The history and the mystery behind 13th Street in Joplin

JOPLIN, Mo. – The number 13, it just sounds spooky and it’s spooky enough some believe that the superstition is why, except for one small spot, there’s no 13th street in Joplin. But that all depends on who you ask.

This is 13th street in Joplin. It’s the only stretch of 13th which runs from Range Line east to the Duquesne city limit, about 2/10ths of a mile. The remaining miles of what’s supposed to be 13th street has two names.

But why? Is it superstition? Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Patrick Tuttle thinks so. “Well, we have both Markwardt and Junge Boulevard, both are where 13th street was, and the original plots have it as 13th street, but I think it has more to do with superstition probably, and as people developed those neighborhoods, those subdivisions, people wouldn’t live on 13th street, so they made the change.”

13 has a long history of being a negative number, for example, the gallows often have 13 steps because it’s the right height for a proper hanging execution. Many tall buildings don’t have a 13th floor.

Then there’s Plato’s Closet in Joplin, their address: 1313 Range Line – and they sit on the corner of 13th and Range Line. Plato’s Closet employee Katelin Wade says “I do get very superstitious and we definitely take knowledge to the 13’s on our building and we used to be a hospital too so we do hear some weird creaks and stuff so it just adds to the excitement of this time of year.”

So, does 13th street carry those names, for superstitious reasons? Or is there a more logical explanation? MSSU’s Community Historian Brad Belk says it’s hard to say, since we weren’t in the meetings that picked those names for that street. However, he does know what, or rather, who, those streets are named for. “August Junge was really, one of the founding fathers of our community, with his bread company he supplied bread to the local citizens and became a very wealthy man.”

That name is also tied to Junge Stadium and the old Junge Bakery. As for Markwardt, that would be William Markwardt. “Well, strangely enough, Markwardt was also in the bread baking business, they were somewhat competitors, he had a different factory obviously.”

Belk says Markwardt won the citizen award from the Chamber of Commerce in 1968 and East 13th street was subsequently named for him.

Superstition? Or logical reason? It all depends, on who you ask.

There are 13th streets in a number of area communities, including Webb City, Carthage, and Pittsburg.