Lorimier School / Cape City Hall

When the state legislature passed legislation in 1867 allowing tax-supported public schools, Lorimier School became the first public school in Cape Girardeau, not a popular concept at the time.

Jeanie Eddleman observes in her book, Yesteryears, that Mark Twain was quite taken with the architecture of Cape. In Life on the Mississippi, he characterized Cape Girardeau as the Athens of Missouri because of its ornate nature. Lorimier was an three-story Renaissance building 163 feet by 72 feet, with a one-story chapel wing.

The 1873 structure was abandoned in 1928. In 1936, an $85,000 bond issue was passed to build a new school on the existing site. A $57,000 grant from the Public Works Administration was added to the bonds. (Another one of those Federal stimulus packages designed to pump up the economy.)

Cursive writing on cornerstone

I’ve never seen a cornerstone with cursive writing on it before.

Lorimier School closed in 1975

Lorimier School closed in 1975, due to declining enrollment. The city of Cape Girardeau converted the facility to a City Hall, preserving this piece of local history.

What is this house?

I should know the name of this house to the east of City Hall, but I’m drawing a blank. Can anyone identify it?

Ornate entrance

No public building of this era would be complete without some kind of ornate do-hickey to set off the main entrance. The modern, utilitarian City Hall sign injects a jarring sterility to the scene. (That’s the kind of stuff I learned to say in Art 101 in school. It’s a fancy way of saying, “That sign is butt-ugly.”)

My film scanner gave up the ghost

I had a whole bunch of negatives to scan, but my film scanner bought the farm this morning. I knew silver film had been wounded, if not killed off, by digital photography, but it never dawned on me how hard it was going to be to find a digital scanner.

All of the high-end professional models were backordered for at least two months or discontinued. In some cases, used equipment was selling for higher prices than new, because the new wasn’t available. I finally ended up ordering a “like new” Nikon Super CoolScan 8000 ED off eBay late in the evening. I hope my First Born likes his new master, cause that’s about what it cost.

If nothing else, I’ll have a reason to haunt the mailbox for the next few days.

39 Replies to “Lorimier School / Cape City Hall”

  1. I went to Lorimier School from Kindergarten through the 6th grade. A lot of good memories there. I went back sometime in the 70/80 and stopped in the restrooms, they still had the old bathroom fixtures. Hard to imagine that we were that small, the urinal came up to my knees.
    John Vogel lived in the house next to the school when I went to Lorimier. We had Cub Scout meetings there. The story goes that the house was used as an underground railroad during the Civil War, There was supposed to be a tunnel where the furnace was that lead to the river. They also had a neat fish pond down below the house.
    On the other side of the school was an old abandoned 3 story train depot. It was made of limestone and was a really nice looking building. I believe Louis Houck built it. The Missourian ran a picture of it a couple of months ago in out of the past. We used to play wiffile ball at Lorimier outside in the summer and when it rained we would go over the old station and play ball inside, it had pretty good size rooms.

    1. Jesse,

      Yep, that big, old limestone building was the Houck Railroad Depot. Here are some tidbits from The Missourian:

      Louis Houck’s stone railroad depot on Independence Street, near Middle Street, was demolished [in 1964], completing the work a fire had started several years before. The depot was built in 1905. Stones salvaged from the structure were turned over to the city park department for use in the construction of the State Conservation Commission building in Arena Park.

  2. i went to lorimier from first grade to mid 4th grade. i remmeber when kennedy was shot there was a series of oral vacines the public was encouraged to take..i think it was polio? it maight as well been LSD..LOL one of them was on a sugar cube we swallowed.the time frame had bed set up to take thes in a series.one of those dates happened to being over that dreadful weekend kennedy was killed.
    i have visited city hall to do something for my mom.the tiled drinking fountains were still there and working.it made me think of mrs.henderson my first grade teacher..mrs.pierce.second grade..mrs. hall and the one i loved best was mrs hudson the fourth grade teacher.
    i’m pleased cape didn’t tear it down like so many other cool buildings that suddenly deem not worthy of being reused as an useful building.i do this site very much..it jars my memory..some pleasant..some not..but it is enjooyable to read

    1. Stephen,

      It was polio vaccine on a sugar cube. My family and I went to Central High School for our dose. On the way out, we heard that Lee Harvey Oswald had just been shot.

      Speaking of memories, I just stumbled across a great resource. Check out the podcasts at Almost Yesterday. Dr. Frank Nickel, local historian, does a great job of finding quirky stories about the Southeast Missouri area.

