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River City Restorations leaves behind a legacy for the future



Jeff Trevathan, left, and Scott Meyer are pictured on the front porch of the Ely, Cary and Welch Law Firm, 1000 Center St. Contributed photo.




MARY LOU MONTGOMERY


Scott Meyer is a quiet spoken man with a healthy respect for the foundation built by his ancestors. Now retired, his legacy won’t be the words he spoke during his lifetime, but rather the historic structures River City Restorations preserved for generations to come.


A plethora of restoration projects serve as testimony to the pain-staking work accomplished on behalf of the company that he co-founded with Jeff Trevathan when they were young men, not long out of college: River City Restorations.


Now, four decades later, Scott and his wife, Jean, have closed the doors to the business, putting the motto of “doing things right the first time” on the shelf.


“We closed River City in January 2023, after 43 years,” Scott said. “We had considered selling the business, but the more we thought about it, the business is 90 percent my knowledge and Jean’s knowledge. Were we willing to take a chance on somebody else, not being able to stay up to our standards?”


A year later, they have no regrets.


“I don’t mind NOT being called late at night with a project or by an owner,” Scott said. “The company served its useful life. People that worked for us are continuing out on their own. Nobody else has started a business quite like we did. Not that I’m aware of, anyway.”


River City Restorations had its own unique path into existence.


After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a degree in accounting, Scott lived in Salt Lake City for awhile. “One of the jobs I picked up on was a couple of painters who’d migrated from California. They were doing a lot of work on historic homes in a historic district of Salt Lake City, and they made a lot of money. That was one thing that was in the back of my mind. The other thing, I just started putting two and two together. I liked Hannibal, and didn’t mind moving back. But I also knew that there wasn’t anything (in Hannibal) I wanted to do (working) for anyone else.


“Jean and I bought our first house downtown, on South Seventh. Jeff and Kristy Trevathan bought an historic house on Center Street.


“I had known Jeff for most of my life, and we were good friends with Kristy, his wife. We both had similar projects in front of us.


“Jeff and I both saw an opportunity to go into business together. We were both comfortable with it, it’s a big thing to bite off and chew. Jeff was project manager on-site.”


Scott, on the other hand, was developing a scope of work for clients. “It varied project to project, maybe a kitchen project or a bath project. People wanted to do the entire house; what we did is give them a solution and a plan of attack for dealing with restoring historic homes.


“There was a real need for people with tradesman background, painters, carpenters, companies to provide an entire service, turn key,” Scott said. “That was the start of River City Restorations. We could handle the entire project start to finish. Every historic structure has to have a pretty vital function in a new economy. Using all those things, reusing buildings, how to take care of them, understanding that everybody has budgets, historic homes are big projects, and there are so many things to do.”


One of their first major projects was a dilapidated old house at 1000 Center St., which the two couples purchased.


“It was an abandoned house, painted gray,” Scott said. “We named it ‘rock slide’ instead of Rockcliffe.”


“When we bought the building it was cobbled up into 10 apartments with exposed wiring. It was a mess,” Jean said. 


“We held onto the house,” Scott said. “Joe Welch and Jim Cary approached us about turning it into their law office,” Scott said. “We came up with a good plan of attack. We did a complete exterior restoration, fabricated new cresting, iron railing, and stripped away the gray paint.


“Inside was quite the project, restoring all the rooms to office-level finishes, respecting the nature of the house.”


River City Restorations restored the staircase, spindles, balusters, the plaster moulding, the historic plaster, all the flooring, doors, windows, fireplace mantles. The whole nine yards,” Scott said. “It turned out quite a success. It is a unique office environment; not your normal 8x10 office space. That’s the foundation in being able to to reuse historic buildings - Finding compatible uses for different lifestyles, families and/or businesses.”


"It probably took pretty much nine months to a year on the major scope of work,” Scott said,  “that included Joe and Jim’s offices, the front hallway area and stairwell.


Later, they did the parlor, the dining room, and eventually went up and started doing second floor spaces for their law libraries and for additional office space for the law practice.


“A lot of the work phased in over several years,” Scott said.


After that, River City Restorations went to Palmyra, creating a dental office for Dr. Tom Lemons. “That was quite an unusual project for a dentist,” Scott said. “Dental offices are typically antiseptic and small; here was Tom in an Italianate two-story brick house in Palmyra. People thought he was crazy, but it ended being a wonderful office space for him. We made use of all the tall windows, keeping the entire inside space warm and inviting. It didn’t feel like you were in a dentist’s office. One of the big parlors became a reception room and a nice waiting room as well.


“We did another doctor’s office for Drs. Avila in Palmyra. It was an earlier vernacular Italian, brick. It was an interesting project, because (the house) was so much older. The brick was a lot frailer, the interior was in disarray.


“We did quite a few residential projects in Palmyra,” he said, and also did major rehab projects in Hannibal.


“Historic districts were being certified by each state, through a fairly rigorous set of steps, based upon a neighborhood and the age of the homes. We were able to use that historic district outline” showing that the historic area “is a special place to live and buy a house.”


Source of pride

“One of the projects I’m most proud of,” Scott said, “is the Early Greek Revival brick house on North Fourth, which was owned by Donna Setterberg. That project, the house was really frail. The project entailed porch reconstruction, attention to early masonry techniques, and the built-in gutters.


