Red House Interpretive Center

The 1934 Central High School Girardot had wood block-style illustrations of Cape Girardeau landmarks in it. This is an artist’s depiction of The Red House, Louis Lorimier’s home. It, and the first St. Vincent’s Church, were destroyed by a tornado.

Red House in 2010

This is a photo of the Red House taken March 22, 2010.

The Red House’s website says, “After much discussion and debate it was decided that a reconstruction or replica of Lorimier’s original Red House was just not possible. No one actually knew for sure what the original trading post looked like. All the group had was a drawing of a house taken from the recollections of a local resident, Sara Bollinger Daughtery. What the board decided to do was construct a house of the French colonial architectural style – a style that would have been used by a French Canadian in this area at that time; and to construct this house following the design of Daughterty’s recollection. Rather than call the house a “replica” or reconstruction it would be an interpretation of the style of house that Lorimier may have built and lived in.”

Other Red House photos and stories

Main Street and Doors

This single frame was on a roll with the flood photos I ran the other day. I didn’t see anything in the paper, so it must have been a routine medical call that didn’t warrant additional photos. News photographers always shoot first and ask questions later. I used to tell reporters that my machine didn’t come with a backspace or an eraser. If I didn’t capture it right then, it wasn’t possible to redo it or get it over the phone. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

There are some interesting things visible in the photo. The tall, skinny guy on the left under the restaurant sign might be my old debate partner, Pat Sommers. Looks like the person is wearing shades like Pat was prone to do (even in a movie theater). The temperature was a warm 78 degrees. The St. Charles Hotel has been torn down recently enough that Tom Sawyer’s Fence still hides the Sterling store construction.

There is no Downtown Clock in the middle of the Themis – Main Street intersection.

Zickfield’s door

When I was looking for photos that might show the street in modern times, I scrolled through some pictures of Zickfield’s Jewelers, one of only about two businesses left on Main Street from this era. The door caught my eye. Not the door so much, as the lock on the top of the right-hand door. How many thousands of times has a key been turned in that lock to wear away the finish that much?

Unnerstall’s door

That door triggered the memory of another door I had photographed in April of this year – Unnerstall’s Drug Store on Good Hope. I’m sure that the people who PULL on this door today don’t have any idea who or what an Unnerstall was.

Do These Photos Say Cape?

I have a friend who was looking for some stock photos of Cape to use as headers on a web page. I started poking around and came up with these old and new photos that I think capture some of the spirit of the town.

The biggest challenge was finding pictures that would fit the exact format shape – a skinny horizontal.

Photographers HATE to shoot for shape

Photographers HATE going out to shoot for shape. We always figured that was a sign that the page designer was too lazy to work with the most story-telling photos on deadline. He wanted to dummy the page early so he could go home early.

Photographers, of course, believe that every photograph is perfectly composed. Some would express that conceit by printing their photos “full frame” with black borders that indicated that the picture had not been cropped. (Guilty as charged.)

Of course, as a guy who had to do his own layouts, I found that sometimes cropping the photo made the page look a lot better. It was OK if I did it; it was a mortal sin if someone else did it.

Photo gallery

Since I’m not exactly sure what my friend is looking for, I’ve pulled together photos that you’ve seen before and some that were in the pipeline. I’m curious to see what you think best says “Cape Girardeau.”

If she uses any, I’ll post the website address. As always, click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.


Stimulus Money Expedites Floodwall Repairs

When I walked the Mississippi River waterfront on April 12, 2011, I noticed some repairs being done to the floodwall. It looked like some vertical concrete columns had been added and that they may have extended down to the footers. It didn’t make enough of an impression on me to shoot more than a few record shots.

Old river gauge

The river was high on this day – 29.65 feet – but it was a long way from showing up on the old Cape river gauge. The Themis flood gate closes at 36 feet; Broadway’s a little higher, so it’s open until 38 feet.

At 39 feet, the Diversion Channel backs up and floods parts of Dutchtown. When it hits 42 feet, over 100,000 acres are flooded, according to the National Weather Service website.

Stimulus expedited repairs

I must have missed the May 1, 2009, Missourian story that announced that the Cape Girardeau floodwall repair project could be finished six to 12 months ahead of schedule thanks to $4 million that was part of the federal stimulus bill approved by Congress in February.

The total project to replace a sagging section of wall, install expansion joints, replace drains, upgrade pumps at Mill Street, add more rock to prevent erosion, pump grout under the wall to stop seepage, and some other incidentals was going to cost about $10 million.

Predictably, there were the normal grousing comments:

“…thanks to the federal stimulus bill…Yeah, they had a few extra bucks laying around that they were kind enough to share. So sweet! That 6 to 12 months gained will take years for our kids to pay for. Thanks kids!”

Replaced 8-foot section of wall

The work I saw was the tail-end of a project to cut expansion joints in the wall. I missed seeing an eight-foot section of the wall taken out. Fred Lynch captured a photo of something not seen since the 1960s – a clear view of the Mississippi River from near Independence Street through the missing panel.

The section that was replaced was near where the wall jogs out in the first photo.

The story quoted the area engineer for the Corps of Engineers’ office in Jackson as saying, “that section needed to be replaced. It had suffered some shifting and something was certainly not right with it.”

Fred’s photo was taken Dec. 6, 2010. Had the stimulus money not sped up the work, that questionable section could have still been in place (or open) when the river hit its fourth highest ever recorded stage of 46.09 feet on May 2. Had it failed, that $4 million would have been a drop in the bucket to what the losses would have been.

Previous high stages

48.49 feet – Aug. 8, 1992

  • 47.00 feet – May 24, 1995
  • 46.90 feet – Aug. 3, 1993
  • 45.70 feet – May 18, 2002
  • 45.50 feet – May 1, 1993

Downtown aerial Apr. 17, 2011

You can see the expansion joint work as the light-colored vertical pieces of the floodwall. The defective section that was replaced is where there’s a slight jog in the wall at the foot of Independence Street. As always, you can click on the image to make it larger.

The new Federal Courthouse is the large brick building to the left of Independence at the top of the photo. Across to its right, at Themis and Frederick, is Trinity Lutheran Church. The picture was taken on a Sunday, so the parking lot is full. The Common Pleas Courthouse is the green area up the riverfront from Themis.

Downtown in the 70s

The KFVS tower, Missourian building and N’Orleans are in the right center of the photo. The land where the courthouse will be built is mostly empty, although you can still see the curve of the railroad tracks where they tied in with Independence at Frederick. The light-colored object in the river on the lower right is the Huckstep fueling dock.

Downtown in the 60s

Obvious changes: