Gosh, Webb City is almost too big for a town feature. It needs a multi-part city feature!
With almost 11,000 people, it's sure not tiny. It's also contiguous with Joplin's north edge, rather than out in the country by itself.
Originally agricultural land, Webb City was incorporated after the accidental discovery of a big chunk of lead ore in his field by Mr. John Webb, a local farmer. It didn't take long for Mr. Webb and his associates to determine that the find was no fluke. Seven and a half tons of lead were uncovered in the first week of mining operations! During the late 1800s and early 1900s, more lead and zinc ore were taken out of the area surrounding the town than anywhere else in the world. The "Kneeling Miner" sculpture in King Jack Park, shown at right, honors the town's mining heritage.
If you decide to take a little trip to see the sculpture, make sure to go on Tuesday or Friday afternoon so you can stop by the Farmer's Market in the park as well. While you're there, take a look to the east for a sight of the giant 32-foot-high "Praying Hands" sculpture.
Although originally created by Jack Dawson, the Praying Hands artist, the Kneeling Miner is on only one knee and does not appear to be praying. He just looks darn tired and I can't blame him. Mining is hard work! Note: The current beautiful bronze cast was done by Constance Ernatt.
The mining heyday supported the creation of the town and the construction of many lovely homes and civic buildings, but Webb City has never rested on historical laurels. When mining slowed after World War I, city leaders actively sought new industries. By 1920, Webb City was ranked as the city with the highest increase in industry in the United States.
That can-do spirit continues today. Major employers include light manufacturing enterprises, steel fabrication, and electrical contracting. In addition, there are large retail, health care and education employers and many smaller enterprises.
Webb City's downtown is a true Main Street lined with commercial buildings. Some are as old as the mining days, and others probably date closer to mid-20th century. There's a lot going on, and most of the buildings are very much occupied and well kept up. Not all, of course...it's not a storybook town, it's a real town. I particularly enjoy the look of Bruner's Pharmacy, whose facade has been beautifully painted and restored. I'd post a photo, but really the detail is too fine to show up well in a size for a blog post. You'll just have to come and see.
There is not a designated residential historic district, but many beautiful homes can be seen up and down Liberty, Pennsylvania, and other streets.
Home buyers in Webb City aren't limited to palatial turn-of-the-century houses, of course. There are distinct neighborhoods to suit every budget. In addition to a variety of homes from the late 1800s to the 1980s, newer developments include Bridle Brook (~$325K-$500K), Greystone (~mid $100s-$200K+), or Heather Glenn (~mid-$100s), as well as others. Webb City has seen a lot of growth in the last 10 years, and the housing market reflects that.
Some of you looking for small-town living might be inclined to pass by Webb City as "too big, too close". But there are many advantages to proximity with a larger city. Shopping, schools, services, entertainment, health care and houses of worship are easy to find both in the town proper, and down in Joplin.
Access to jobs is another big advantage. In these days of high gas prices, a short commute is a thing of beauty!
Remember, if you only drive north along the modern commercial street known as Range Line in Joplin and Madison in Webb City, it's easy to write off Webb City as just another brand new suburb. But when you get off the beaten track a little, you'll find a distinctive town waiting to be dicovered.
I'm sure this won't be my only Webb City blog. There's too much of it to fit in a single town feature, but I hope I've given you a little flavor of the town to enjoy!