"The two-story porches were in average shape, but there was enough millwork and railing materials left to reconstruct the porches in back,” Scott said. “We stripped the paint, and repointed all brick in the house. The attention we took in tuck pointing historic brick homes is a work of art. Anyone who has seen a conclave trowel knows the difference between an ugly tuck pointing job. We literally edged each and every brick, which creates a soft, soft, look on historic brick. 

“Attention to details, that's what River City was known for."


In 1984, RCR took on the Pilaster House project of restoring the site grade, foundation reconstruction, sill plate replacement, redesign of curbing, installation of base brick sidewalk and building stone transition steps.


“One of my favorite projects was the Pilaster House on Main Street, part of Mark Twain Home complex. Over the years they raised the sidewalk so much going up hill, that the sidewalk actually covered the stone foundation and the back corner of interior framing of the house.


“We made a recommendation about the need to lower the sidewalk and restore the foundation, including all the rotten framing in back corner,” Scott said.


Lincoln project

In the late 1980s, the National Park Service was talking about restoring Abraham Lincoln’s Home in Springfield, Ill., “The only home he ever both owned and lived in. Basically, the National Park Service put out requests for proposals. They were not necessarily looking for the lowest bidder, they were looking for somebody who understood the nature of historic preservation.”


River City Restorations put in a proposal to restore the house. “We were on the short list of four or five firms nationally. Five people came to Hannibal, and looked at our historic restoration projects.


“The homes we had worked on had similar components to the Lincoln home: masonry, structural framing, original wood floors, original trim and windows, sashes and weight pockets, things that allowed historic windows to go up and down. Shingled roofs and built-in gutters and cedar shake siding, we had good examples of everything needed to be done on the Lincoln oHme. We had a lot of that to show the park service, and that is what they were looking for.”


River City Restorations was ultimately chosen for the Lincoln Home project.


“We ended up at one point we had about 18 people working for us during the Lincoln Home project; a lot were back in Hannibal, I spent my time back and forth, back and forth. Jeff spent the whole time in Springfield,” Scott said. “Jim Patterson kept care of things when we were both gone. We kept both ends of the company going; we also had lots of clients in Quincy and Hannibal.


“One of the things that helped us the most,” he said, “we had probably five or six guys that were involved with us from the beginning, and ended up being life-long employees. We couldn’t have run a business without these key employees.


“Two of those employees are Jim Mosely and Darrell Hayden.

“Dave Borden, he was quite the character. Hardest worker you ever want to meet.

“Brothers, Tom and Jimmy Eddy, they were with us for awhile, during the Lincoln Home project. They were the kind of guys we could work together with on a project. They are two good guys who are competent and fun to be around.

“That’s one thing about the construction business, if you can’t have fun doing it, it’s a pretty boring life,” Scott said.


Illness intercedes

Jeff Trevathan phased out of the business because of illness, about three or four years before he succumbed to cancer in April 2020.


“That was bittersweet, him not being able to come down to work,” Scott said. “The best times of the day for everybody who worked at River City Restorations was spending the first half hour of the day drinking coffee. Jeff was the ringleader, keeping everything light and fun. He was the good cop; I was the bad cop.”


Affiliations

Scott’s involvement in local, statewide and National Trust. Local Community/Revitalization was important to his roots.


He served as president and board member for the Missouri Heritage Trust.


“I was on the board for quite a few years, then ended up becoming state president,” he said. For nine years, he was on the board of advisors for the National Trust For Historic Preservation. “Each state had two advisors,” he said. He served with Bill Brunning, an attorney from Kansas City.

Scott also worked on numerous projects and consulting, generally within 60 mile radius of Hannibal. 


His past affiliations include: Advisor for the National Trust for Historic Preservation; Past President and Board Member - Missouri Heritage Trust;

Helped develop Hannibal’s Main Street Program;

He helped with legwork and gathering historic data for the Historic District Nominations in Hannibal; and was

Fourth Generation to serve as President Hannibal Chamber.

Community Organizations: Hannibal Arts Council and Hannibal Y-Mens. Coached not only historic preservationists, but all three of his children’s sports affiliations.


Retirement

While Scott is no longer actively involved in the business, he finds plenty to do.

“Jean and I purchased the old Fette Orchard, the 1870 house and 1850 timber frame barn, the garage add ons and the concrete block storage. We have an historic site that is more than enough to keep me fresh, with maintenance and keeping up everything required in a historic home. We were fortunate to be able to purchase it at auction; we enjoy being stewards of this property for our lifetime, and hopefully our families in generations to come. It’s kind of a legacy. We like living in historic places.

“Places matter.”




David Anderson made a line drawing of the Pilaster House when he worked for RCR as a teenager. Contributed




The Setterberg house, during the restoration process. Note how the brickwork rises above the roofline. Contributed photo




As a young entrepreneur, Scott Meyer is pictured working on a chimney in Florida, Mo. Contributed photo



Scott and Jean Meyer, and Jeff and Kristy Trevathan purchased this house at 1000 Center St., Hannibal. At the time, it had been converted into 10 apartments, and had exposed wiring. Contributed photo




River City Restorations restored the property, both interior and exterior, to be used as the law offices for Jim Cary and Joseph Welch. Contributed photo.




This is a view of the Setterberg house on North Fourth Street, prior to its restoration. Contributed photo




Work in progress on the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Ill. Contributed photo




Finished Lincoln Home.. Photo credit William Mathis. Contributed photo.


Mary Lou Montgomery retired from the Hannibal Courier-Post in 2014, after 39 years with the newspaper.

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