Downtown Jackson

Downtown Jackson and County Courthouse 07-18-2013Buddy Jim Stone, still vibrating from excitement after chasing a huge magnet up the Mississippi River yesterday rousted me out of bed to go to breakfast Thursday morning. I took him to the Pie Bird in Fruitland.

I got some work done in the afternoon and hooked up with him for dinner. He was in a dead cow mood, but didn’t want to go to the chain steak joints around the I-55 / mall area.

We headed to Tractors Classic American Grill in downtown Jackson. Not a lot of stores were open, but the street had plenty of cars and trucks parked on it. (Watch out when you open your passenger side door: the curb is high enough that Jim smashed my car door into it. Twice. Once in, and once on the way out. I think it was the scientist in him. He wanted to prove the event was reproducible.)

Good service, decent food

I was pleasantly surprised to find they have a non-smoking area that was more smoke-free than my last visit several years ago. Our waitress was friendly, helpful and attentive. My medium steak was a little overcooked, but not enough to send back. Everything else, including a fresh strawberry pie, was excellent.

After a number of glasses of wine, Jim volunteered to pick up the check.

I think he’s going to use my photos to prove this was a business trip. He was going on and on about how he was prepared to take the bullet if anyone on the riverbank took a potshot at his magnet.

Then, he went and banged my car door on the curb again.

Cape County Courthouse in Jackson

When the old Federal Building on Broadway in the same block as The Missourian became surplus, there was some discussion about using it to shuffle city or county offices around. One reason was that the existing county courthouse in Jackson is showing its age and is getting cramped for space. Here is an aerial view of the courthouse looking from the southwest to the northeast. The building with the light-colored flat roof at the top left is the county jail. Click on any photo to make it larger.

Courthouse from the northwest

This view is from the northwest looking to the southeast. The jail is at the bottom left of this photo.

Downtown Jackson

This photo, taken looking nearly straight down, is from the southwest corner of the courthouse square. Storefronts on the east side of the main drag show up plainly.

Other courthouse stories

Cape County Courthouse in Jackson

This night photo of the Cape County Courthouse was probably taken when I was working at The Jackson Pioneer in 1964 or 1965. There is a story, maybe true, maybe not, that the Pioneer staff threw food color in the fountain the night Barry Goldwater was nominated for President. They wanted Jackson to wake up to Gold Water in the fountain.

2010 courthouse hasn’t changed much

I wonder if anybody will be dunking teabags in the fountain to carry on the tradition?

Took 40 years to clean the skylight

I used my quest for Jackson’s Hanging Tree as an excuse to wander around in the old courthouse. The old art glass skylight is still impressive.

The Dec. 16, 1949, Missourian had a story that the skylight had been cleaned for the first time in 40 years.  “A washing compound for glass with a sponge was used by Thomas Brothers, in charge of the interior decorating of the building. Covered with a film of black smoke and dust, the pretty color had been hidden from view. Jackson children who had grown to manhood and womanhood had never seen the glass of the dome clear and bright.”

“Each small piece of the art glass is held in place with lead and since they are fragile, the workman was cautious and expected to spend many hours on the high ladder for the cleaning.”

1870-era courthouse had basement privy

This sign looks like they might have moved it over when the 1908 courthouse was built.

Contractors shaved some corners

Records show that the contractors used columns that were composed of several pieces instead of one at the main entrances.

One of the goals was to make the building as fireproof as possible. Wood construction had been used in the dome, but the Court agreed to pay an additional $3,000 to remove the wood in the dome and replace it with metal. All of the parts of the dome, except the part where stone was exposed was to be covered in copper.

Wood floors replaced with mosaic tile

The contractors tried to slip in wooden floors, but they were required to put in ceramic mosaic tile as specified.

Tile has held up well

Despite the thousands of feet pacing on it, the tile floors have held up well.

