St. Charles Hotel: General Grant Slept Here

I shot this photo of birds flying around inside the St. Charles Hotel on March 11, 1967, and it ran on the front page of The Missourian on March 13. It had been sold Dec. 16, 1965, and was in the process of being razed when I took the picture. The roof had been removed and the interior was being gutted.

Gen. Grant slept here

Gen. U.S. Grant was registered in Room 5 for 50 days during the Civil War. Carrie Nation, of axe-wielding, saloon-busting fame, was a guest in 1907.

The building was completed in January of 1861. It was THE place to stay at the time. It was four stories tall, had verandas, an observatory, views of the river and large ventilated rooms.

The rooms had electric fans, according to this sign taken between Cape and Jackson April 13, 1967. Of course, by this time, the roof was off and ventilation was plentiful. I wonder what the $1.50 room looked like.

I stayed in an old hotel with spacious rooms in Piedmont for $2 a night during that era, so it’s possible that you COULD get a room that cheaply. The bathroom was down the hall, but it WAS inside.

The Missourian carried a notice of sale July 23, 1965. In it, it mentioned that the hotel building was four stories tall, had 70 feet of frontage, 50 rooms to rent and three tenants on the first floor (with written leases expiring at different times).

St. Charles Drug Store

The St. Charles Drug Store must have been one of the tenants, because a story on Jan. 18, 1967, said that the store was moving to the southwest corner of Broadway and Main St., to the building formerly occupied by the Singer Company. The move was going to require extensive renovations to the ground and second floors of the property.

Here’s a 2009 photo of the corner of the property where the Singer Company / St. Charles Drugstore was located.

Sterling’s replaced St. Charles Hotel

I shot this photo of the Sterling Store in January 1968. It must have been a cold day, because there is snow on the car parked in front of the store.

When I was home the last couple of times, I walked all of Main St., Broadway and Water St. shooting landmark buildings. The Sterling store must have been non-memorable enough that I didn’t waste any electrons on it.

Links to other photos

The Singer Company building and the St. Charles show up in the backgrounds of earlier stories I’ve posted.

[Editor’s note: things will be a bit slow here for a couple of days. I’m loading up the van to head back to Cape for the reunion, so I may not be posting until I get set up at my Mother’s house again. Hope to see a bunch of you there.]


21 Replies to “St. Charles Hotel: General Grant Slept Here”

  1. It’s sad that so many our historic biulding have been destroyed.
    I have not “lived” in Cape since 1976 and everytime I revisit, it saddens me to see all the houses and buildings that have been destroyed for financial reasons.
    Thankfuly you have recorded our great history in pictures over the years.
    Keep up the great work, Ken, and don’t let part of our history die!

  2. I remember this dump…Grant did sleep there and I remember my dad joking that if you stay in the Hotel in General Grants Room and you too could sleep on the same sheets!
    I think Billie Ewing (Bill Ewings the band teacher’s wife and Amy Ewing’s mom Class of “66”)used to run the St. Charles Pharmacy, which was not regular Pharmacy, but instead a cosmetics store…

  3. As teenagers, my friends and I loved the St. Charles “Pharmacy.” It was a wonderful cosmetics store and I bought my first lipstick and perfume there. What great memories you dredge up.

    1. I agree with Margi. Remember Mrs. Ewing bought it. The wonderful smell was heaven. Loved that store. Also loved The Travel Shop. Remember our monogrammed purses and notebooks?

  4. I just ran across an article in a very old Missourian I have which mentioned the ball and reception they held for General Grant at the St. Charles Hotel in 1862.
    One lady described him as “not so much to look at”, and another “as a little man, and as not having much of the appearance of the famous army man he was.”
    They said he was tired as he had walked all over the Cape area, visiting Fort D and the other forts at the northern edge of the city. He had been offered horses to ride but preferred to walk. According to the article a Gale family operated the hotel during the days of the war.

  5. Great piece of history! I worked at Strom’s news agency just up a few doors from the hotel, in the late 30’s & early 40’s at ages 8 to 16, so I am very familiar with the area. I was working at the old post office across the street from KFVS when “Matt Dillon”- James Arness came up Broadway to the studio in the late 50’s. Quite a thrill seeing him as Gunsmoke was a hit show at that time.
    Joe Whitright class of ’45

  6. Consider the time time frame. Downtown Cape had received its first serious retail challenge with the construction of the Town Plaza on old Doc Hathaway’s farm, but unlike retailers in most other Mississippi River towns, were unable to use flood insurance money to move West with the population because of the success of the floodwall which they had built – that’s right, the downtown merchants paid for the wall until it was taken over by the Corps of Engineers about 2 years ago.

