Down by the Riverside

I wonder how long it’ll take before the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge stops being the “new” bridge and becomes just The Bridge?

I was going to take the night off for the holiday, but ran across these photos from July 28, 2002. It was dusk, both bridges were still standing, barges were running up and down the river and folks were gathering on the waterfront.

Gallery of Waterfront photos

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.

Other photos of the waterfront

Here are just a few of the stories and photos taken of Cape’s riverfront.

Greetings from Cape Girardeau

I’m always looking for Cape memorabilia. I think I picked this Souvenir of Cape Girardeau postcard packet at Annie Laurie’s Antiques on one of my recent visits. It could have been mailed for 1.5 cents (without message) when it was new. (Click on any image to make it larger)

Sold at Strom’s News Agency

There’s a tiny note that says Strom’s News Agency, Cape Girardeau, Mo., on this sheet that has all kinds of factoids about Cape. I’m going to guess the information dates back to the late 20s or early 30s.

Bridge, bluffs and steam boats

The Mississippi River Traffic Bridge opened to traffic Aug. 22,1928, so this had to have been published after that.

The rock bluffs have me guessing unless they are on the stretch on South Sprigg south and west of the cement plant. I can’t think of any other bluffs that are that close to the highway on The Kings Highway. I’m not even sure that South Sprigg carried that moniker.

Someone much more ancient that me will have to come up with the last time three steam boats docked on Cape’s riverfront.

Is that the KFVS tower?

These postcards were hand-colored, so the artists had to make assumptions. Unless the facades changed, both the Common Pleas Courthouse and St. Vincent’s College were made of red brick.

The only radio tower that I can think of between Cape and Jackson was the KFVS Radio tower that I photographed in 2009. The one on the postcard doesn’t look like it’s on the crest of the hill but the perspective might be off.

Burfordville, Arena Building and SEMO

The Bollinger Mill and Covered Bridge at Burfordville looks pretty much like when I photographed them last year.

The Arena Building looks pretty much the same, too, but this was years before the Radio-Active Girl Scouts showed up there.

St. Vincent’s, Marquette and SE Hospital

Southeast Hospital certainly has changed a lot since this was taken.

The Marquette Hotel looked pretty close to this in the 60s when it was in the background of a fender-bender I covered at Broadway and Fountain. The artist missed on the color of the facade, though.

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church has red brick in the real world, too.

St. Francis Hospital long gone

St. Francis Hospital was torn down in 2000.

They must have run out of things to show in Cape, because the rest of the images are from around the Big Springs region.

Curt Teich & Co.

As a photographer, I’m pretty careful about appropriating photos that others have taken because I don’t like mine to get ripped off. In tiny, tiny print there was a note that the Souvenir Folder was © Curt Teich & Co. Figuring the copyright had probably expired – or the company probably had – I Googled the name.

I had seen this style of card over the years, but I didn’t realize exactly how many the company had produced. There’s a whole collection of them that includes images of more than 10,000 cities and towns.

Thebes Railroad Bridge

Southeast Missourian webmaster and bridgehunter James Baughn had a piece on photographing the world’s largest operating steam engine when it crossed over the Thebes Railroad Bridge in 2004. That got me to rooting around for some of the photos I’ve shot of it over the years.

Thebes in 2010

It’s hard to get a feel for just how massive this bridge is from a distance. This photo was taken this spring when the Mississippi River was above flood stage. What used to be downtown Thebes has been reduced to a few roads, some foundations and some park structures.

Thebes in 1966

This shot of the bridge from the Thebes Courthouse in 1966 shows the same area before the floods of 1973 and 1993 took their toll on the town.

Railroad Bridge and Thebes Courthouse

I’ll have more photos of the Thebes Courthouse when I run across a few more. The courthouse was built in 1848 out of local sandstone, hewn timbers, hand-sawed boards, plaster and with a split shingle roof.

Dred Scott was imprisoned in a dungeon below the courthouse.

Bridge built in 1905

James’ BridgeHunter site has additional photos, including some of it under construction. His information says it was built in 1905 by a consortium of five railroad companies.

The massive structure is beginning to show its age. I can’t remember ever seeing it when it was freshly painted. It still carries a lot of Union Pacific rail traffic on its two tracks. I’ve read that there was talk about the bridge carrying automobile traffic as well as trains, but the Cape Girardeau Traffic Bridge killed off that idea.

Pier stone weighs 6,000 pounds

To give another idea of its size, the plaque on this stone says it is “Original handhewn pier block from the Mississippi River Bridge at Thebes built in 1905. Recovered from the river in 1990. Block weight 6,000 lbs.”

Piers dwarf Honda Odyssey

The huge piers on the Illinois side of the river dwarf my Honda Odyssey.

I left a comment on the Bridgehunter site:

As the cub reporter fresh out of high school, I ended up writing an awful lot of obits for The Southeast Missourian.

One, in particular, stuck out in my mind. The singular most exciting thing in this woman’s life was that she was on the first train to cross the Thebes RR bridge. I thought it was sad that that was the high point of her life.

What does it say about the arc of my life and career that I would remember that woman four decades later?

Cape Mississippi River Bridge RIP (Rest in Pieces)

The old Cape Mississippi River Traffic Bridge was an adolescent adrenaline rush, a white-knuckled journey of fear and angst; it was an inconvenience, it was the site of personal and family tragedy. It also opened up Cape Girardeau to Illinois and points east when it became the first bridge across the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Memphis.

It was a part of our lives, indicated by the number and variety of the comments left on yesterday’s post about a crash on the bridge.  The span, which was 4,744 feet, 4 inches long, opened to traffic August 22, 1928. A contractor used explosives to drop the bridge into the Mississippi August 3, 2004.

The approach to nowhere

The steelwork has all been removed, but they were still working on removing the bridge piers when I shot this photo from the Illinois side of the river in October of 2004.

Piers the last to go

The massive piers that held the bridge up were the last parts to be demolished. This photo shows the flood gates that are closed, blocking north and south rail traffic when the river gets high. I prowled around under the bridge here and picked up a few souvenir pieces of steel. The Missourian said 160,000 rivets were used in building the bridge.

Missouri approach turned into scenic viewing area

The decorative archway over the Cape approach to the bridge has been preserved and a portion of the span has been turned into an attractive viewing area. I wish that the whole bridge could have been preserved for bicycles and pedestrians like the Chain of Rocks Bridge north of St. Louis, but the Coast Guard considered having two bridges that close together to be a navigation hazard.

Mississippi River Traffic Bridge Photo Gallery

Here is a collection of photos taken of the bridge’s last days in the fall of 2004. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.