Much stone came from Cape and Jackson

The Jackson Post & Cashbook quoted workman William Craig that “blue limestone was quarried near Jackson and was hand cut on site. The white limestone of the second and third stories was quarried at Cape Girardeau near the old Normal School (Southeast Missouri State University today).”  Some of the sheets were 10’x10’x4.

The steps were also quarried near Cape. The cornice stone is from Bedford, Ind.; the wainscoating is of Tennessee marble and the columns are Bedford stone.

View toward downtown

This is looking south from the second floor toward the Jackson’s downtown.

World War I Memorial

I wrote about the memorial to the Cape County World War I dead earlier.

Gallery of Jackson Courthouse photos

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

World War I Memorial in Jackson

On the south side of the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse in Jackson, a World War I Private stands at parade rest with his rifle.

I thought it would be easy to uncover the history of the statue, but I ran into deadends and contradictions.

Memorial to The World War dead

On the side of the statue is a bronze plaque with the words, “In memory of those from Cape Girardeau County who gave their lives in defense of liberty in The World War. 1916 – 1918”

Beneath it is a list of 40 names. Interestingly enough, the name of Capt. George E. Alt is missing. He was an Englishman, who was born in Japan in 1870. He served in World War I, where he was killed in France under German fire. The Alt home was bought by Trinity Lutheran Church and renamed Trinity Hall. Some accounts say he was the first Cape County resident to die in the war.

War to End All Wars

The memorial was erected before we had to add Roman Numerals to our World Wars.

The Missourian editorialized on May 30, 1925: Legion Posts from all parts of the county assembled in Jackson to dedicate the memorial statue erected by the state and the county in memory of the young men and women who served in the world war, and who made as great a sacrifice as it is possible for citizens of America to make.

The statue in Court House Park in Jackson, while not a pretentious and costly shaft, will serve the purpose and will keep fresh in mind of all people the fact that when the country calls there is always a ready response, a condition that makes this the greatest nation on earth.

In the course of time we hope to see built in Cape Girardeau county a living memorial, one that will be an inspiration to the people to live better and have greater regard for the beautiful things in life. It was an ideal of citizenship that our your people fought for, and this ideal deserves to be carried out in the material things of our lives.

Statue history is confusing

Various stories in The Missourian had the statue made of various materials.

  • Oct. 11, 1924“The county court has finally decided to erect the memorial to the Cape Girardeau county soldier dead. The monument, a beautiful statue of white marble, representing a doughboy in full uniform and equipment, has been reposing in a local marble works shop for several years. It is now to be placed on the courthouse lawn on a appropriate pedestal, on which will be placed a bronze plate bearing the names of the Cape county boys who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War.”
  • Nov. 27, 1924“The concrete foundation for the world war soldiers’ memorial has been completed and is now ready for the erection of the statue and the bronze plate to be placed on the base thereof. The monument will stand about the center of the southeast quarter of the court house lawn, and near it will be the unsightly cannon of ante-bellum vintage.”
  • May 7, 1925 “American Legion Posts throughout Cape Girardeau county are to participate in the dedication of the memorial to the war dead of the county at Jackson on Decoration Day, May 30… It is planned to have the program take up the greater part of the afternoon, and there will be a band, community singing and other features… The memorial is a statue of white Italian marble. It represents a soldier in full equipment, standing at ‘parade rest,’ and is life size. It is mounted on a five foot base of vermont marble. A bronze plate adorns one side of the memorial and on this plate are the names of the 40 men who lost their lives during the war. The statue cost approximately $2,200.”
  • May 25, 1987“The World War I memorial on the south lawn of the County Courthouse, Jackson, … is made of cement.”

Who was Dennis O’Leary?

Jackson’s statue was of a generic soldier. Wife Lila and I ran into a this tombstone for Dennis O’Leary when we were looking for the graves of her father and her uncle in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe, NM. There must be a fascinating story about a highly detailed sculpture of a young soldier in full uniform in a cemetery with otherwise plain markers, right?

The only problem was that there are more questions about Dennis O’Leary than answers.