Wife Lila wanted to go to the Mississippi River overlook that used to be the traffic bridge. Along the way, we saw that not only had the historic handball courts been demolished, but that the beautiful view of the St. Vincent’s Seminary was also being lost. Sorry for the quality of the photo: it was the wrong time of day to shoot in that direction.
This is what you used to see
This nice, peaceful green space is what used to welcome you to Cape when you crossed the bridge.
Here’s what is going up
You’ll never know what the old seminary looked like from the south side. Let’s hear it for SEMO’s historic preservation program.
Don’t go looking for one of Cape’s oldest and best-known landmarks – the old handball courts in front of St. Vincent’s College, AKA Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus. Here’s how the courts, which may have been the oldest in the country, looked February 12, 2013.
The courts on July 7, 2013
Depending on which account you read, the courts date to the founding of the college in 1843 or 10 years later. Either way, they were one of the oldest structures in town until the university decided to destroy them and the green space that had welcomed travelers to Cape Girardeau from the opening of the Traffic Bridge in 1928 to its closing in 2003.
A school that claims to teach historic preservation does a lousy job of making preservation a priority when it comes to university projects. I’m only half surprised Academic Hall is being renovated instead of being turned into a parking lot. Click on any photo to make it larger.
It was appropriate that the first thing and the last thing you would see when you were coming into or leaving Cape by the Mississippi River Traffic Bridge was a religious institution, the St. Vincent’s College, a Catholic Seminary dating back to 1843. I suspect more prayers were said on that bridge than in all the churches in Cape on an Easter Sunday morning.
The first (or last) things you’d notice when looking at St. Vincents were the magnificent trees on the terrace to the east of the school and the curious brick structure in front of it – the handball court.
The loss of the brick court is a disgrace. The loss of the open lawn that gave the College buildings its character is a crime. They could have stacked the buildings they are planning on top of the parking lot to the west and maintained the character of the River Campus.
The biggest joke
The biggest cruel joke is that the university and planners are going to honor the handball court by preserving “some” of the bricks and incorporating them into the facade of the new building. Follow the link to the Missourian and you can see the care Milam Masonry is taking in “preserving” the bricks. It looks to me like the workers are heaving them off a scaffolding to land in a truck. I doubt there are workers wearing catcher’s mitts standing down there to catch them.
When I made these photographs Feb. 12, 2013, I was astounded at how many had names and dates intricately scratched into them. There were some seminarians with a lot of time on their hands. What was fascinating was the different printing styles the students used over the years.
Did anyone document the bricks?
I wonder if anyone took the time to shoot individual closeups of the bricks before the wreckers got there? You’d think a university with an historic preservation program would have been all over that.
I shot a few of the bricks, but the lighting wasn’t coming from the best direction to capture detail. The 1920s and the 1940s were well-represented.
When I looked at the ones from the ’40s, I wondered how many of those boys were shipped overseas to fight in World War II and whose only markers are a white cross in a foreign land and a name scrawled on a brick in a handball court that is being torn down.
Will the terraces and trees be next?
It won’t do any good to cry over spilt bricks. We’ve lost that piece of Cape’s history. Now’s the time to head off turning the terraces and trees into parking lots.See how flat the ground is? Cut down those pesky trees and spread some asphalt and you could fit several hundred cars there.
I mean, after all, they could “preserve” the trees by turning them into commemorative toothpicks.
Some day, someone doing research may come looking for photos of what Cape Girardeau looked like before Southeast Missouri State University bulldozed it. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.