Kage School Over the Years

Kage School grand opening 05-10-2015
Kage School grand opening 05-10-2015

Southeast Missouri State University, which claims to have a historic preservation program but tears down local landmarks, should take a lesson from guys like Chad Hartle and Rick Hetzel.

Chad turned the old Central High School on Pacific Street into attractive housing for senior citizens.

Rick rescued the historic Kage School from collapse and has made it into a guest cottage for daily, weekly or monthly rental. You can get more information on the property’s website.

The May 10 grand opening attracted hundreds, including some students who attended the school three-quarters of a century earlier. Savanna Maue covered the opening for The Missourian.

I first photographed Kage School in 1966, the year it closed. After the turn of the century (it’s always cool when I can say that), I was drawn back to the building time and time again. To be honest, I was afraid that every visit would be the last one before the brick building collapsed from neglect.

Here’s what it looked like during the grand opening and through the years. Click on any image to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the galleries.

1966 before school closed

The school had a fascinating history. It was unusual because of its racial and economic diversity. Enrollment included white children from well-established families, the district’s African-American students from as far back as 1889 or earlier and children from the County Poor Farm. The original school was built in 1880 for $1,200 (changes and additions bumped that up to $1,600).

You can read more of the Kage School history here.

Initials scratched in the walls

I never noticed the initials and names scratched in the walls until Brother Mark pointed them out to me. Here are some examples, plus some photos showing the condition of the school. I pointed out when these were taken in 2010 that “the bricks in the chimney are beginning to crumble and there are cracks above a window on the southeast side. If anyone is going to step up to preserve this historic building, they’d better do it soon.”

2013 before renovations

When I checked out the school in the fall of 2013, the back door was standing open. Since the property wasn’t posted, I took that to mean that I was invited inside to look around. Time, termites and gravity had not been kind, but parts of it were in good shape.

What I found particularly interesting was what was left behind. You’ll see some of the objects – like the green dishes, pencil sharpener, light fixtures and some of the books in the renovated school.

A work in progress

By the spring of 2014, Rick Hetzel had purchased the property from Keith Deimund, who had attended the school about 75 years ago. He launched an army of workmen to repair almost every part of the building, while leaving as much of it intact as possible.

The pine floors were refinished and reinstalled. The original windows were replaced with energy-efficient glass, and foundation stones under the floor were used to create a flower bed out front. Even a baby squirrel discovered by workers Justin Wissmann and Wes Langston was relocated.

 Headed for the finish line

When I went back in the fall of 2014, most of the exterior work had finished and walls were starting to go up. Hetzel had the exterior walls sprayed with an insulation that had a high R-value and provided a good moisture barrier

Workers found a wooden block capping one of the interior columns that had the initials of the contractors who built the original school, including the date 1880. I wonder if they ever expected anyone to find it?

Schultz Senior Apartments II

Yesterday we showed the outside of the recently renovated Louis J. Schultz School, Cape Girardeau’s first public high school. Today we’ll go inside Schultz Senior Apartments.

Developer Chad Hartle is sitting in the main lobby area. The walls are covered with murals depicting the history of the school. They are rich with illustrations and photos from the school paper, yearbook and local papers.

Reading through the names gives you a great feel for the continuity in a small town. I recognized the names of grandfathers, fathers and my generation of students. We, of course, have become fathers and grandfathers ourselves. We all are part of an unbroken chain.

Informal meeting areas scattered around

It’s easy to find a place to sit and talk with visitors or other residents. Small, informal seating areas are all over the public areas.

Locker space turned into displays

In order to preserve the original look of the school, the width of the hallways was preserved, along with original doors, transoms and flooring. Chad tried to collect vintage items that reflected the after-school clubs and activities through the years and display them in the spaces where lockers had been located.

Some of the trophies came from a safe that school had acquired from the Sturdivant Bank after it failed.

Shuffleboard court preserved

The original shuffleboard court is as shiny as the day it was installed.

Well-equipped exercise room

There’s a good-sized exercise room with modern equipment. The room also has comfortable seating for residents who would rather relax and visit instead of working out.

Family room for visiting children

There’s a room set aside with small chairs, toys and electronic games for residents who have small children visiting them.

Apartments are bright, energy efficient

On a day when I brought my mother by to check the place out, we struck up a conversation with two women in the parking lot. Evelyn Seabaugh was kind enough to give a couple of strangers a tour of her apartment.

We were knocked out by how bright and cheerful the place was. Chad replaced the windows from the 1960s with energy efficient ones that more closely resemble the ones from the 1915-era.

Each apartment has a washer, dryer and full kitchen. Ceiling fans circulate the air. The 13-foot ceilings make the apartments easy to cool in the summer. Chad said utility bills were running around $50 a month on average for the coldest months of last winter.

Apartments are unique

Bill Mansel is a model train enthusiast. Almost every square inch of his one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor is occupied by train memorabilia.Bill said he was the third resident to move into the complex.

There are 45 apartments in the building, split fairly evenly between one and two-bedroom units.

Cameras and alarms provide security

All of the doors are kept locked and are equipped with keypads for security. There are cameras monitoring all of the hallways and public areas. There was some discussion about allowing residents to monitor the security cameras, turning the apartment building into a virtual “Crime Watch Neighborhood.”

I heard some talk, also, about letting residents start a community garden on what used to be the school’s playgrounds. I don’t know if either of those plans will ever come to pass.

The cool fire escape is gone

Several readers reminisced, some more fondly than others, about the curving tube-like fire escapes on the old school. They no longer exist.

The top floor with the old lobby going to the balcony of the auditorium has been cleaned up, but is unfinished at this point.

Floors have rich color

The floors leading to the old balcony lobby have been refinished.

Safe from Sturdivant bank

When Chad bought the school, there was an old bank vault from the Sturdivant Bank in a storage room on the ground floor. After he drilled the lock, something that convinced him that he didn’t have a future in bank robbery, he found old school plans and sports trophies that are now on display in the hallways.

Rampant vandalism

The walls in the room were covered with the names of many of my classmates. I ran a piece earlier where I posted the photos of all the names and asked if anyone could identify where they were taken.

Most of my former classmates must not have been sure how long the statute of limitations ran on junior high school vandalism, so my query was met with deafening silence. Follow this link to see if YOUR name is on the Wall of Shame. Or, more interestingly, which boy’s or girl’s name is linked to yours.

A real asset to the community

The Schultz Senior apartments are a real boost to the neighborhood and to the community at large. In a time when so many of Cape’s landmarks are being bulldozed, it’s good to see this one saved. It could have gone the way of these schools:

Louis J Schultz Photo Gallery

Here is a collection of inside photos, plus the exteriors that ran yesterday. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.