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Officials with Willow Springs and various groups cut the ribbon on the Charles Ferguson Community Building Monday. (ORN Photo)

(Willow Springs) – Over 100 people, including city and county officials, and state representatives turned out on Main Street in Willow Springs Monday morning for the ribbon cutting at the Charles Ferguson Community Building in Willow Springs.

Members of Ferguson’s family also attended the event.

The building, which was built in 1893, was in severe disrepair when the Willow Springs Community Foundation purchased the building in 2003. It was originally built and used as a dry goods store, and later as a upper scale clothing retailer. Now, the upper level will serve as an arts center, where the Southern Ozarks Chamber Orchestra will practice, and the Willow Springs Arts Council will hold shows. The first floor of the building will serve as an information and meeting center, complete with computers with high-speed internet for the public to use.

Over the past nine years, the project received funding from various sources, including the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, the Delta Regional Authority, and donations from residents and businesses in Willow Springs.

Speakers at the meeting included Willow Springs Mayor Jay Waggoner; Willow Springs Community Foundation President Phill Knott; Jack Hood with Hood and Rich Architecture, who helped redesign the building; Community Foundation of the Ozarks President Brian Fogle; Delta Regional Authority Commissioner Mike Marshall; USDA Rural Development Director for Missouri Anita Dunning; Bill Ransdall with Gov. Jay Nixon’s office and the Missouri Department of Economic Development; Senator-elect Mike Cunningham; and Southern Ozarks Alliance for Rural Development Presidet Mary Sheid. Howell County Collector Larry Spence was the master of ceremonies for the event. Local historian Lou Whemer also gave a history of Charles Ferguson and the building itself.

After a reception from 10-11 AM, the ribbon was cut around 12:15 PM. A portrait of Ferguson was also unveiled, and will be placed inside of the building to remind residents of the contribution Charles Ferguson made to the city of Willow Springs through his 85 years.

Photos from the event can be found here.

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