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University of Missouri

Boone County Bedrock

One of Columbia’s oldest buildings will remain standing.

Niedermeyer building

The Niedermeyer apartment building is one of the oldest buildings in Boone County. Owner Nakhle Asmar plans to increase the number of units from 32 to nearly 50 through more efficient use of space. The photo was taken from 10th and Cherry streets looking west, with the Tiger Hotel in the background.

If you have socialized atop Harpo’s at the corner of 10th and Cherry streets, you’re likely aware of the Niedermeyer building to the south. What you might not know is part of the white-and-green structure predates nearly all other Boone County buildings — even Mizzou’s.

The first section of what is now a 27,500-square-foot structure was built in 1837 to house the Columbia Female Academy, a precursor to Stephens College. Since then, it has been a hotel, an apartment complex and home to the University of Missouri’s former home economics department.

The building’s namesake is Frederick Niedermeyer, the owner who leased part of the hotel to MU in the early 1900s. More recent owners, Collegiate Housing Partners, had planned to raze the Niedermeyer and construct a 15-story apartment building. But when the news broke, a petition to save the historic building emerged from a local group, joined by the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission and Elizabeth Gentry Sayad, great-great-granddaughter of Gen. Richard Gentry, widely considered to be the founder of the city of Columbia.

Nakhle Asmar, an MU math professor, stepped forward to purchase the property in March, and the CoMo classic was saved.

“As big as it is, it sits here quietly,” Asmar says. “The foundation is impressive. You know the expression solid as a rock? Well, it is a rock.”

Living in the Niedermeyer is inexpensive compared to the flashy new apartments trending downtown. The most expensive of the 32 units is $600 a month, including utilities. Asmar is refurbishing the infrastructure, and he plans to rebuild the Niedermeyer’s signature porch and spruce up the interior courtyard behind Booche’s — another landmark — by summer’s end.

“You hang around here long enough and you get attached to it,” Asmar says. “It’s a beautiful building. It just needs a little TLC.”