Hot night. Cool cave. Live music.

Music in the Cave
On Saturday, August 6 the Friends of Onondaga Cave State Park are hosting a special event featuring live music in Onondaga cave – one of the best caves in the US. Enjoy Eclectic Folk, Ozark Roots, Americana, Jazz and Blues in a cool cave on a hot August night.

Call Onondaga Cave State Park at 573-245-6576 for reservations. Tickets are $30 per person or $50 per couple. Seating is limited. Snacks and non-alcoholic beverages are included in the ticket price. Proceeds from the event go to the Onondaga Friends Association and will be used for improvements to the park.


Taking the sizzle out of summer in Cuba, Missouri

Cuba Municipal Pool Cuba, Missouri

The Public Works Department keeps the pool area and adjacent Tangle Creek Community Park well-groomed.

The Cuba, Missouri Municipal Pool  at 500 Belden Avenue is an asset to the community and provides some wonderful summer memories for the kids of Cuba. The Public Works Department has been keeping the pool grounds and nearby park mowed and looking good. There are also two basketball courts nearby for some games of round ball.

Call 885-9111 with questions or to book parties or special events.

It’s fun and fitness at the Cuba Pool this summer! Like them on Facebook as Cuba Swimming Pool for updates.


Cuba Missouri Municipal Pool

The pool on Belden Street is a kid magnet in the summer.

Car talk brings New Zealanders to Cuba, Missouri

Cuba, Missouri Bob's Gasoline Alley

The Owens (left) and the Wracks had the good fortune to tour Bob's Gasoline Alley just west of Cuba. Photo courtesy of Jerry McLain

The love of classic cars seems to be universal. Recently, it brought couples from Chesterfield, Missouri, New Zealand, and some Cubans (Missouri-style) together for some international “car talk.”

Let’s start with some friends of Cuba’s Janet and Jerry McLain. The McLains have known Cal and Peggy Owens from Chesterfield, Missouri for over sixty years. The Owens met New Zealanders Colin and Margaret Wrack in Denver a few years ago while traveling. They became friends, and the Wracks invited the Owens to visit them in New Zealand, which they did.

Colin Wrack, who is now retired, worked for a car company in New Zealand. He and his wife both like American cars and own several restored cars.  On one of their trips to the U.S., they bought their daughter a 1957 Chevy convertible as a wedding present.

During one of the Wrack’s trips to the U. S., the Owens brought their New Zealand friends to meet their long-time friends the McLains in Cuba.  Since Jerry is a career auto mechanic and Janet’s brother-in-law is a race car driver, they fit right into the car scenario. The McLains son David also builds race car engines in a shop next to their house. The group found they had a lot of car talk and interests in common.

The Wracks enjoyed the McLain Shop and were interested in a 409 Chevy engine that they had there.  Jerry also took them to see Gary Killeen’s extensive collection of restored cars at his country home outside of Cuba. Jerry says, “When they saw the cars that Gary owns, they were just about speechless.”

After the visit to Gary Killeen’s, they came back for a lunch at Rock Fair, a trip to the murals, and checked out Jerry’s Lions Club Den on Buchanan Street. Jim Barnett saw them taking a break in the shade at the murals and told them how the Viva Cuba mural project started in Cuba.

According to Jerry McLain, the Wracks and Owens thought Cuba was a progressive and friendly town. Weather might have been a challenge since it was winter when the Wracks left New Zealand, and temperatures get down to freezing a couple of times during their winter. Our July heat wave was quite a change.

The Owens and Wracks also had a real treat when Jerry took them to Bob and Darlene Mullen’s home to see their auto-related/neon memorabilia titled Bob’s Gasoline Alley that fills three buildings. It is probably the largest private collection in the U.S. The Mullens also organize Cuba’s September Car/Motorcycle Show. Since it is “by appointment only,” it was a special stop for the Wracks.

The Wracks plan to return with some of their New Zealand friends and tour Route 66. We’re pretty sure a trip to Cuba to meet some old friends and make some new ones will be on their agenda.

Much thanks to all the people that met and opened their homes to the Wracks and Owens and were such great ambassadors for our community.

Cuba, Missouri Bob's Gasoline Alley

Neon and other memorabilia fills this small section of Bob's Gasoline Alley. The private collection is open only by appointment.


Cuba citizen commits to preservation with Cox Complex restoration

Cuba, Missouri Cox building  early 1900s

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.

Cuba, Missouri Cox Complex Restoration

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.

Cuba, Missouri Julie Nixon Krovicka painting

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.

