The Boat House

When you wanted to impress visitors from out of town with the homes in Cape Girardeau, there’s one place you’d always take them – The Boat House at the corner of West End Blvd. and Highland Dr., across from Capaha Park.

Looks like a river boat

The two-story, 115-foot–long house was designed to look like a Mississippi River boat when it was built for Mr. and Mrs. Eddie Erlbacher in 1941-42. Mr. Erlbacher was a world-renowned boat builder and he wanted his home to reflect his work.

Limestone stairs look like flowing water

Despite the fact that I shot 119 frames from every angle I could without going onto private property, I don’t think I got the definitive photo that captures the special feel of the house.

Maybe it won’t be a cold and windy day with rain threatening the next time I shoot it.

Photo gallery of The Boat House

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

38 Replies to “The Boat House”

    1. David,

      I found that same link last night, but it’s not coming up today. I went into Google’s cache and copied the following:

      KATIE H: The Katie H was built in 1932 at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, by Eddie Erlbacher. Christened the “Owassa” and later renamed the CIS-5, she worked the rivers as a commercial tow for the U.S. Steel, Clairton Works until 1960. Vince Hammill, owner and captain, purchased the boat in 1962, reconstructed her into a sternwheeler and renamed her Katie H after his mother. The Katie H is 80 feet long, beam 17 feet and the wheel is 15 x 10 feet. She is powered by a 238 HP Detroit Diesel GMC engine through a 650 Allison automatic transmission and a 38,000 Rockwell differential. She is self-contained, has a full bath, galley and Texas cabin bedroom. In 1984 the Katie H was in the movie “Mrs. Soffel” with Diane Keaton and in 1985 she appeared in “Silent Witness” with Valerie Bertinelli and John Savage. The Katie H’s home port is mile 3.3 on the Allegheny River at Pittsburgh, PA.

  1. Great photos, Ken! We should ask Ann Erlbacher Dombrowski who still lives in Cape. I think she was class of “68!

    1. Thanks for the link. I was sort of surprised. It looks much more modern and “sterile” than I would have expected.

      The listing goes on to say:

      Bedrooms: 6
      Bathrooms: 4 full 2 half

      A one of a kind, 9000 sq ft. Stone masterpiece. “The Boathouse” is a Cape treasure. 6 bedroom, 5 fireplaces, in-ground pool, gated drive, custom plaster moldings, solarium, curved stairs … too much to list.

      I wonder if it’s being actively promoted for sale or if it’s just listed to see if anyone will nibble.

      Wonder if SEMO will turn it into a parking lot?

  2. That is way far out dude…and correct…the first time I took my new bride of twenty plus years to Cape I drove her by the “Boat House”. I told the story that every Cape boy knows of “Pee Wee” Erlbacker building this monster to not only impress the neighbors, but to make all the other homes look like “S*##T houses”.
    It seems that “Pee Wee” was not welcomed into the neigborhood after buying the lot and then had the idea and the money to build a home to impress (and outshine) the neigbors and maybe the world…
    Truly a landmark.

    1. Actually Pee Wee Erlbacher did not build the house. Eddie Erlbacher built it. I THINK he is Pee See’s Father. I do know that Eddie Erlbacher was Rob Erlbacher’s brother and Rob was Ann Erlbacher Dombrowski’s Father.

  3. Thank you for this memory. Ken, I already told you, but not the rest of our school, that this was one of my favorite houses to walk by as a kid.

    One of the other ones is one we have not identified yet. It looked like a southern mansion and was on the right side of the street as you would walk down Themis towards the library (I think library).

    I would like to see old pictures of it too.

    Well anyway, here goes another Girl Scout story. For being so shy, there was still a streak of creativity in me. One year when it came time to sell Girl Scout cookies, I decided to go to both the southern mansion and the boat house and knock on the doors with my wares. I was hoping to be invited in. I think a worker answered the door at the boat house. I don’t think I saw any of the family. I did not sell cookies there. But I did get to see the foyer. I honestly don’t remember that much about it. I think there may have been a chandelier. I don’t know if that is from my memory or from my imagination.

