|The May 22, 2011 tornado tore a path a mile wide as it bore down on the hill that rises up from Main Street to Grand, overlooking Joplin High School. Up on that ridge, various streets intermittently have been blocked off as the Army Corps of Engineers and other volunteer groups work to clear away the rubble of hundreds of homes and other buildings. When the work is done, the entire area will be virtually flattened except for a solitary structure in the epicenter of the destruction that still stands tall, a testament to its architect.
Jim Nutz designed a house for his family to live in at 23rd and Grand and began building it in 1961. Taking three years for completion, he used innovative construction methods he had developed over the years constructing other buildings in Joplin. He made this his masterwork. It is doubtful that he imagined the house pictured above might one day be dead center in the path of a Force 5 multi-vortex tornado, but his intent was to build a sound structure with safety in mind.
House construction took place during the the Cold War era of the '60s with its threat of nuclear attack. Many American families built or installed fallout shelters.
Nutz's idea was to make the basement of the house strong enough to withstand a tornado or any other conceivable threat and large enough to be comfortable during such a disaster. His basement contained a large swimming pool, built for his daughter who was a competitive swimmer and a dumbwaiter and elevator that serviced the ground level and upper floors.
Materials used in construction were steel reinforced concrete and custom-made bricks. Each floor had its own fireplace. The structure's design, a basic block shape complemented by many curving surfaces is unquestionably art deco, as is the historic theatre ("The Show") at 1415 Main that Nutz also built.
Nutz's plans called for dual wrought iron stairs that curved up to the main entrance, opening into a large open space soaring all the way up to the structure's concrete roof. Large upper windows, featuring a unique design influenced by Moorish architecture were designed to bathe the sweeping "Gone with the Wind" staircase in southern exposure light.
The storm damaged the upper northeast corner of the home, including a part of the roof, apparently from a large tree falling on it. Unfortunately, it appears that virtually everything in the building was sucked out through that opening by the tremendous force of the tornado. However, the basic structure of the "house on Grand" is mostly intact, standing straight and strong, expressing the integrity of its design.