What’s With the Clock?

This may be heresy, but I’m just gonna have to say it: What’s the big deal with the clock in the middle of Main Street?

When I was downtown the other day, I realized that I had never photographed the clock on purpose Is it because it wasn’t there when I was growing up, so I don’t have fond memories of dodging it (like the person who knocked down the bollards didn’t do)?

A plaque on the side says it was “Dedicated this 19th day of June, 1986 (they left out the comma) to the City of Cape Girardeau by the Cape Girardeau Downtown Redevelopment Authority”

Why is it considered so iconic?

Looking toward the Courthouse

Even through I never went looking to shoot a picture of the clock, it sometimes pops up as a dot in other images. Here it is in the center of a night shot I did looking west toward the Common Pleas Courthouse.

Looking toward Mississippi River

Then, it showed up in a photo I took FROM the Common Pleas Courthouse looking east down Themis.

Maybe the next generations of Cape Girardeans will appreciate it more since it was part of their childhood. Or, will there be any of that generation who ever made it downtown to SEE the clock during their childhood?

22 Replies to “What’s With the Clock?”

  1. Although I’m not from Cape I consider it a complete mistake. As you can see the posts are always being knocked off. By what I assume are unobservant shoppers or late night bar patrons. As for shopping well I’ve only been once in the last 5-6 years. Mostly over priced specialty shops, jewlery shops, what passes for art galleries & bars. Not much to attract the average daily shopper. The shops are still open so I guess people with more money than sence and of course drinkers from SEMO keep the lights burning. Sorry to say the things that used to bring me downtown are no longer there. Heck the last time I went down to look the Christmas display in Hutson’s window it was only a very poor remnant of my youth. Alas progress waits for no one !?

  2. Sometime before 1983 a study was done on what to do about Downtown Cape – Booker Final Development Plan. In that year the CG Redevelopment Corp. hired the architects of Lehne and Gantz to develop a proposal. Don’t know at what cost.

    Section three of the Gantz proposal (similar to that of
    scores of similar proposals for other towns) contains this:

    … This 19th century character should be the theme for the area.


    It is proposed that an ornate that an ornate reproduction 19th century clock be placed at the intersection of Themis and Main Street. … An appropriate clock, available from a California manufacturer, is illustrated …

    I don’t know the goals of the Booker Report, the final cost or the measures of success, but one wonders if the current downtown is what was envisioned.

    1. Carl,
      I’m seeking any information on the clock on Main St. in downtown Cape that you could give me! I realize that it’s been a long time since that post!

      Jim Spence

  3. Hi Ken,the clock needs to be worked on! But I like the pictures you took much better!! The lighting is so nice and especially the one from the top of the court house steps! You can see all the way down Themis,across the Mississippi River and some lights from the Illinois side! Would make beautiful post cards, note cards, painting or other.

  4. Shame on you, Mr. Steinhoff! The clock is lovely, despite the inconvenience to motorists and downtown parades (the marching bands have to practice a method of splitting in half at the clock).
    As usual, your readers are going to furnish you with the background you’re looking for on this topic, you clever rascal!

  5. I agree, Ken. The clock was a mistake. Putting large objects in the middle of a busy street is never smart. When the clock first went up, folks in the city government spent a lot of time and money trying to figure out why people were running into the clock.

    I sent the city council a letter and told them that the only reason people were hitting the clock was because it was in the middle of the street.

    The clock looks awful and needs to go.

    1. We had a mayor in West Palm Beach – a FORMER mayor, thankfully – who was big on traffic calming. He did lots of things like that.

      He’d take a perfectly good road that was wide enough for a car and a bike to pass safely and narrow it with what we call “traffic furniture” so that we would have to take the lane and slow the drivers behind us. That does NOT calm traffic.

      Or, he’d put traffic “humps” (wider than “bumps”) on streets that were so potholed that you couldn’t drive the speed limit anyway.

      If his goal was to slow traffic down, I couldn’t understand why he didn’t convert all the streets to gravel and be done with it.

      The clock doesn’t offend me. It’s just never caught my eye as something I would photograph on purpose.

      I will say that it has lasted longer than the activities sign the Class of 65 bought for the front of Central.