    At the southern mansion, the lady of the house answered, invited me in, bought Girl Scout cookies, and when I returned with them, invited me to the patio or back yard and we enjoyed some of them together with 7-up.

    Both of these houses bring a smile when I think of child hood. Again and again … thanks for walking us down memory lane with your talents and kindness.

  4. I can’t believe it! I was thinking of this house just last night and wondering who lives there now. We are on our way to Fort Mountain State Park, GA with our granddaughter so I’ll tour the house when we get back. Can’t wait.

  5. I grew up on Highland Drive in the 60s-70s, and my sister and I played in the “Boat House” with Julie Blattner. Her parents, Charlie and Joyce Erlbacher Blattner, raised their family there and I believe their son Rick now lives in the home with his family.

    It’s my understanding the railing on the big curved staircase (visible on the Highland Drive side of the home) was added after Charlie and Joyce moved in – they had small children and didn’t want anyone falling overboard.

    Ann Erlbacher Dombrowski was a cousin of Joyce Blattner, and for a number of years Ann and her husband, Cord Dombrowski, lived across the street from me on Highland. I babysat regularly for their children when I was in high school and college.

    Thanks for pictures and giving me a chance to reminisce about “my” old neighborhood.

  6. The house has always been of special interst to me. Since we lived on West End Blvd., we always drove past the boat house on the way to my grandparents who lived on New Madrid. My grandfather was a cabinet maker and made all the original cabinetry and wood work for the house in his shop behind this house. (I can still smell the sawdust!) I am sure those items are all gone after all of these years, but it was interesting to see those inside pictures after all the years of “dreaming” about the inside.

    Ken, thanks for another stroll down memory lane. I haven’t been back to Cape as often lately and your stories make it seem as if I just took a walk in those favorite stomping grounds! Keep up the good work.

  7. My memory of the Boat House was on a Halloween Eve in the early 60s when a friend and I (think it might have been Pam Leyhe) went there to trick or treat because we thought we would get a really special treat (after all, it WAS the Boat House)and got a marshmallow. One marshmallow. Boy were we disappointed!

  8. The Blattners lived there when we were in High School from 79-81 and a buddy of mind dated one of the Blattner girls who lived there.

  9. I, too, have always loved this place. I lived on West End Blvd and spent ALOT of time in Capaha Park at the pool or the ball diamonds in the 60s. Must’ve passed the Boat House 1,000 times. Thank you again, Ken, for the shots.

  10. Hello! My husband, Rick Blattner and I live in this home. It was built by his grandfather, Edwin Erlbacher (not PeeWee). No one has ever lived in the home except Edwin and his wife, followed by his daughter Joyce Erlbacher Blattner and her family, and now her son Charles F. Blattner III (Rick) and our family. It always surprises us how so much misinformation gets around about the house. Joyce has written up the history, and it was given out when Rick and I allowed the home on the Luthern Home tour a few yours ago. We have added many updates in the 10 years we have lived here. It’s been a wonderful home for us……but our kids are gone now, and 9000 sq. ft. is a lot of house for the two of us!
    Tracy Wagoner Blattner

    1. Tracy,

      Thank you so much for jumping in here. I’ll be back in Cape in October and I’d I’d love to get a copy of the home’s history to file an update with The Real Story, so to speak.

      It must be some experience to live in a house that is constantly being passed by folks driving slowly and gawking (not to mention some nut with a camera walking on the streets and sidewalks snapping pictures from every angle).

      If you’d like to discuss it off-line, my email address is

  11. Ken,
    I might mention that, although we have updated the home and made it comfortable for our family, we have maintained all the original architecture and have been very careful to preserve all the charm. Most people who visit our home comment that it’s very “warm”. I’ve never heard it referred to it as “sterile”. It is very special to the whole Blattner/Erlbacher clan, and many wonderful memories have been made here. There will be no “Semo Parking Lot” while we are still in the picture:)

  12. Tracy,

    After I wrote “sterile,” my wife pointed out that photos that are taken by real estate agents tend to have flatter and less interesting lighting than what someone who is trying to capture the feel of the place would use.

