Water Plant Goldfish Pond

I scanned a really cool photo of my mother on top of Cape Rock. Then, I looked closely at the photo next to it and recognized it as the fountain in the small park just north of the water plant on Cape Rock Drive. I’m going to guess the photos were taken in the early 1940s. [Click on  the photos to make them larger.]

Aerial of Cape Rock and the water plant today

Here’s an aerial I shot last November of the area. The water plant is in the center, The small park with the fountain is directly across the street. The towboat is pushing barges off Cape Rock. The Country Club golf course is at the top left.

“Outstanding example of good taste”

A May 21, 1931, Page One Missourian story gushed, “A project of the Better Service Club…might be described as one outstanding example of good taste in landscaping and beautification in this city… Situated on the brow of a wooded ravine just north of the site to be occupied by the new $250,000 water plant, the rock garden and its central fountain forms an attractive background to the woodland.

This garden was built for the employees by Judge I.R. Kelso of the Utilities company… The cost of lighting the place and planting it to flower and shrubbery will be borne by the employees, who will also maintain the project.”

Has electric fountain

“A feature of this garden spot is an electric fountain, the only one of its kind as far as is known in Southern Missouri. Four huge stone pillars form an entrance to this small park, two of the pillars being located at each end of the park and containing an ornamental lamp, and two others forming a support for a proposed illuminated sign.

The large pool, including the fountain, forms the central structure of the garden. The entire garden is bounded by an attractive design of stone arranged in a tasteful manner under the supervision of Tony Haas. Around the edge of the large pool a walk has been constructed, leading from the entrance, and on the inside of the walk is a concrete, rock and brick trough for water planting. The fountain will be a bowl-shaped affair, with a circular spray which can be adjusted to a diameter from seven to 70 feet. A center spray will be forced about 20 feet high.”

[Note: I read in another account that the pool was shaped to resemble a light bulb, keeping with the utility theme.]

Night illumination

“Around the base of the fountain beneath the water surface a sealed case contained lights of seven different colors will be arranged to give a vari-colored illumination to the sprays from the fountain, forming a beautiful spectacle at night. Four floodlights concealed in the entrance pillars will also play on the fountain.”

Sun dial and crystal ball planned

“North of the pool will be a sun dial and a crystal ball will also be included in the arrangement. A pleasing feature of the beautification plans is the retaining of much of the native growth of the site. A large tree and smaller trees have been left growing at advantageous points in the garden.

“It is the plan of the employees to landscape an adjacent plot of ground to the park and provide a recreation center which will include tennis courts and other similar facilities.”

Almost lost?

I could swear that I read somewhere that the park was almost lost not too long ago but a land swap was worked out. I’ve looked through all my bookmarks and couldn’t find the story again. The good news is that is still looks much like it did in the 40s and will, hopefully, be there for many more generations.

Missourian photographer Fred Lynch and I compared notes one day about how many times we had relied on that fountain for weather wild art.


21 Replies to “Water Plant Goldfish Pond”

  1. My dad worked for Missouri Utilities and was a member of the Better Service Club. I have fond memories of picnics at the Water Plant and going to the park.

  2. Ken,
    Thanks for more great pictures and another interesting story about one of Cape’s hidden treasures.
    I can hardly wait to show these photos and the excerpts from The Missourian to my children. Most of them have either never been or won’t remember going to this little park, which was built by their great-great grandfather.
    I believe the water plant and at least part of Judge Kelso’s home on Old Sprigg Street Road were also built by Anton ‘Tony’ Haas/Haas Construction, but I’d have to check with my mother to be certain.

  3. As a kid we used to ride our bikes to that spot and just thought it was so neat to see the water lillies bloom and see the gold fish ! Never knew why it was there all by itself. Thanks !

  4. My favorite picture of me as a little girl was taken at this pond and it has always held fond memories for me. I don’t know how many people today see the beauty of it. Glad it is still there for us oldsters to enjoy and hopefully we can pass it down to the youngsters. Thanks for the picture. If I had picture and techno smarts I could send my picture to you but……..