    To meet Senator Spradling’s Plaza group threat, the river folks created a new entity to revitalize downtown. Razing the St. Charles and replacing it with a large retail establishment was part of that plan along with building more parking at either end of the two block retail area.
    There was even a plan to build covers over the sidewalks.

    As for the St. Charles, there are stll a few momentos held by those who were allowed to rummage through it in 1965.

    Roger’s dad managed Penny’s – Downtown.

  7. I was inside the old St. Charles Hotel one time to visit an elderly lady who was a friend of my parents. I can’t remember her name anymore, but I remember she had a chaffeur-driven Hudson and she lived in the St. Charles Hotel. Entering the front door off of Main Street, I can remember a dimly-lit spacious, carpeted sitting area with a set of wall-to-wall stairs (about 6-8 stairs) that led up to the hotel desk. I took the elevator up to her room which was toward the back of the building so she didn’t have a river view, but I remember the room being pretty big with velour curtains and a large vanity in her room with a lot of perfume bottles on the tri-mirrored dressing table. The perfumes made her room smell very nice. She thanked me for visiting her with a very lovely set of blue-stoned earrings that looked like little lanterns. I still have them. I’m so glad that I got to see that old hotel before it was raised. Are there any old pictures of the interior lobby tucked way back in an old box somewhere? I would love to see them. It was the first time that I was ever in a hotel.
    Thanks, Ken for constantly stirring up some wonderful, nostalgic memories for us each weekend.

    1. I don’t recall ever being inside the St. Charles Hotel, although I might have been there.

      My mother said her mother and father spent their honeymoon at the St. Charles. The railroad ran near her grandparents’ house, so they flagged the train near Advance and made it to Cape without any of their friends knowing where they were going.

      Mother thought she remembered there being a barbershop in the hotel’s basement, or at least below ground level. Maybe someone else knows.

  8. Ken, you have such amazing pictures and history but I’m thinking the current picture you have listed as being the Singer/ St Charles building is not correct. And I hesitate to question you! The picture was the Singer Building but the St Charles Pharmacy was in the Old St Charles Building on the corner in the next least that is how this old brain remembers it. And, yes, Mrs Ewing had the pharmacy gift shop and we would go in there to buy Fabrege’ perfume…I always bought Tiger because it had a furry cap! Please feel free to correct me if my memory has failed me!!

    1. How dare you question my memories?! Actually, it’s a pretty good idea to do so.

      In this case, though, I may have been guilty of poor description and not poor memory.

      The St. Charles Pharmacy WAS in the St. Charles Hotel, but it moved to the Singer building at the SW corner of Broadway and Main St. when the hotel was sold. At least, that’s what Frony said in his business column.

      Thanks for giving me a chance to clear that up. (Or confuse you more.)

  9. Ken, the old barber shop that you were talking about was right below ground level of the old First National Bank on Main Street just a little to the right of the banks steps. My Mom worked at the old First National Bank for years there and then the “new location” also and then the Farmers’ and Merchants Bank.

    Mr. Seabaugh, Brenda Seabaugh’s Dad, was the barber there. He was such a nice person always waving at us through the little window. I always thought the old First National Bank building on Main Street was so beautiful. Would you happen to have a picture of it tucked away somewhere?

    1. Margi whitright, my dear sister! You said it! I loved the St. Charles Pharmacy too!Thought the building was fascinating, pointed it out to my kids on may visits! Sorry it is gone!

  10. Ken, Very interesting information about the St.
    Charles Hotel. Many years ago I went to an auction
    on Kage Road and bought a spittoon. In it was a
    piece of white cardboard the had written on
    “Grant spat here.” It was supposed to have come from
    the ST. Charles Hotel. The auction was from the C.C.
    Kinder estate. The spittoon is ceramic or porcelain,
    not brass. Hope you can use the info. Bill

  11. I was born in 1951, in St. Louis, No, but my grandfather lived in Cape Girardeau. Several times during the 1950s we made trips there to visit him, and each time we stayed in the St. Charles Hotel…always in the same room..a large front room with its own bathroom, on the second floor. I loved that place and I also loved the 100 year old parrot belonging to the gentleman who ran the place. It broke my heart when I found out it was gone. You can never get those things back.

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