    My comment about SEMO turning it into a parking lot was made facetiously, as I can tell you understood.

    I would have to put The Boat House in the top five landmark buildings in Cape, if not the top three. (The Common Pleas Courthouse, Academic Hall and The Boat House are the first to come to mind.)

    When you come right down to it, if you were judging on uniqueness, The Boat House would have to come out on top. You’d know better than me, but I can’t imagine that there’s another one in the world, is there?

  13. Ken,
    You really OUTDID yourself on this one! I have always loved this “Boathouse”, so elequently sitting upon that hill overlooking Capaha Park. My grandparents worked on the river as cooks for a towboat and I have always loved boats on the Mississippi. As a child, my grandparents, Homer and Madge Boswell, were allowed to invite family for a towboat ride and I will never forget it! About 15 years ago, my husband and I took a vacation on the Mississippi Queen Paddlewheeler and I loved the easy laid-back ride.
    Mr. Erlbacher may have had his own reasons for building this magnificent work of art, and I thank him for it and to the Blattners for sharing it with us on the Lutheran tour and now, here in our Tiger1960s Newsletter.
    If I had a choice of living anywhere in Cape, it would be in the Elbacher Boat House, but I could never get my husband to move back into town!
    Thanks again, Ken and Mrs. Blattner!

  14. My husband, Peewee Erlbacher grew up in the “boathouse”. One of the questions I asked him when we began dating was, “How was it to grow up in such a house?” His reply, “What house?” If you know any of the Blattner or Erlbachers, you would know they are most “common” folks (in the nicest and best way). If you didn’t find them at home around the dinner table, you would find them hard at work, on a gravel crusher, driving a truck, pushing a tow or tearing down an engine. Being an outsider looking in, the “boathouse” was a warm and loving home built by an incredible man who died too young (only 58) who built his dream home because he wanted to and could. He raced cars, flew planes and built boats because he wanted to and could and left the city of Cape a beautiful home to remember him by.

    1. Thanks for your perspective. I think that work ethic was what made Cape special.

      My dad may have owned his construction company, but that just meant that he was the guy who was there from cain’t see to cain’t see.

      Bricks make the house, but people make the home.

    2. I believe it is one of the most emeculante houses in cape and cape is a very interesting place to live; I have an eye for different scenarios while as wanting to walk around to discover different sightings different places as well as different areas it always seems easier to be able to see stuff in the scene. I really enjoy all of the dights and things our town has here in cape. I often find my self wondering if we also might have had history with cape cod? I think both cape, jackson; scott city, chaffee as well and not mention other areas in which I’ve walked along to see scenarios is really interesting. I am 3y years young and have seen alot of our wonderful state missouri monuments,gardens as well as parks and this state is absolutely beautiful compared to what I’ve seen in other states, which isnt much. I am kind of partially to the state of missouri I believe it’s because it’s my birth place.

  15. Ken —

    This has nothing to do with the “boathouse”, which is a beautiful home; rather, your comment re your dad being “the guy who was there from cain’t see to cain’t see”, certainly brought a smile in thinking of my dad. From what I heard, as well as from personal knowledge, the Cape Cut Rate, during nearly 42 years in business, was open 7 days/week with the only time it was ‘closed’ during the day was the National hour of mourning for JFK’s funeral. More than once I recall my dad refer to working the “TYD” shift – til you drop — as it was common for him to open at 8 AM and close at 11 PM, or midnight on the weekends. I am sure many others can also relate to this. As you point out, the joys of being the owner.

  16. I just wanted to say, I grew up in this small town of Cape Girardeau, and always gazed upon this house in wonderment. I never knew the true history of this house until after reading this forum. After all these years of asking people if they knew the history of this house, I could only find out that it was built by a river boat captain, and that it has always been referred to as the “boat house”. Thanks for the oppurtunity to see actual pictures of this house. This house is totally amazing!!

