The Cox Complex was a social and business hub of Cuba during the 1900s.
Preservation and Restoration at the Cox Complex
After posting some of the restoration photos of the Cox Complex at 615 N.W. Main on the Cuba MO Murals Facebook page, I realized that some might not be familiar with the buildings history or post-restoration photos of the building. This post travels to “Back-in-the-Day” when the building was the project of Cuba’s Missouri forward-thinking Dr. Cox, who set out to build a 1900s business complex.
At one time, a frame building stood on the site, but it burned during a fire in the downtown business district. Doctor Cox, who was also a Cuba mayor, built the brick building in 1907, and it was known as the Cox Complex. The small frame building behnd the complex was built for Dr. Cox’s mother-in-law, with a larger residence for the doctor’s family sitting where the Reinsch Apartments now stand.
The Cox Complex held various businesses over the years. Meramec Drug, Dr. Cox’s office, a barber shop, a dress shop, a bakery, J. H. Breen Realty, and Farris Specialty Store occupied the building. The building had as many as five separate businesses at once. The building’s abstract states that in 1931 part of the Cox building was leased by Lisa Cox to the government for $480 per annum as a Post Office.
Local Joyce Dorf Stewarts’s grandfather ran Dorf Hardware in the Complex, and later her father Walter Dorf had a store there called Waldorf Paint & Paper. Stewart remembers that the students gathered at the drug store after school. Some of them may used the the Route 66 underpass that was mentioned and pictured in a recent blog.
As often happens with these historic buildings, the years had not been kind to it, and it had fallen on hard times. That’s when Andy Sanazaro, Jr. stepped in to give the building a 21st Century renaissance in 2005 when he bought the building. According to an interview with the Cuba Free Press, “With the community development grant, the district was getting new lighting, sidewalks, and parking. To me it seemed the right time to open a business there.” Sanazaro added that his restoration of the building seemed to continue the work of the Historic Preservation Commission and the Viva Cuba Mural Project. As photos show, the restoration both inside and outside of the building were extensive.
Workers covered the Cox complex, inside and out, during its restoration.
Sanazaro and his daughter Amy who was going to open a bakery/cafe in the building and a crew of workers started the transformation. The citizens of Cuba watched. Mike Shelton worked on construction, Midwest Roofing put on the roof, Pilkenton Masonry did brickwork, and the family got involved in “hands-on” restoration.
“We were careful about the details. We didn’t want to mess it up.” From historical photos, Sanazaro saw that the building ahd been taller, so he restored the brick work. The roof was replaced, the interior was gutted, and the walls redone; everything was rewired and replumbed. The brick work was tuck-pointed, and the original front door was stripped and refinished. The 100 year-old supporting iornwork in the front of the building was scraped, sanded, and refinished.
After debating whether or not to restore the front sidewalk cover to the building, Sanazaro decided that it was orignal to the building and restored it. Now, it sometimes serves as an outdoor dining area.
A South City St. Louis artist from Cuba, Julie Nixon Krovicka sketched the outside look of the building and helped pick colors during the restoration. For part of her research, she visited the Transportation Museum in St. Louis to study period colors and to get ideas about lettering that would complement the historic district of Cuba.
After the first phase of work was finished and the bakery/cafe opened, the courtyard was cleaned up and completed. Krovicka was commissioned to paint two interior murals on each end of the building. She also painted a mural on the back of the building in the courtyard, and hand-painted signage on the windows. She was assisted by her son Ian during part of the painting. He has since attended the Kansas City Art Institute.
The rear mother-in-law’s building has also been painted in vintage colors with some Krovicka artwork on it.
Julei Krovicka, a South St. Louis artist and Cuba hometowner, paints a mural on the rear of the building to decorate the Courtyard. Today, a privacy fence encloses the courtyard and just the top of this mural shows from the street.
Amy Sanazaro, who had first run the Main Street Bakery & Back-in-the-Day Cafe, took leave when her twins were born. Andy Sanazaro, Jr. still owns the building, but it has gone through a series of restaurant owners. It is now Gordoz Cafe with an eclectic mixture of decor although it retains some of the original hand-painted signage.
What is for sure is that the building is now an asset to Cuba instead of an eyesore. From its breakfast crowd to evening meals and local musicians on the weekends, Cubans are still enjoying the Cox Complex.
Here are an array of photos taken over the years since the building’s restoration.
The restored building along N.W.Main is admired by locals and tourists.
Nixon-Krovica's bakery mural spans the interior wall of the east end of the building.
The Route 66 Association of Missouri held their quarterly meeting here at one time.
The interior of the building has been used for special events and as well as a restaurant. This is the interior during the Route 66 meeting.
The covered porch came in handy after Viva Cuba took some of the kids on a walking mural tour of the historic district. It was a great place for them to eat their donuts.
The restored corner entrance is quite a contrast to the pre-restoration photo above.
See the Cuba Free Press article “Artist frames farm scene for local business” for info another Krovicka Cox Complex mural.
UPDATE 2012 Although the building has gone through several transformations of purpose and management, the building is still a community asset. It is currently operating as the Cuba Bakery & Deli and is a popular gathering spot in Cuba.