Cuba, Missouri Restored Cox Complex

The restored building along N.W.Main is admired by locals and tourists.

Nixon-Krovicka's bakery mural Cuba, Missouri

Nixon-Krovica's bakery mural spans the interior wall of the east end of the building.

Route 66 Quarterly Meeting Cuba, Missouri

The Route 66 Association of Missouri held their quarterly meeting here at one time.

Interior of Sanazaro Building Cuba Misssouri

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.

Sanazaro building Cuba Missouri

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.

Corner entrance of Sanazaro building Cuba, Missouri

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. 

Small town biz & beauty, here, there, and everywhere

Paducah, Kentucky Floodwall murals

No, these aren't Cuba's murals. They are on the floodwall in the historic district of Paducah, Kentucky.

Cuba, Missouri Prosperity Corner Mural

Cuba's outdoor murals are scattered along the Route 66 corridor and often draw travelers to businesses in the area, such as Frisco's Restaurant, just down the street from this mural. Or visitors may notice the museum sign and head to the Recklein Commons area and the Veterans Memorial.

Sometimes it’s good to get away from home to get a new perspective and find some new ideas. When I travel, I usually have Cuba in mind and think of how a park, planting, or feature would fly in Cuba. Often Cuba, Missouri comes out ahead in my thinking, or I may gain some good ideas that Viva Cuba can use. All the Viva Cuba members tend to do this and often send photos back of things we like as we travel.

The floodwall murals above are beautiful, and if Cuba had a floodwall, it might be a good idea. But for us, sprinkling our mural project along the Route 66 corridor makes more sense. It directs travelers around our town as they follow the “mural trail.” Although we didn’t know it when the project started in 2001, they provide a middle ground between other Route 66 attractions: Skippy’s, Belmont Vineyard, MO Hick BBQ, The Wagon Wheel Motel, & The World’s Largest Rocking Chair. Other restaurants, shops, and attractions branch off from this corridor, and travelers find their way there as well. It all works together to give folks a reason to spend some time in the “Mural City.”


A big smile and southern manners made us feel appreciated.

At another stop, the waitress made us feel welcome. You can find that in Cuba too. Often waitresses and shop workers go out of their way to provide directions, chat, or  express a friendly manner. A phrase that the waitress above used struck me though. When I thanked her for something she had done or given me, she said, “It’s my pleasure.” I thought how cool is that. Maybe it’s part of southern manners. Now, I don’t think everyone in Cuba should immediately start using that phrase because it has to be sincere and not a “canned” response. But I did think it made a refreshing change from the more midwestern response of “no problem.” I guess the main point is that she made us feel appreciated. She thanked us for coming at the end of our meal too. This appreciative attitude is something any of us can do when we encounter a visitor to our town.

Choose Independents/Buy local

These signs encouraging local buying hung in most shop windows in the downtown area.

Another positive that I noticed that could be activated in Cuba was the shop window signs that encouraged people to shop local and love Asheville (NC). These simple signs about Cuba could be printed by the Cuba Chamber of Commerce and made available to Chamber members. They show local pride and remind us that we work together to improve the business economy of Cuba. I would hope the signs would help businesses realize that they each important to the success of Cuba.

Small space beautification

Beautification does not have to be on a large scale involving massive murals. This example comes from Asheville, NC.

Another aspect that I found in Asheville that I liked is what I call small space beautification, and I saw a lot of it in Asheville. Any small space between buildings seemed to be utilized for a seating space, green area, and/or a little painting. They helped make the streetscape attractive and made a good impression because they showed pride and care.

I think that business owners or organizations with buildings might look at what they have available to spruce up around their buildings. It may just be a cleaning of a window, a display, a well-tended plant, or a coat of paint on the back of the building when it is exposed to the street. Maybe it is moving some visual clutter. A lot of those backs of buildings might be ripe for a little subtle advertising if it were done in an attractive manner. All of our buildings in the historic district are part of the beautification palette.

I would also like the city to look at empty buildings, weeds, and other unattractive aspects of our town in the business area and consider what can be done to improve the area. A drive or walk around the business area is all it takes to find areas that need improvement. Are there ordinances or regulations that should be enforced?

It’s fun to travel, but we all know it’s good to come home and that home is best. I just read a post on Facebook from a Route 66 enthusiast that said Cuba, Missouri was one of his five favorite towns on Route 66. Since the route covers eight states, I would say that’s pretty good.

But we can still get better. Maybe you can tell us some positive changes that you would like to see. Or if your business or organization is making some positive changes to beautify, send us a photo and a brief explanation that we can share with others. Let’s all be Cuba boosters.


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