To be announced
AiP is actively seeking sponsors. Join us in saving this grand Italianate house, from corbels to stenciling.
The Cracker House Project
The Cracker House Project is a certified 501 (c) (3), not-for-profit organization, comprised of a group of local volunteers, whose goal is to save this remarkable piece of historic Main Street in St Joseph MO. Their success will support ongoing revitalization efforts underway in the downtown and surrounding districts.
Dorm | US$745 per week
B&B | DBL US$910 | SGL + US$300 per week
If you are fundraising for your trip and would like a breakdown of costs, contact AiP.
Discounts! Past participants always receive a discounted tour fee
Check out AiP's Loyalty Program
Additional Cost Information
All prices are per person per week.
Your fee includes:
- Ground transportation between airport and lodging
- Lodging during your session
- Breakfasts, lunches and 1 dinner
- Excursions during your trip dates
- Instruction from on-site experts
All participants are responsible for:
- Travel to St. Joseph, MO or Kansas City airport
- Visa if required
- Most dinners
- Trip insurance is highly recommended
Save the Crumbling Cracker House
Date: May 28 – June 3, 2017; June 4-10, 2017
Gain practical preservation skills while you help the Cracker House Project save an Italianate gem. Several scholarships available.
Restore a Representative of US Westward Expansion
St. Joseph, Missouri was the starting point for the Pony Express, a stop on the underground railroad, the end of the line for Jesse James, and, believe it or not, the home of the Premium Saltine Cracker. Located on the Missouri River, St. Joe was founded in 1843 as a bustling outpost and rough frontier town, and launched hundreds of pioneers heading west.
Money could be made in this western outpost, and the vast wealth generated by the city’s manufacturing and wholesale trade can still be seen today in the city’s extraordinary, and eclectic, collection of grand houses.
Frank L. Sommer moved to St. Joseph in 1869 and apprenticed as a baker, making hard tack. He was let go for experimenting with the recipe and founded his own bakery in 1873. In 1876, Sommer received the Blue Ribbon of Excellence for his “Premium” Soda Cracker at the Buchanan County Fair. This saltine cracker became a staple for western pioneers and for Americans through the years.
By 1880, the F.L. Sommer & Co Cracker Manufacturers was doing $400,000 in business and employed 100 people. This allowed Sommer to purchase one of St. Joseph’s grand houses, an Italianate wonder believed to be designed by renowned architect E.J. Eckel c.1850, now affectionately known as the Cracker House.
Sommer House – Project and Need
Sommer helped create the company we now know as Nabisco; his factory has been maintained and remains in use. His house, however, was left to deteriorate, and in 2012 was placed at the top of the 10 most endangered historic buildings list in the state of Missouri.
A group of St. Joseph residents formed the The Cracker House Project in an effort to save and restore this remarkable house, which was slated for demolition. In September 2016, the Cracker House Project will replace the partially collapsed roof with a new roof, paving the way for conservation work to begin in 2017.
The house is known to have a tunnel used to transport supplies from the river, and a mosaic floor yet to be uncovered; searching for them will be an adventure for anyone joining AiP for this project.
Getting my hands dirty at work was great! I also enjoyed the off-site activities. – Maria Pastor, Kulla Conservation Project, Kosovo 2016
How You’ll Help
The Sommer house is located in an impoverished neighborhood, just blocks from the downtown district currently experiencing a revival. The Cracker House Project plans to re-purpose the home for small businesses as well as create space for community gatherings. The time is now and AiP jammers can make a huge impact by helping save this historic house and revitalize a neighborhood.
The Cracker House project is still early in the preservation process, so exact work will be finalized as the project date approaches. There is much to be done! Hands-on work will include some of the following tasks:
- Replicating and replacing missing corbels
- Restoring wood windows
- Repairing and restoring decorative wood trim
- Uncovering and re-laying historic herringbone sidewalk
There is also a chance we will have the equipment needed to undertake initial inspection of the partially collapsed transport tunnel. We may also be able to start conservation work on some of the many plaster walls covered with decorative stenciling. Work that isn’t completed in 2017 will be put on the list for 2018. Join us for a week each year, and follow the project from beginning to end!
Cracker House project work will begin each day at 9am, after a leisurely breakfast, with a discussion of the day’s tasks and demonstration of skills as needed. During the week, you’ll have the opportunity to learn the hands-on skills required for several different tasks. There is an hour lunch break; work ends about 5pm. A detailed schedule will be provided after registration.
Each adventure in preservation includes time to explore local history and heritage. Cracker House project excursions will include visits to the Pony Express Museum and the home of Jesse James. We will also tour one or more of the city’s beautifully restored historic mansions and leave plenty of time to explore parks with breathtaking views of the Missouri River and a walking trail known as Riverfront Park.
I like the fieldtrips and getting to know the local area – I think it definitely puts the project in perspective. – Caroline Dudkowski, Archaeology at Fairfield Project, Gloucester, Virginia 2016
Lodging and Meals
There are two options for lodging – a less expensive stay in Missouri Western State University dorm; or a very well priced stay at the elegant Whiskey Mansion B&B. Those staying at the dorm will have transportation provided to and from the work site each day. In the dorm, you may choose to have a single room or share a room with a friend.
Breakfast is provided at the B&B; for those staying in the dorm, breakfast will be provided at the Sommer house. Lunch will be a picnic on-site or catered at a nearby location if we need a break from the heat. Sunday evening, Cracker House Project supporters will host a cookout and yard party for jammers at the Sommer House. The other evenings, we will explore some of the many local options and usually eat as a group.
Your project fee covers lodging, either at the B&B or the dorm; breakfasts, lunches and one dinner; excursions; and instruction and materials.
Community members are helping provide several scholarships by offering lodging in their homes. This will eliminate the cost of lodging for those receiving scholarships. If you need a scholarship in order to attend, please email AiP.
If flying to the project, the nearest airport is the Kansas City International Airport. Rental cars are available at the airport for those interested in having their own car. Airport pickup and drop off will be arranged upon registration for those not wishing to rent a car. Drive time from Kansas City to St. Joseph is about 1 hour.
High temperatures the end of May/early June range from high 70s F to high 80s F, and lows range from the upper 50s F to mid-60s F. Bring clothing that is appropriate for the temperatures and also protective while working. Bring sturdy shoes for working.
If you would like assistance with travel arrangements, contact Peace Frogs Travel/Outfitters, AiP’s partnering travel agency.
If you have any questions or would like to chat with an AiP staff member about joining this cultural heritage experience, contact us at email@example.com or call us at +1 303-444-0128.