At the turn of the Twentieth Century, most buildings in Springfield, Missouri weren’t more than 4 or 5 stories high at the most. So, when the Woodruff Building opened in 1911—it was quite a big deal (no pun intended). Developed by John T. Woodruff (the man behind the Kentwood Arms and Colonial Hotels, too) and designed by Frank W. Hunt, the ten story structure was christened ‘Springfield’s first Skyscraper’. Almost overnight, it became a landmark of both Springfield’s downtown as well as it’s skyline.
The building was an impressive sight: an ornate brick exterior and an interior of Italian marble and intricate tile detailing. Originally built to house businesses, for several decades the Woodruff Building’s main tenants centered around law. Many attorneys set up their practice here, and the entire top floor was home to the Missouri Court of Appeals.
The post-WW II boom and expansion of Route 66 nationwide (which John Woodruff helped create and bring through Springfield), helped launch the concept of ‘modernization’ in all things: cars, fashion, furniture and even buildings. It’s within this time period that the Woodruff Building saw its first substantial ‘makeover’. First, an expansion added 20,000 sq ft to the west side of the building. Then, embracing modernism, the top parapet cap was removed and the entire exterior clad in sleek, blue porcelain panels.
Over the next 60 years, the Woodruff building remained a visual mainstay of downtown, though fewer and fewer tenants remained—portions of the property even falling into decline.
In 2014, the Vecino Group—with a goal of again creating a meaningful corner of downtown, acquired the Woodruff Building. As ‘Sky Eleven’ (an homage to its original nickname and birth year) it is a key part of the Park East neighborhood—and once again a vibrant part of Springfield. Click HERE to learn how to live in this historic place!
The Woodruff Building is recognized on the Registry of National Historic Places.