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Stately house at 3200 St. Mary's Avenue a home for generations of Hannibal families

Cutline: 8 below - but sleighing's fine. Taken on the northeast corner of Hubbard at 3200 St. Mary's Ave. This photo was originally contributed by Mary Kelso, and is now part of the Hannibal Arts Council's Hannibal as History collection.


Dr. Andrew J. Detweiler, a practicing physician in Hannibal, made a call to Dr. William Perry Birney of Center, Mo., in early April 1919.

Dr. Detweiler was leaving Hannibal immediately, and called Dr. Birney to ask if he would step up and fulfill the responsibility of caring for his Hannibal patients.

Dr. Birney subsequently purchased Dr. Detweiler’s medical practice and office, located at 522 Broadway. Health issues prevented Dr. Birney’s wife, Bess, and their two young children from moving to Hannibal immediately, but soon they would all call Hannibal home.

The Birneys settled into a large house with the wrap-around porch, located on the northeast corner of St. Mary’s Avenue and Hubbard Street. Bess Birney wrote of this house in her journal.

“On May 24, 1919, we moved to Hannibal. A beautiful house. Dr.’s practice grew, we paid for our home and loved a five years stay there.”

While at this location, the family formed a fast friendship with the Hal Frazer family living two doors to the north on St. Mary’s Avenue. Hal Frazer, a professional photographer, created a number of portraits of the Birney family, which still exist in history archives.

While both the house and neighbors were to the Birney family’s liking, the house was still located a full two miles from Dr. Birney’s office on Broadway.

“Many times he was called back to the office after getting home,” Bess Birney wrote, and that long commute convinced him that they needed to move downtown.

So the family moved again, this time on Feb. 19, 1924, into the former John H. Garth residence, located at 213 S. Fifth.

The Dreyers

Sue Hart of Hannibal remembers Dreyer Cleaners, which was located at 2905-07 St. Mary’s Avenue in the late 1930s into the 1940 and 1950s. Her parents utilized this dry cleaning business, located in the building next door to the north to what is Dr. Bill Esicar’s office in 2015.

After the Birney family vacated their home at 3200 St. Mary’s Avenue, the extended Dreyer family moved into the stately house. The family included John B. and Mary J. Dreyer, natives of Germany, and their sons, Clarence F. (born 1899) and Norman J. Dreyer (born 1896). John B. Dreyer, the head of the family, was a carpenter at a planing mill in 1900.

Early on, Clarence F. Dreyer worked as a chauffer for Cosgrove Cleaning and Dye Works; and Norman J. Dreyer, worked as a chauffer for Hannibal Wood Working Co.

In 1929, son Clarence F. was working as a cleaner for Strong Cleaning Co. on Broadway in downtown Hannibal. A year later, the 1930 census lists Clarence as a cleaning industry employee, and his brother Norman and brother-in-law, Jack J. Cosgrove, as dry cleaning equipment salesmen. Cosgrove was married to Clarence and Norman’s sister, Edna Dreyer Cosgrove. She was employed as a telephone operator in 1910. This large family lived together under the collective roof at 3000 St. Mary’s Avenue.

By the 1940s, the Dreyer brothers were operating separate businesses, one downtown and the other at 2905 St. Mary’s Ave., and had moved from their old family home on St. Mary’s Avenue.

1940: Norman J. Dreyer, a presser for cleaning and pressing estate, lived at 224 Shepherd Place, married to Ethel R. Dreyer. In 1957 he owned a clothes cleaners at 609 Broadway.

1940: Clarence F. Dreyer, wife Lione, owned Dreyer Cleaners at 2905 St. Mary’s Avenue, and they made their home at 4074 Hillside. 1957: Lione was a saleswoman for the Famous.

Others who lived at 3200 St. Mary’s Ave.

Hannibal city directories, accessed via the Hannibal Free Public Library’s digital collection, identifies the following people who once lived at 3200 St. Mary’s Avenue:

1916: Maurice R. (Minnie) Velie, carpenter, residence 3200 St. Mary’s Avenue

1918: LeRoy R. Carlile, U.S. Army, residence 3200 St. Mary’s Avenue; Miss Willa stenog C. Rendlen, residence 3000 St. Mary’s Ave.

1920: Miss Toleta Fanning, student, 3200 St. Mary’s Ave.

1920: Wm. P. (Elizabeth E) Birney, physician, r. 3200 St. Mary’s

1923: Dr. Wm. P. (Elizabeth) physician, dau. E. Caroline Birney, 3200 St. Mary’s Ave.

1929, Clarence F. was a cleaner for Strong Cleaning Co., lived with his parents at 3200 St. Mary’s Ave.

1937: Mary Dreyer, widow of Clarence, at 3200 St. Mary’s Ave.

Mary Lou Montgomery is a writer, speaker and researcher with a specialty in history. She is the former editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post.

Read more about Dr. Birney by clicking here.

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