      (His stuff is a lot like mine, except his information is accurate.)

    2. Miss Henderson was my first grade teacher too. I think it was Miss. I can’t remember the second grade teacher’s name but Mrs. Stein was my third grade teacher. Then we moved. We lived on Themis, just around the corner.

      I’m so glad they didn’t tear this fine old building down.

    3. Hi Stephen,

      We were likely there at the same time or at least close in proximity. I had all the same teachers to which you refer. I then went on to Mrs. Harper for 5th and Mrs. Furth for 6th grade. Small World.

      Then I was Tommy Freeman. I have since come out and married to my husband. We have been together for 23 years and married for 3 years. My name is now Thom Freeman-Stuart. email bentleybubbles@gmail.com.

      Take and stay safe…. Thom

  3. Ken the house in question i believe was and may stillbe owend by Bert and Mary Ann kellerman. Mrs. Kellerman was a interior Designer and taught Inerterior design at Semo. Mr. Kellerman Was at one time a dean at the college. Waht department I do not know. i am going on old memory since it is now almost 22 years since i lived in Cape thanks for the great site. Did you ever get a scanner., I have a minolta the i no longer use Email me at rpoll1@comcast.net if you need one still.
    Bob Pollack

    1. Bob, Thanks for the generous offer. I read some good reviews on Minolta scanners, but I couldn’t find any available for sale.

      After spending most of the day reading reviews and running down dead ends, I bought a Nikon scanner on eBay last night. It was a little more than I wanted to pay (what isn’t these days), but the seller said he had 42 watchers on the item (but no bids). I paid $200 over starting price to buy it outright rather than fooling around and getting outbid.

      The market for professional-grade scanning equipment was small to begin with, but it’s going to dry up completely in the next few years. My heirs will probably be able to sell it for more than I paid for it. (That’ll probably be the ONLY legacy I leave them.)

  4. Ken,
    The house is John Vogle’s (Class of “66”)home…His dad was an FBI agent….nice older home with a great view of the river and hidden from view…FB John and he can fill you in…

  5. Thanks for the Lorimier School feature. Love your photographic essays. I attended Lorimier in 1947-1949. My book Delta Pearls, a collection of short fiction published in 2006, has a short story, “The May Day King” set at Lorimier School. It is more truth than fiction. Lorimier had May Day celebrations each year with a Queen and King elected. The Magnolia tree mentioned in my story still stands today. We danced around a May Day pole, participated in gymnastics and enjoyed picnic fare. Teachers of Note: Helen Smith,Miss Louise Williams, Mrs. Lightfoot, Miss Bray, Mr. Steck and Mr. Allen.



  8. On the east side of the Vogel house is a dramatic bluff that drops down toward the river. Merriwether Street deadends at that bluff and it cuts Fountain St off for several blocks.
    There is an old painting that shows the bluffs with Lormier School on top. Trees and vines cover the hillside now, but the bluffs are still there at the back side of City Hall parking lot.

  9. I also remember the railroad tracks behind the school and that was also where Missouri utilities stored there wood utility poles. They were coated in creosote and we had fun walking across them trying to keep our balance. After we were finished with our fun we all smelled like creosote, I am sure our parents loved us when we came home with it all over us and our clothes.
    “Happy Hallow”, I don’t know how it got its name, was also behind the school and we spent a number of summer days/weekends exploring the mess that was in there. There was raw sewage leaking from pipes and who knows what else was there but when you’re young and dumb it was exciting stuff. There was also a cave in the hollow. It looked to be manmade as it had a brick lining. Someone said that it ran up to the Collage but I don’t know for sure. We were able to look inside it from a hole on top. My older brothers said they explored it when they were younger but the City closed it off because they thought to many kids were playing there and would get hurt. The back of the new Federal Building should be close to it.

    1. Happy Hollow is on my list of stories to do as soon as my new scanner comes in. I did stories about it when it would catch time from time to time and when it was infested with rats.

      The “cave” was probably a wine or beer cellar. I have one of those that was uncovered along N. Sprigg when the college built dorms along there. Those negs are in the to-be-scanned stack, too.

  10. Ken, can’t help to feel your pain. I too have seen and continue to feel the demise of film. The company I work for bought 2 long roll Kodak HR500 scanners 8-10 years ago. Say maybe $60k a piece, still running, but barely. Price was high but they are production machines and I’m sure they have made well more than they are worth many times in production downstream. It has been a brutal few years in photography as digital has taken over.

    Don’t remember much about this school other than dad’s office was there, when I moved to Cape I started at Schultz (hope I spelled right). Hope you might do it later, the fire escape was cool.