  17. I always heard the reason nobody wanted Erlbacher building in one of the better neighborhoods was because of his criminal history. Didn’t he serve time in prison?

    1. I don’t know about “nobody wanted Erlbacher building in one of the better neighborhoods…”

      Here’s a quick link to a Missourian story when Edwin Erlbacher was sentenced to two years in prison for auto theft. The story said the attorneys for the defense were going to file a motion for a retrial, and if that failed, they were going to appeal. I don’t know the final disposition. Sometimes Google News Archives don’t index properly.

  18. hi i am janette hill of advance and my husband jesse hill works for Blattner steel in cape . jesse done some work on the gates at the house and rick took him a tour through the house. he said it was beautiful. i have never been inside but i had chances to. i just never they would sell the house ,so i thought i would always have a chance to see it. im sorry i dident go . i would love to see the inside. i think this is the most beautiful house i have ever seen
    janette hill

  19. Fascinating post as always, Ken. After rereading today, I hope the Blattner family will share the book that was written about the house so it can be shared with all of us who live far from Cape. I lived at the end of West End Blvd while in Jr High and High School and passed the Boat House several times each day. As did most everyone who lived in Cape, I wished I could see inside.

  20. On this day, March 6, 1971, I took my new bride Geri (Eichman) to our new home which was in the famous Boat House…a huge surprise to her. We had the great fortune of renting the mother in law suite which was usually rented to college students at the time. What great landlords and friends Charlie and Joyce Blattner were. Our first child Chad was born while we lived there and we enjoyed having a built in baby sitter with the oldest daughter. We were truly blessed as we lived one block from SEMO in this famous home for $95 a month including utilities (I’ll come back if you will give me the same deal :-). I was so pleased to find the information on the Boat House on this special occasion. Unfortunately Geri cannot share this special moment as she passed away in 1998. What great memories we both had of our times living on Highland Dr.

  21. What a find I stumbled upon surfing the internet. How I loved the Boat House as a young child growing up in Cape(1952-1966)and dreamed of living there sometime. I had lost my pictures of the house from my last visit to Cape back in 2004. Needed pictures to show my grandchildren. I barely remember the background of the house & it’s owners so this site was a great find indeed. My father was a hometown boy & met my mother at SEMO after the war. I have never been inside this house and would love to see it. However, the links I have tried are no longer available.

  22. Stacy, My husband grew up in the “boat house”. As a child we passed by it every Saturday night hoping the lights would be on. I, for some reason believed it to be the hospital or a palace.
    As an adult I married David, the youngest of Eddie’s children. The house is no longer in the family but the memories of christmases spent there still warm my heart. Even though it is and was a Cape treasure it most importantly was a home to a family and much loved by the members. We were saddened that it did not stay in the family but it deserved to be filled with new children making new memories. Thanks for your interest.

  23. I think this is the greatest home, I hope to see this soon, as coming to Cape all this time, I have not ever known if it. Very interesting and pretty.

  24. Somewhat unrelated, but this is the first house I lived in!

    Today is Sept 10th, and on that day in 1971 my Father (Colonel Charles R. Cohoon Retired), and my Mother (Geri) brought me home to their apartment located in the rear of the “Boathouse”.

    It was the only time I lived in the Show Me State aside from attending Mizzou for a season, though our farm is still in the Bootheel and much of our family remains in state.

    Whenever we visited Cape Girardeau as a family, this amazing house was one of the fondest points of interest for all of us.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Capt. Chad Cohoon

  25. OH! I know this house. I remember playing there often when I was a kiddo living in Cape. My family is from Cape & although I live in Dallas now, I still have many family members & memories still bound in Cape. Sidenote: Kathy Erlbacher & I share a common bond – multiple sclerosis. We chat occasionally, but not as much as like because I feel my childhood slipping away. My grandparents were the Harris & Pettigrew families.

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