      1. Hi Ken,
        I realize it’s been a while (judging by the dates of the posts), but if you happen to see this, I’m very interested in that clock on Main St. in Cape. See, I’m a journalism major down here at Semo, and I plan to write a paper about the clock, so anything you could tell me would be much appreciated. For instance, I had heard once that there is a time capsule buried there. Is that just a rumor?
        Jim Spence (jbspence1s@semo.edu)

  6. I don’t like the sign either. I wonder how all the delivery trucks that must use Main Street to deliver to the businesses there can get around it. It just makes no sense to me to put a clock in the middle of a busy intersection!

  7. The bank building just north east of the current clock used to have a big clock hanging on the side of the building. THAT clock worked great and it was dependable if you were driving down there and needed to check the time. Not sure what happened to that clock….

    Current clock. I sure hope Downtown Development folks are future-savvy enough to have thought about putting a sign on the clock that denotes the exact time the last business closes on the street. (I think I hear Tick-Tock the crocodile in the background making his way to downtown now….)

  8. IMHO, the clock idea was sold to the CGDRA by the architects, who probably received a commission on the sale. It was and still is a BAD idea, mostly due to its location. If there was a good reason to have an iconic clock in the downtown area, a better place would have been at the base of the stairs to the Common Pleas Courthouse. It would not have been in the traffic flow and, most importantly, it would not detract from what was a beautiful view of the courthouse from Water Street as it does now.

    There really isn’t any charm to it, it is electric, makes no sounds and has no visible moving parts as would a 19th Century clock.

  9. You see a lot of clocks or monuments in the middle of a busy street up here in New England towns. They are mean to add ambience and act to sslow or impede traffic. Up here they are usually in a small rotary, the one in cape may be in a tiny rotary… i seem to remember that clock up by the courthouse a block away. but my memory may be failing.

  10. As per always, your photos and commentary are great, Ken. As re the clock in the middle of Main Street, the problem with that clock is simple because IT IS PLACED SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF A MAIN THOROUGHFARE–DUH!

  11. Ken,
    I realize that the above listed comments about the clock on Main St. were made quite a while back; but I’d still be interested to learn more about it. For instance, I heard from one source that there’s a time capsule buried there! Can you please either corroborate or debunk that claim? Regardless, I would appreciate it very much if you would contact me on this! And yes my name should sound familiar, I contacted you a year and a half ago about the proposed re-opening of the Esquire theatre. Your name stood out to me because I remembered how prompt you had been in replying!

    Jim Spence

    1. I can’t help you with your question about the time capsule. The dedication of the clock didn’t get a lot of play in The Missourian (or I couldn’t find the stories), so I don’t know if it contains a time capsule or not.

      Interestingly enough, one study recommended moving the clock to improve casino traffic flow. That might have been when the casino was going to be built in the downtown area instead of the shoe factory.

      Marla Maples at Old Town Cape may be able to help you.

      Too bad the Esquire project crashed and burned.

  12. Okay, I’m gonna buck the flow here…I LIKE the clock. But then again, I don’t remember it not being there. I guess I didn’t pay enough attention when I was a kid, because it was installed the year I graduated from high school. I have more trouble adjusting to the fact that the street is no longer ONE WAY than getting around the clock.

  13. First, I’m not an architect, I was a developer in St. LOuis, specializing in historic redevelopment. The clock is a small part of a redevelopment 353 plan prepared by us and passed by the city. It was well recognized that old time Main St. retail could never be brought back. The store fronts were to be returned to their original facades if possible.The clock did what it was supposed to do, slow traffic, and encourage a look toward the old courthouse at the top of the hill. I think downtown is in far better shape than in 1985. Those who don’t like it don’t have a clue, but you are entitled to your own opinion.Did anyone like Main St. better as it was in 1985?

    1. Carl,

      I guess those people who are looking at the Common Pleas Courthouse are the ones who hit the clock in the middle of the street.

      I’m as big a fan of preservation as anybody (otherwise I wouldn’t have started this site which attempts to preserve a slice of the community’s life), but I have never liked the clock. I also take umbrage at your observation, “Those who don’t like it don’t have a clue, but you are entitled to your own opinion.”

      I HAVE a clue and I have an opinion. My opinion is that the clock adds nothing to Main Street. That doesn’t make me any more right than your contention is that it is wonderful.

  14. I like the clock! It does add ambience to the street, and it is probably appreciated more by visitors than by long-time residents. As a REALTOR, I often escort people around town who are considering a move to Cape, and that clock is one of the sites they like and is often a subject of their photos.

    1. Liz, that’s probably because they want photos to take back home so they can show their friends what a crazy thing the Cape folks did: “Put a clock in the middle of a busy intersection? What were they thinking?”

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