    1. I can’t say that I miss silver film. I’ve been able to shoot color photos with a digital camera that would have been virtually impossible with conventional film.

      The film scanner I had been using cost about 5 grand when it was new in the late 90s. Ones that were substantially better than that today were about half the cost, but they weren’t available. That’s why I had to go to the secondary market.

      I’ve got a piece on the old Schultz School waiting for me to pull the trigger. You’re going to be amazed at what’s been done with it if you haven’t been inside in the last year. (The fire escape is gone, by the way.)

      1. I attended Lorimier school 1st-4th. Do you know if yearbooks then included elementary kids? Thanks.

  11. I attended Lorimier school for my entire elementary years also I lived on Lorimier Street. The shortcut to school for me was through the Happy hollow and I remember being terrified each time that I raced through there. I thought that the house you showed in the picture was Sally Suttons who was one year ahead of me graduating in’55 while I was in the class of ’56.

    1. The Sutton’s lived there before the Vogel’s purchased it in the 50’s. My husband and I bought it from the Vogel’s in 1971. We still own it. Have lived there 50 years in 2022. It was built in 1882 by a major in the Confederate Army. His name was George Boardman Clark.

  12. The house east of Lorimer, in the early 50s must be the one then inhabited by a family Evans. They had 3 little boys which I baby-sat. Mrs. Evans told me the house had long been in her family.The view was fantastic from those tall windows, high above the river.

  13. I found the house in question in the book, “Images Of The Past In The City Of Roses.” The caption of the picture reads, “Eastview, 6 S. Fountain, was built in 1882 by Major George B. Clarke, a Confederate Civil War veteran. Clarke sold the home to James C. Page in 1891 for $4,000. Six fireplaces and windows measuring 8 feet in length are features of this Greek Revival structure. (Southeast Missourian)”

  14. I started the 8th grade at Lorimier in 1947 before moving on to the old Central High the following year. There were some great kids in my class including Alice Porritt, Geri Coleman, Dixie Bader, Gene Munger, Johnny Brussman, and a lot more. Walter Ford was a half year behind me amd my sister Beth was a year behind him. Gene, Walter and I played on the school softball and basketball teams. Back then hoboe’s reportedly hung out in the trees below the school softball backstop.

  15. The house is definitely where the Vogels lived. I was in class with Raymond (CHS Class of ’67).

  16. I believe the house next to Lorimer School once was inhabited by a family Evans with 3-little boys. I baby-sat there many nights and while the view through those tall windows was awesome, so high above the river, I sometimes was a little uneasy up there with no neighbors and no shades. Mrs. Evans told me the house had come to them through her family. Frank Masters’, of an early CHS class, bride-to-be was their nanny prior to my stint.

  17. The house by City Hall was built in 1882 by George Boardman Clark. The architect was Edwin Branch Deane. I am Mary Ann Kellerman. My husband and I bought the home in 1970 , and have lived there 40 years. I am an interior designer in Cape Girardeau….and a Professor Emerita from Southeast Missouri State University. I have a PhD. In interior design. My husband, Dr. Bert Kellerman, was the Associate Dean of the Harrison College of Business, and is also a retired professor. We obtained the listing on the National Register of Historic Places in the late 1990s. Ray Vogel, a local attorney lived in it before we purchased it from him in 1970 …..when we were in graduate school at the univ of MO, and I was studying historic architecture. Dr. Sutton owned it before the Vogels. McFarlands owned it in the 1930s. The Evans did own it a short time in the 1950s.

  18. I attended Lorimer in 1958 or 1957. Norman Wensky was principal and he had a prosthetic hook for his hand due to war injury. Mrs. Hall I think I remember. Can’t recall names of class mates except for Becky Lang. I made a trip back to Cape for my 40th birthday in 1988 and took pics of the building. I do remember John Vogel and think I attended one of his birthday partys at his home. We kids were down by the pond in the back yard, or perhaps it was a patio. I do remember the underground railway reports. Also Happy Hollow ! Used to walk on the railroad trestle. Lived in an apt. at 202 Spanish St. and moved from Cape in 1959 or 60. My Mom played piano at the Petit N’ Orleans, the Purple Crackle Club also…in the heyday of nightclubs. ! My sister is Lewie and brother is Barton.

