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Sunday, Apr. 26, 2015

Casino discussion continues Thursday

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

(Photo)
The view of the Monett City Park Casino shows how the grounds of the park have been filled with trees over the years. The casino is more hidden than it was originally but still represents a cozy place where hundreds of gatherings are held every year. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
The Monett City Council will continue their discussion with architect Richard Werner about the future of the City Park Casino this Thursday. Werner and his firm, Werner and Associates, have been hired to create a master plan for the future of the popular gathering place.

"I have some rough ideas on what may be possible," said Werner. "We're at the very beginnings of the study."

The casino building that the city is now studying opened on Aug. 24, 1926. According to an account published in The Monett Times on May 26, 1926, the building was built as economically as possible at the time.

"ME Gillioz, the contractor, has undertaken the work at practically no profit," the newspaper article reads. "The local lumber dealers are furnishing the material at a very low cost and much of the labor is being done by the city employees on regular salary. In this way a really creditable building will be constructed at a minimum of cost."

The story of the casino opening recounted how nearly 100 couples took part in a serpentine dance around the auditorium while Johnnie Underwood's Orchestra played from the stage.

"Back in that point in time," Werner said, "a lot of buildings were being built. Not a lot had historical significance. I think the casino has more of a sense of place and emotional attachment than historical significance. I don't mean that in a bad way."

According to City Administrator Dennis Pyle, many people suggested tearing the building down when the topic of seriously renovating the casino was announced. Demolition has never been considered by council members, Pyle said. Werner said he was directed to find ways to make the building work better and to make improvements.

"We were not hired to be a structural engineer," Werner said. "At some point it would be good to have a structural engineer look at the roof. The roof has sagged a little. There are some cracks in the foundation. There is no differential settlement to lead me to think it's unsafe. In my opinion it's tired but a good building."

Talks with the Monett Chamber of Commerce about improving the casino identified a community need for a hall that would seat at least 400 people for a public function. Werner said his goal is to make the current building work better by utilizing its space better.

For example, Werner plans to suggest flipping the restrooms and the kitchen. Making the restrooms more handicapped accessible is also a priority. Werner said a smaller warming kitchen seems more in line with the needs of today's users than the full kitchen presently in place.

"We plan to maintain the look on the outside," Werner said. "We can use building materials that hold up better, like cement boards that look the same. The council asked me to look at adding on. We'll have some ideas to share. What they do depends on how much they want to spend."

One of the options Werner likes is adding another porch on the south side of the building, like the one on the west side. Adding insulation may help the energy efficiency. Other repairs may be needed, such as exploring the plaster that has fallen behind the dropped ceiling.

Pyle said council members are looking for ideas that could be incorporated as money becomes available.

"There needs to be a master plan," Werner said. "I think the city is trying to do the most they can with what they've got."

The casino was built at a time when civic activity was at a high point.

In the first half of 1926, a golf club was organized and quickly moved to buy property to establish a golf course. A committee was organized to place items in the new city park. Another committee was organized to establish a public library. The Ozark Fruit Growers Association building on Bond between Fourth and Fifth streets opened, and local sportsmen spawned 1,000 bass in the new city park lake.

The casino was a hit from its very first day. The Times reported on Aug. 25, 1926, that "The building is already becoming a social center for Monett and vicinity. Dances are being held each Thursday and Saturday nights. Important society events will be held in the casino Thursday and Friday afternoons."

No explanation was published about choosing the name "casino," which was used from the first story detailing its construction. Tomorrow's meeting to discuss plans for the casino will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the conference room at Monett City Hall. It is open to the public.

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The Monett City Park Casino received the following description in the Aug. 25, 1926 issue of The Times:

"The casino is an attractive building located at the crest of the hill in Monett Park overlooking the town. It is irregular in shape to conform to the contour of the hill. The main part of the building is a wide siding painted white and the lounge room is of white stucco. French doors are used for the openings throughout the building and the numerous windows provide light and ventilation. The floors are of hard wood. The rooms are plastered and have beamed ceilings. The woodwork is beautifully finished.

"The main room is on the east side of the building and is 40 by 64 feet in size. A stage 12 by 26 feet in size occupies the east end of the room.

"A central hall 16 by 40 feet extends through the building. A portico with native stone foundation is on the north side of the hall and a high flag pole occupies the center from which Old Glory can be seen from all the country round. Another porch is on the south side of the hall and from this a wide concrete walk leads through an avenue of trees toward the hill which overlooks the swimming pool.

"The lounge room is on the west wide of the building and a colonial porch with concrete pillars is over the west entrance. This room is 22 by 40 feet in size and will be used for entertaining. Off the lounge room is a kitchenette for convenience in serving and a check room."



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