The development of
the area comprising the midtown neighborhood is directly related
to the location of the railroad in Springfield. When it arrived
in 1870, the rail line ran one mile north of the Springfield public
square. At the time of the railroad's arrival, the land north
of Springfield was farm land and large estates of some prominent
people of the community. E. T. Robberson was a physician and active
in establishing public education in Springfield. His estate was
at the northeast corner of Central and Jefferson. S. H. "Pony"
Boyd was a lawyer and politician. Boyd's public service included
two terms as U.S. Congressman from this district, U.S. Consul
to Siam, and two terms as mayor of Springfield. His estate was
on the east side of Washington where Chestnut Expressway is now
located. Charles Harwood was a lawyer, real estate broker and
the first president of Drury College. His estate was at the southwest
corner of Benton and Brower.
These three community
leaders were influential in the railroad locating north of Springfield.
They organized the Ozark Land Company and purchased 500 acres
of land that bisected the railroad's original survey. They offered
incentives to the railroad to follow the recommended route. These
included the platting of a new town of North Springfield, a 200
foot railroad right-of-way, 40 acres for railroad shops, and one-half
ownership of the new town. Consequently the town of North Springfield
was platted in 1869, and the first train arrived in 1870. Midtown
began to change from farm land to new residential subdivisions.
Some of the older structures
have been demolished, but many still remain. The larger homes
of the upper class were built along Benton and Washington Avenues.
The growing middle class of professionals and merchants built
larger homes on Jefferson and Washington with some development
dispersed on Robberson, Summit and Clay Avenues. Smaller homes
were concentrated along Summit, Clay, and Sherman Avenues to serve
the railroad workers and merchants.