    1. connie who was your mom? i had older sisters who worked at the n’orleans and the crackle..i used to love the crackle,it had the best chinese food. when i moved to st.louis in the late 70’s and went to work.someone asked if i wanted some chinese food..i thought great..we walked to this hole in the wall place called sunrise chop suey..OMG! after having to get dressed up to go eat chinese at the crackle to this dive?..and i was thinking what in the world was a st.paul sandwich?..i’d had never heard of such a thing..turned out to be egg foo yung on white bread with lettuce,tomatoe and mayo..LOL

  19. Oh the Purple Crackle, what a treat. My parents took me there for my 13th birthday. I felt so grown up. I remeber my parents also going to the Petit N’Orleans all dressed up for a night out. May not remember this correctly but seemed to me they did go to a night club for dancing. Across the river perhps? I just love this site and reading about places I remember as a child. Cape was a great place to be a kid.

  20. down from the crackle was the colony club.then further down at the innersection i think there was the thunderbird.in mcclure there were what i could call speakeasis..the flying saucer..one story cinder block bars that were dark and had the coldest beer in town..those were the days..the crackle was nice.white linens. all the food came out with those silver domed covered dishes. there was bingo on sunday nights.the best chinese food. once i moved to st.louis,someone took me to a “chinese place”..no table service..a window you gave your order at…i am looking at the menu and asked my friend “what the hell is a st.paul sandwich?”..found out it was egg foo young on white bread with mayo.lettuce and tomato..btw they are wonderful..

  21. I attended Kindergarten (had a bay window-on East side), first, sec.,& third grades at Lorimer School-must have been ’55 up (class of ’69 Central). I have very vivid memories from there: also walked the RR rails-balancing in Happy Hollow, although my parents forbid it & I never went alone. Martha Vogel was in our class-that house was magnificent. I remember hopscotch in back, cafeteria was
    In the basement (west side) below the auditorium. The bldg is awesome & I’m so glad it was saved.

  22. I too went to Lorimier (CHS67) and was friends with Ray Vogel who lived in the white house next door. I understand Ray passed away. Anyone with information on his passing? I too explored the depot and walked home by way of Happy Hollow. After graduation from SEMO I worked for the Missouri Department of Revenue prior to accepting a position with the City of Cape Girardeau as City Collector/Finance Director. We were in the old Court House Building and Lorimier was undergoing restoration to become City Hall. I remember participating in a department head meeting discussing to keep the nursery rhyme tiles above the water fountains. There were two on each floor at each end. I hear the City is looking to move into a new City Hall. I hope they maintain the building as it is a nice architectural structure. It would make a great museum.

  23. I went to Lorimier School from first grade through sixth grade. I started in 1959. I went there with my cousin Norman Goehman. We had Miss Henderson, Mrs Pierce, Mrs Hall, Mrs Hudson, Mrs Harper and Mrs Misfelt. I love that building. I remember being so cool in the hallways I was sure made of pure marble. The Vogels did live in the beautiful house on the hill. Seems like they had a little girl who went to school there too. We lived on Spanish Street. We also had the tunnels that led to the river for the Underground Railroad. All the houses on our block had the tunnels. My brothers and sisters and I walked to school and utilized Happy Hollow. I was always uneasy going that way. I remember the polio vaccines on sugar cubes. My favorite memories are the Christmas programs we put on for the parents. When the program was over Santa would be at the exit giving a brown bag filled with an apple, an orange and a Hershey bar. I thought that was glorious! I married in my senior year and was at Central High. My husband, Gary Kight, was in the Navy. We moved to Mayport, Florida for two years. We moved back to Missouri and started our family, built a house on our farm near Advance. I attended SEMO and became an RN. I felt like I had received a good foundation for my education at Lorimier. I graduated first in my BSN Nursing program and went on to attend University of Texas at Dallas for my degree in Women’s Healthcare Nurse Practitioner

    1. I had all of the same teachers when I attended Lorimier School. With the exception of 6th grade which was Mrs. Furth (she was new in the profession). Mr. Clippard (sp?) was the principal. I started in 1961.

      I was Tommy Freeman then. I now live in North Carolina and getting ready to retire. I came out at 28 and have been with my now husband for 23 years and married for 3 years. My name now is Thom Freeman-Stuart. Small world and remember fondly so much about my days at Lorimier School.

      Take care and stay safe…..

  24. Back to the house pictured by Lorimer School…My Mother, Riley Deal (maiden name), (who is still alive at age 97 in 2023) recognized this house as the house her grandfather Edwin Jeramiah Deal owned from about 1905 to 1916 and raised five boys including my grandfather Riley Russell Deal born in 1898. We have a photo of it from about 1910, and it looks pretty much unchanged. Russell Owens, San Diego, CA.

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