  5. Don’s grandfather worked for Missouri Utilities and was involved in having this built. Don’s father also worked for Missouri Utilities and helped maintain it. Even though his brother Tom didn’t work for MoU, he still helps maintain the site. I think the pond is supposed to be in the shape of a lightbulb. I will need to get the details from Don.

  6. I have several snapshots of my family down thru the years at the park and the fountain. As a little boy I was sent on my first “snipe” hunt there during a family picnic!
    I was a member of the Better Service Club of Missouri Utilities in the 1970s and early 80s but didn’t know of the connection to the fountain.
    Cara, I fondly remember your father, Lloyd very well and your uncle, Calvin as my economics and social studies teacher at Central and later golfing buddy.

  7. That area of Cape (Cape Rock etc.) brings back many fond memories of my youth. Thanks Ken for sharing. I have a picture of my mom and dad standing next to Cape Rock taken about the same time your mom’s picture was. Also, at the base of Cape Rock Hill just north of the Rock was a little park where the family used to gather for picnics, watch the river boats and the occassional train go by on the adjacent tracks.

  8. I am enjoying these trips down memory lane. Thank you for taking the time to do this.
    My sister (Elizabeth ’66) and I (Sharon ’68) grew up on East Cape Rock Dr. just a few houses down from the “Goldfish pond”. I remember the goldfish being huge. I never recall seeing anyone else visit it, so nice to know people did.
    Way back when before the Water Plant was fenced in, there was a great hill behind it to go sledding on during any winter snows.
    Wonderful aerial shot.

  9. Hidden in the background of this story is the greater tragedy of parkland unattended. As I remember, there was at one time, to the north and east of the fountain, a gravel drive among the trees that was intended to be developed into a nice park. Additionally, one could drive out onto the circular drive above Cape Rock and see up and down the river both ways easily. The grounds around the drive were kept mowed and cleared of wild underbrush. Alas, over the years, a certain element of the population of Cape Girardeau fought any of man’s intervention with natural growth and thus we have a wild unkept area lacking in beauty that has no attraction to offer area visitors. Not too long ago, a small group of concerned citizens attempted to get the City to clean out the tangled, ugly undergrowth and develop a nice park on the hillside south of the circular drive that would provide a beautiful view to the south of the Mississippi River, Cape Riverfront and the new Emersoin Bridge. But the “naturalist” naysayers won over and the area looks like something those naysayers would object to if it was in the yard next door to their own house.

    It is time someone in our generation in Cape make the move to leave a very positive mark by our generation on the overall beauty of the area.

  10. This was one of my favorite places to stop and spend some time on those Sunday afternoon family drives we used to take. I’m sorry that we never took our sons there when we visited Cape.

  11. A 1978 front page obituary in the Southeast Missourian began,

    “It is one of the penalties of old age that man’s services to their fellowman often grow dim and distant with the passing years. ….

    Cape Girardeau owes a debt to … and to that unusual group of men with whom he was associated in a period of remarkable development for this city.”

    Among the many things this group from the turn of the century did was save Cape Rock by purchasing the area shown in the aerial photo, donating the Rock itself to the town and building the Country Club on the remainder.

    Many grandchildren of these men attended Central during the period that is the focus of this blog, and, as some of the posts above indicate, are proud of their ancestor’s sometimes forgotten contributions.

  12. Ken, thank you so much for bringing back a wonderful memory for my husband, Tom, and me. We’ve been married 50 years this coming June. One of the first purchases me made as a “couple” was a camera and one of the first pictures we took was at this park. It was really a special place. That is a really nice picture of your mom, too.

  13. This was one of the favorite places my dad used to take me when I was a child and we were out for a drive (read that as giving mom some relief).

  14. We lived close to this park when I was little. We rode our bikes there almost every day. If I remember right there was a path or trail behind the fountain. Down a few steps there were stone picnic tables. We ate lunch there quite often. Thanks for bringing back a good memory.

  15. I remember that as a kid 70 tears ago, a trip to the water plant and the park & fountain across the road, and of course, Cape Rock, were standard fare when we had relatives visiting from out of town!
    Joe Whitright “45”

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