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Cape Central High Photos

Ken Steinhoff, Cape Girardeau Central High School Class of 1965, was a photographer for The Tiger and The Girardot, and was on the staff of The Capaha Arrow and The Sagamore at Southeast Missouri State University. He worked as a photographer / reporter (among other things) at The Jackson Pioneer and The Southeast Missourian.

Come here to see photos and read stories (mostly true) about coming of age in Southeast Missouri in the 1960s.

Please comment on the articles when you see I have left out a bit of history, forgotten a name or when your memory of a circumstance conflicts with mine. (My mother says her stories have improved now that more and more of the folks who could contradict her have died off.) Your information helps to make this a wonderful archive and may end up in book form.

Sprigg Street Cellar

Here’s a mystery that’s been bugging me for months. In April of 1966, construction workers working along North Sprigg Street uncovered a large cellar that was thought to have housed beer or wine. I don’t remember if it was part of the dormitory construction or if Sprigg was being widened.

I’ve looked through Missourians for a month on either side of April, but haven’t been able to come up with a story, even though I’m pretty sure one ran.

A few Stag beer cans

I didn’t prowl inside the cellar, but I could see a few Stag beer cans floating around. I think there were of more recent origin. There was a flat floor, but there was a square section in the middle that was cut out. I don’t know if that might have been a sump area where water could collect to be pumped out.

Photo gallery

Anyone have any idea about the history of the cellar? Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.

15 comments to Sprigg Street Cellar

  • Sally Bierbaum Dirks

    There were always stories of cellars where slaves hid before crossing the Mississippi River. One of the photos has a dark spot in the back that looks like an opening. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful purpose for this cellar?

  • penny hawkins

    Is it the house where they kept the alligator? We went to see it in grade school
    Probably two blocks before the fraternity complex on opposite side of street.

    • Phyllis Griffin (Mrs. Lonnie)

      I remember the alligater house very well. We lived on N Middle. It was up the hill. The family that owned it also owned a mom & pop grocery about 1/2 block away. I think it was Mayes grocery. It was their name too I believe. We never could figure out where they put the gater in winter & tried every which way but loose to discover it’s winter home. Including peeping in windows. Now I look back and remember that bare concrete lined hole & think how gruel it was. To us it was fasinating. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go back for a while? Growing up feeling safe & having fun!!!!!!

  • Mary A Seyer

    I remember it being there when I was at SEMO and lived in the Independent dorm at the bottom of the hill. It was right across the street and someone told me that it was part of the “underground railroad” to help slaves escape to go up north. Don’t know if that is true or not, just thought I would pass it along.

  • A couple of these pictures are just the tiniest bit of spooky. I know you said beer and wine storage, but something about them is eerie.

  • tom neumeyer

    You really have me curious about the location of this cellar along North Sprigg. There was very little settlement in the area east of what is now Towers in the mid 1800s. Legends about tunnels and cellars in the Cape Girardeau area associated with the Underground Railroad (which was not underground nor railroad)for escaping slaves. One such supposed tunnel went east from the Sherwood Minton house to old Lorimier Cemetery, and another tunnel went down toward the river from the cemetery. And the downtown area was supposed to be laced with tunnels below the buildings.

    • Nobody who ever tried to dig very deep in the Cape Girardeau area would give much credence to the tunnel theories we’ve heard all our lives.

      1. There’s a lot of rock in the area.

      2. What would you do with all the dirt and rock you removed from the tunnel?

      3. How secret could an excavation like that be?

      4. There would be cheaper and more efficient ways to move slaves than a massive construction project.

      I can better accept the idea that the German resident of Cape Girardeau made their own beverages and needed a place to store them.

  • Is my face red? Shy Reader sent me a clip of the original story. I couldn’t find it because there was a hole in the Google Archives.

    Why am I embarrassed? I’m the one who WROTE the original story. If nothing more pressing comes up, I’ll post it tomorrow.

  • Pat Smith

    I looks as if there might be the top of a doorway at the back of the cellar/tunnel.

  • marsha marshall gutshall

    maybe prohibition?

  • Dennis & Mary Drum

    Tom – We’ve written about this recently. I was in this cellar or whatever decades ago when the entrance was completely exposed. Someone buried it since then. The walls and ceiling are made of sandstone blocks, and I don’t remember the rectangular pit in the floor. After the tornado, friends and I explored some old destroyed homes or their basements and some of them also used sandstone blocks for walls – just not a arched ceiling.

  • Ken,
    I think that this cellar could possibly have been the one that is currently under “Wildwood”, the former SEMO Dean’s residence. Since the cellar was “discovered” back in 1966, I’m curious to know when the Dean’s house was built. From the design of the house pictures I took, I think it could possibly have been built in the ’60’s. The house is now the Student Welcoming Center.
    Several years ago, Wildwood was “on tour” and I took pictures of the house (including the stone cellar) underneath the house that opened up to face New Madrid Street just off Sprigg Street not too far from the SHOWME CENTER. (I will e-mail my picture to you at your site and you can take it from there. . . . )

  • Kyle

    I am pretty sure this cellar belonged to my Great Great Great Grandpartents who built a brewery on Sprigg Street sometime in the late 1800’s the both died in the 19teens. Let me know if anyone has any more info. Their names were August Ebert and Mary Ebert (Oehle).

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