Events venue near Platte City was once home to ‘country vet’
When Paula and Doug Owens got married at a historic Platte County home six years ago, they appreciated the location as a beautiful, quaint spot for reciting marriage vows.
Since their wedding was the first in the home, they therefore ‘christened’ the Eighteen Ninety Event Space & Wedding Venue, which includes the home and 16 acres of surrounding property at 15640 Hwy. 92 Spur, just west of Platte City.
The couple was so smitten with the location at the tiny town of Tracy that they purchased the property from a friend, and now play host to more than 50 weddings and other events there each year.
Paula believes a series of events that led to her new role as wedding and event planner on the site is no accident.
“I always think everything happens for a reason,” she said of the property that is less than a mile west of Platte City. “It was just meant to be,” she said.
In 2018, the Parkville couple, who are age 63, purchased the historic home from a friend–developer Brian Mertz, who first envisioned it as a wedding venue. Mertz, owner and operator of Parkville Development, had purchased the home and surrounding property in 2014.
Mertz renovated the home, taking it back to a Victorian-era appearance, which led him to incorporate 1890 into its name. The home actually was built in 1872, only a few years after the cornerstone to the Platte County Courthouse was laid in 1866, seven years after The Landmark had begun publication and just six years prior to Park College opening in 1875.
The home was built in the Federalist style (pre-Victorian), normally found in the Eastern portion of the country, and defined by symmetry and a flat, brick exterior.
C.O. Moore owned the home during the late 1890s and early 1900s and remodeled it to include some architectural elements from the Victorian period, Paula said, based on her research of early land records. She added that the practice was popular at the time and the home still includes Moore’s addition of a leaded glass window, engraved with his name, and located near a landing leading to the home’s staircase. She said when Mertz was remodeling a fireplace in the living room, he discovered a drawing, signed by Moore, on the wall behind. It features a man smoking a pipe.
Although Paula said she’s unable to find records that list the home’s builder, the book “The Annals of Platte County” seems to indicate it was built for Felix Grundy Cockrill, who migrated from Kentucky with extended family and purchased land throughout the Platte County area. Today, the Cockrill name is listed on several tombstones in the nearby Platte City Cemetery. Born in 1847, Cockrill moved from Kentucky to Platte County with several brothers.
Cockrill is listed in local historical documents as a senior member of the Cockrill & Company banking firm, located in Platte City, until his death in 1879. Felix married Cynthia Tribble in 1866 and the couple made their home in Tracy and had five children.
Records indicate he and his siblings purchased huge swaths of land throughout Platte County, stretching from just south of Weston, and had several homes built in the area. For instance, a large Victorian style home built in 1884 located just behind the Eighteen Ninety home still stands today.
“He was a man of engaging address, gentle manners, and much beloved for his amiable disposition,” according to a passage written by a friend in a historic text.
Perhaps the home’s most memorable owner was James Cranston “Jim” McCrea, a veterinarian who died at 87 in 2010. He lived in the home beginning in 1954 and operated his practice from buildings on the site, according to historical records. Mertz and the Owenses credit McCrea with modernizing and preserving the historic property. He was known throughout the area as a “country vet, a title of which he was proud,” the Annals states.
Nicknamed “Doc,” he served as an area veterinarian for 56 years.
“Doc became a symbol of hard work, probably treating more cases in his time than any veterinarian in Missouri or the Midwest with integrity and support in his community,” the tribute continues. “He was a humble but strong giver, physically and otherwise, to deserving causes.”
McCrea was among the first graduating class of the University of Missouri School of Veterinary Science in 1950 and mentored many veterinarian students in addition to helping with alumni activities.
Paula said many area residents still remember “Doc” and share their memories of when he served as the area’s veterinarian.
In 1960, McCrea added a barn, which is still standing, to house his horses.
Another building, an older barn, was the location of a 1991 made-for-television horror movie, “Sometimes They Come Back.” The movie was based on a 1974 short story of the same name, written by horror writer Stephen King. The film originally was created as a segment of the 1985 film, “Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye,” before it was developed as a separate film.
Although she has witnessed dozens of weddings at the site, Paula said watching couples recite their vows while knowing the property’s rich history still brings tears to her eyes. She said, “It’s very sentimental….”