Old Photos: Flowery Face Lift For Neosho, MO

There is already a post on this blog about Neosho, MO also known as the Flower Box City, but it seems like the Life Magazine Archives recently received a great many new color photos (or I just failed to notice them before). These photos look like stills from the Andy Griffith Show except they were not taken in the imaginary Mayberry, but in the very real American town of Neosho, not too far from here, for the 1955 Life Magazine article “Flowery Face Lift, Neosho learns what petunias and marigolds will do for a town

Until six months ago the 5,790 residents of Neosho, Mo. took for granted the colorless environment they shared with many other small towns in the U.S. Then the New York Community Trust, a $20 million fund administered by 15 banks, picked Neosho for a test run in civic beautification by offering $5,000 in prizes for the handsomest window boxes. 

Suddenly Neosho burst out into a flowery rash of red, pink and gold. The prize money was all but forgotten as the community plunged headlong into a floral face lift which quickly showed not only Neosho but surrounding towns how much could be done with a little money and effort. Housewives planted petunias in old baby buggies and potbellied stoves. Merchants splurged on fancy trimmings like concrete and wrought iron. The city piled free dirt near the jail and found new use for municipal trashcans. Postman David Weems articulated everybody’s feelings: “It’s a wonderful thing-it just looks nice all over town.”

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland.

  • Lonnie Harpool

    Fifty-seven years ago, when these pictures were taken, I was thirteen years old and living in Neosho. I returned this past summer to see town square businesses decimated by the Wal-Mart on the western edge of town.
    Neosho of 1955 is gone forever.

    • Christina Wedgwood

      Lonnie! OMG~ This is Arlene~ I really wanted to talk to you, please contact me via my daughters email address christinagwendolynwedgwood@gmail.com
      I am really hoping that you find this post, and if and when you do, I would just really like to have a word with you,
      My deepest regard,
      Arlene

  • Sarah

    Born and raised in this area. I can confirm that big business/corporate world has bled the small town mom and pop shop community dry. Some of the buildings on the square have been renovated, but are mostly just law offices and the DMV. It’s nice to see what it was once like, but also sad and almost unbelievable.