Whiteman preserves Buente Town heritageby Matt Bird-Meyer
The Free Press
"The only remaining evidence of Buente Town in Warrensburg is James and Irene Whiteman's 1889 house on the corner of South Maguire and Jackson streets.
"The university wiped away all other traces of Buente Town (pronounced Benny) when it bulldozed the strip center in front of the Foster Knox apartments, next door to the new Campus Cafe along South Maguire." The site is now a parking lot.
The sturdy, two-inch-thick redwood sign set up next to James Whiteman’s screened-in front porch at 611 S. Maguire is a small memorial to the history of the 113-year-old house, built by itinerant Italian workers and later owned by the Buente family.
Whiteman's family moved into the house in 1932 and after his parents died, James Whiteman bought the house. He also bought the gray house directly behind the Buente home, connecting the two with a narrow hallway. "People always ask, 'What do you do with so much space?"" said Irene, 80. "I tell them we live all over the house."
And this is certainly true. Most of the rooms in the house are filled with quilts, interesting antique furniture paintings, and cases filled with imported wine glasses and handcrafted plates.
The entire block from Clark Street to the area of the pedestrian overpass over Maguire was known as Buente Town. Whiteman, 79, remembers clearly when this area was a thriving business district that was packed with three or four grocery stores, filling stations, two restaurants, a barbershop with a beauty shop in the back, a cleaning service, and a bowling alley (Plaza Bowl).
He remembers when there was an alley north of Clark Street before the university had buildings there. The alley was lined with a sandwich shop on one side and a shoe repair shop on the other.
An apartment complex took the place of four homes across the street where Sterling "used to live, he said. At this day and age, you just have to accept change," Whiteman said. "That's the way life is. I try not to worry about things I can't change anyway."
Inside his family home, Whiteman has a framed a newspaper clipping describing the history of the Buente family and the home they built. Below it is an old panoramic picture of Central Missouri State University before the fire (1915) and another panoramic picture of Warrensburg when Railroad Street was lined with half a dozen mule barns.
The inside of both houses in general is full of memories and a rich history. Every piece of old, well-kept furniture has a story. The walls are lined with what appears to be hundreds of original Masonite paintings by former local artist Clara Porter Brierly. One wall features a series of painting Brierly made of Pertle Springs, one of
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"SEPTEMBER 26 - OCTOBER 9, 2002" The Free Press
which describes an encounter she had at the springs when she happened upon a pair of peacocks roosting in the trees.
His father, Clarence Whiteman, is listed in the Athletic Hall of Fame at Central for his time as a football player and coach. Clarence was captain of the Mules from 1923-26 and was a coach and physical education teacher from 1926 until he died in 1967.
Whiteman's son, James R. Whiteman II, has since taken over his father's dentistry practice in Warrensburg.
And on most good days, passers-by may catch a glimpse of Whiteman relaxing on his front porch. "I'll keep it in the family as long as I'm around, I guess," he said of the Buente house. ''We love the old house.''