Blind Boone House – Columbia, Missouri - Atlas Obscura

Columbia, Missouri

Blind Boone House

The modest, restored home of the legendary ragtime musician John William 'Blind' Boone. 

This unassuming house was once the home of John William Boone, the famous American ragtime musician. Born to a former slave and blinded as an infant, he became a legendary pianist nonetheless, and is a well-loved figure in Columbia, Missouri, where he lived.

Though its outside has changed quite a bit since he lived there—extensions have been added—the house still feels like a memorial to the pianist.

Boone was born in 1864 in a Federal militia camp. When he was only six months old, his eyes were removed in a radical surgical procedure to help reduce the swelling in his brain caused by brain fever. As a kid growing up in Missouri, he was first introduced to the piano after his hometown rallied and raised enough funds to send him to the St. Louis School for the Blind.

Once his fingers first tickled the ivories, the rest was history. His passion ignited, Boone began touring with local musicians. After learning a whole blend of jazz, African folk, and European classical tunes, he began touring the entire United States and played shows in Mexico and Canada.

Boone and his wife, Eugenia Lange, bought this modest house in the late 1880s. After Boone died, the house eventually became a funeral chapel, though it later fell into complete disrepair. After about two decades of painstaking renovations, the inside of the historic home looks almost just as it did when the musician lived there.

The interior still boasts a lot of its original woodwork and the fireplace, curved staircase, and pocket doors have basically remained intact. The house is also filled with sculptures, artifacts, and memorabilia that commemorate Boone’s life and legacy.