The Quarry from the Top

 Buzzi Unicem plant manager Steve Leus 11-10-2010Without thinking I had a chance in the world of success, I approached Buzzi Unicem plant manage Steve Leus in the fall of 2010 to ask for a tour of the cement plant and quarry. That usually results in months of getting bounced from corporate type to corporate type, ending up in a “No.”

I showed up in Steve’s office with a stack of prints I had taken over the past 40 years from the air, from inside the caverns, from the quarry’s edge, and of the plumes of white particulate that used to belch from the stacks of the plant. We had a great conversation, then he handed me a hard hat and we were on our way. THAT’S the kind of manager I like to deal with.

There are some stories that paralyze me because they are special to me. This is one of those. I kept putting off and putting off publishing it because I wanted to research the history of the plant that has changed names many times, boil down Steve’s explanation of how rock  becomes cement and do it right.

Let’s pull the trigger

Cape cement plant and quarry 11-10-2010Today, more than three years later, I figured I’d better pull the trigger on this puppy and start publishing it in bits and pieces. I am NEVER going to do all that research and transcribe the paper and digital notes I have. Let’s get real: I’m a photographer, not a historian. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Part One will show the huge hole in the ground from the top. Well, not ALL the way from the top. I’ve got a bunch of aerial photos over the years that will run later.

Sometime in the future, I’ll publish photos taken from the bottom of the quarry including the tunnels that you are driving over when you are on Sprigg Street.

Unfortunately, NOBODY, Steve said, is allowed in them. There’s no danger of Sprigg Street collapsing, but safety regulations are a lot more stringent than they were a hundred years ago.

The old Blue Hole

Cape cement plant and quarry 11-10-2010If I remember my history and what Steve told me, the rounded area on the far right was what was popularly known as the “Blue Hole,” called that because of the color of the water that filled it. At one time, this area was two quarries. When the caverns were blown, it became one big hole.

You can see the dome of SEMO’s Academic Hall sticking up in the center of the photo.

Earlier stories about the quarry and cement plant

Quarry photo gallery

Some of the photos look a bit repetitious, but there are subtle difference in all of them. Click on any image to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery. Thanks to Steve for sharing a part of Cape that has fascinated me since I was a kid.

Cement Plant HQ and Other News

Cape cement plant office building built in 1926 11-10-2010A story in the Nov. 29, 1926, Missourian said “High officials of the Marquette Cement Manufacturing Company and affiliated corporations, have arrived in Cape Girardeau for the dedication late today of the new $50,000 office building near the plant in South Cape Girardeau. The new building, one of the most ornate and substantial in Cape Girardeau, has been completed and is ready for occupation.”

Although the late afternoon sun makes the color much warmer than it really is, the building looks like it has been well-maintained. It IS ornate.

Abandoned oxbows of Cape LaCroix Creek

Cape cement plant office building built in 1926 11-10-2010A view from atop the cement plant shows the headquarters building sitting near oxbows of Cape LaCroix Creek from the days when it used to join the Mississippi River close to the Diversion Channel instead of its present course north of the plant and south of what used to be Smelterville.

Other stories that day

Cape cement plant office building built in 1926 11-10-2010I can’t just read what I was looking for. I always get sucked into reading the stories around my target. Here’s what else was being written about on Nov. 29, 1926.

  • Bandit with mask and gun holds up the Kelso filling station on South Sprigg and makes off with $71 after forcing attendant Ray Ward into a closet and telling him, “Stay there for five minutes or I’ll blow your head off.”
  • Will Rogers not comfortable with his Louisville automobile ride when it hits 60 miles per hour: “Say, we might all get killed.”
  • KMOX in St. Louis to feature organ selections by William Shivelbine, the New Broadway Theater organist, and vocal selections by Dr. Jean Ruff, the Cape Girardeau baritone. The address on “Cape Girardeau,” to have been made by Julien Friant, “will not begiven, the time not being sufficient.”
  • Ernest Wagner, 68, a blacksmith put out of business by the automobile, died.
  • Two marriage licenses not returned to recorder (on the front page, with names, no less).
  • King Solomon takes 40th wife. Says it’s his last wedding, “since this was really and truly a love match.”
  • C. Hale, telegraph operator at Glenallen, writes The Missourian that he was not responsible for the error in a telegram which came here, which due to the transposition of the word “mother” and “motor” caused friends to believe Mrs. Max Weilputez had been drowned. It will be recalled that the message as received here said, “mother drowned,” but should have said “motor drowned.”
  • Geraldine Wilson secretly married to school teacher: Miss Geraldine Wilson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Orren Wilson, 1325 Broadway, was married secretly to Frank Jones of Whitewater Sunday. According to Mrs. Wilson, mother of Geraldine, the ceremony took place in an Illinois town and was a complete surprise to her and Mr. Wilson. Mrs. Jones had attended College High School and was a senior at Central this year and would have graduated in voice in the spring. Mr. Jones has attended Teachers College here and is now teaching at Round Pond School near Allenville.