown Springfield.
In 1910, H.B McDaniel, a well-known banker in southwest Missouri, chose downtown Springfield for his first building development. Securing space between the Sansone and Colonial hotels, he worked to create a ‘fine business block’ there. Soon, the Caldwell & Drake construction firm would raze the site and begin building what—one year later, in 1912—would open to the public as the McDaniel Building. It brought 5 stories of office space along with commercial storefronts on the main level to Park Central East.
A place of work, but also
a point of connection.
The building was a success, and ownership soon moved to local civic leader Dorsey Heer, whose Heer & Andres Investment Co. oversaw extensive downtown development in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. Part of this was a redesign to the exterior of the McDaniel Building in 1961. Heer worked with architect Joe Amsbacher to incorporate brightly colored buff brick faces and to add a ‘curtain’ facade—creating a bold statement of mid-century modernism on Route 66.
McDaniel was more than just ‘offices’, though—workers, shop owners, locals and travelers all congregated there. Beginning in 1929, O.H. Kerkenmeyer worked as a barber in the building, and his patrons counted M.E. Gillioz (theatre owner), Arch Watson (Newspaper publisher) and Ralph Foster (radio broadcaster) to name a few. Warren Hickman’s lunch counter delivered meals to the offices throughout the building—but was also the place for some homemade pie, an ice cold soda or simply to sit and converse. The ground floor really was a forum, for discussions of politics and culture between old friends and new acquaintances alike.
After dormant period in the 2000’s, 318 Park Central East continues its role as a place for people and ideas. Now known as ‘The U’, its the professional-focused piece of the Park East neighborhood, and brings thought, energy and passion to downtown Springfield once again.
The McDaniel Building is recognized on the Registry of National Historic Places.