About the Belvedere School for Hands-On Preservation
I founded The Belvedere School for Hands-On Preservation July of 2008 as a private institution dedicated to training students to be artisans in the historic preservation trades.
After years of traveling across America conducting hands-on preservation workshops, my dream of having a preservation trade school took root in Hannibal, Missouri. My wife Pat and I looked at over ten different towns and cities for this endeavor and in the end, Hannibal was the perfect community to begin the dream.
We needed a place in the center of the country, close to a major airport (St. Louis) that had a great tourism base as added value for our students. I’d always been a huge fan of Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain and his hometown of Hannibal brings in 50 to 70 million dollars a year in international, literary, heritage tourism.
We also needed a very historic and very large house for the school and Pat’s Bed & Breakfast. We found this in the Alfred Lamb Mansion 3 blocks up the hill from the Mark Twain National Historic Landmark District. This National Register & Local Landmark, brick, antebellum, 1859 Italianate house had five floors and 7,950 square feet of slumlord decimated, yet mostly intact, space.
The house also had one of the largest Belvederes I’d ever seen on an Italianate style house. (some call them cupolas but on Italianate houses they are called Belvederes which means “Beautiful View” in Italian). It has twelve, arched topped windows looking out over the entire Mississippi River valley.
For the school, the house was perfect. There is no way this house could have been saved unless we used it as a laboratory for students to work, hands-on. Students have contributed mightily to keeping the cost of restoration just below the restored value of the property.
The two original, Italianate porches were missing, drop ceilings and nasty pet stained carpeting was everywhere. Most of the original trim and all the original windows were still there under all this nastiness. After 7 years of work by students, myself and a band of local subcontractors, we finished the major restoration, including reproducing both missing Italianate porches, and then, Pat opened her B & B in 2015.
My goal was to have a school that conducted hands-on workshops lasting from 2 day to 8 days. I felt we could attract more students of all ages doing these workshops a couple time a month and I was apparently correct. Our students come from all over North American as well as Europe and even Asia.
We began a Preservation Trades Program in 2008 in partnership with Hannibal High School. The program was designed for dropouts and at-risk students. This was highly successful as we helped 160 kids graduate from High School that never would have and taught them the preservation trades over the next 6 years.
Since we are a hands-on school, and the school itself is mostly restored, we now do the hands-on work on our neighbor’s historic houses in the Central Park National Historic District. To say the neighbors are thrilled would be an understatement.
We hope you enjoy our school, B&B and Hannibal.