Preservation Homework: Parks and Buildings

This is a continuation of the links I’m posting to help students in a SEMO Historical Preservation class. They’ve been given a list of Cape landmarks to research. It turns out I’ve written about most of them, so I’m going to give them a some background information about some of the parks and random buildings they’re looking for. I posted churches and cemeteries yesterday.

I’m doing a presentation to the class on April 8 where I will tell the students what I do and why I do it. After that, I’ll talk about how I do it. I hope I can get across there is no better way to find out things than to knock on doors and talk with people like I’m doing with The Last Generation project. I won’t swear that I get all the facts right, but you readers do a good job of setting me straight when I’ve miss the mark.

Cape Rock Overlook Park

Old Bridge Overlook Park

 Cape Girardeau City Hall

Indian Park

Indian Park 04-16-2011Louis Lorimier and his Indian cohorts, battling the Americans, captured Daniel Boone.

Houck Field House

KFVS TV Studio/Tower on Broadway

Mark Steinhoff, KFVS-TV cameraman in studio c 1967This story has lots of links about KFVS

Fort D Park

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, Cape Air flight CGI - STL, Lambert Airport



Happy Hollow Fires, Rats, Caves and Ghost Whistles

Happy Hollow was one of those places like Smelterville where everyone knew there were problems, but solutions always seemed to escape. When the Lorimier School Parent-Teachers Unit complained in 1952 about open sewage flowing through the hollow near the school, creating a health hazard for the children, one councilman mentioned the possibility of erecting a fence around it.

Mrs. Lloyd Brooks, chairman of the Lorimier committee, countered, “I don’t know of any city that has a hole like that in the middle of town – and then thinks enough of the hole to fence it in.”  (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

1966 Happy Hollow fire

The Missourian’s September 16,1966 photo caption said “Happy Hollow burst into a sudden inferno Thursday night, spewing fire and sparks and sending up a choking cloud of smoke to the southeast, limiting visibility and damaging residences. Two firefighters, Victor L. Pierce, left, and Capt. Charles Benton, drenched by water and perspiration, pour a stream of water into the billowing clouds of smoke.”

Fire could smolder through winter

The story continued, “Flames were brought under control Thursday night. However Fire Chief Carl Lewis said a fire of this nature is extremely hard to eliminate. He explained that smoldering is now beneath the surface of the dump and could continue for an extended period, possibly through the winter.”

Smoke nearly choked her

Mrs. F.M. White, who lives near the site of the fire at 512 rear William, said the smoke nearly choked her and her husband to death.

Firemen fought the flames through the night and were continuing the attempt to conquer the smoldering mass today. At one time, there were 11 firemen at the scene. Chief Lewis said the fire was the largest of this nature in more than 20 years.

Similar fire in 1934

The June 16, 1934, Missourian reported, “A fire which converted “Happy Hollow” and its rubbish heaps into a roaring furnace shortly after noon today was brought under control by firemen after a two-hour battle. No damage except to trees was done, as firemen worked in 100-degree temperatures to extinguish the blaze.

“The blaze started about 12:15 o’clock of undetermined origin and smoke and fumes filled the Happy Hollow ravine, which is located east of Frederick Street between Merriwether and William streets. Scores of automobile bodies, tons of paper, old clothes, boxes, barrels and other junk went up in the blaze. The fire department’s big pumper forced water from a hose line attached to a hydrant at William and Frederick streets, and the stench from the smoldering rubbish drove a curious crowd to cover.

“Firemen were aided by volunteers who helped turn the rubbish heaps so that water could penetrate them. The main part of the blaze was confined to a pile of rubbish about 25 feet deep. The place has long been used as a city dumping ground.”

Happy Hollow Cave

The area was full of attractive nuisances. The January 18, 1952, Missourian talked about the Happy Hollow Cave: City Engineer John Walther said today the city would be interested in razing and closing Happy Hollow Cave in exchange for the sandstone blocks of which the cavern is constructed.

The Missouri Pacific Railroad probably owns the cave, which is located in Happy Hollow, south of the railroad’s freight yards on Independence Street. Lorimier School is near the yards. The Lorimier School Parent-Teacher-Unit says the cave attracts children and is an unsuitable place for them to play.

The cave was built nearly 100 years ago as a cooling cellar for the old Hanney Brewery, but was abandoned decades ago. Since then it has become a hangout for vagrants, drunkards and other characters well-known to the police.”

Cavern not easy to raze

May 2, 1952: “A dragline crew today was destroying Happy Hollow Cave, the man-made cavern police called a hangout for vagrants and thieves, and parents called a menace to children.

The first, or east compartment of the cavern was dug up and filled Thursday and today the crew was working on the second compartment, which reaches under the Cape Coal Co. yard. Some difficulty is being encountered. The highest point of the arched ceiling is some 30 feet below the surface of the ground… And the sandstone block ceiling of the cave does not yield easily to the steel teeth of the bucket. Neither do the brick-lined wall of the connecting passageways.

The plan is to remove all the dirt from the top of the vaults, pull out all of the curved ceiling, then fill in the hole, leaving the vertical walls standing.

Rats! Guess who got THIS assignment

When the job called for writing about the sewage treatment plant, getting up on a cold morning for a quarry rescue or going to the dump to count rats, I was the guy. On one of those Friday night bull sessions over at Arlene Southern’s house, we were griping about our jobs, like workers always do. When the discussion came around to me, I said, “They ought to hire some high school kid to write the obits and briefs and that kind of junk to free us up for the important stories.” When I looked around the table, everybody was grinning at me. That’s when I realized that’s exactly what jBlue had done – I WAS that kid.

The Missourian was pretty strict about not inserting yourself into a story, but I was given some latitude in this unbylined piece on September 26, 1966. The Google copy was pretty blurry, so I couldn’t grab it all.

“Superior brand of chiggers”

A Missourian reporter spending a couple of hours with a camera at Happy Hollow Saturday afternoon found that the no-dumping signs placed at the former city dump have had very little effect.

He also found that the Happy Hollow is evidently the happy home of uncounted hundreds of rats. The rat in the photo wasn’t alone. By actual count, it had at least five others in the same pile of trash. Farm statistics of rat populations, quoted by the Missouri Extension Office at Jackson, show that for every rat sighted there are 50 others nearby.

The reporter’s notes added, ‘In addition to rats, garbage and mud  – which comes from either sewer or seep water – Happy Hollow also breeds a superior brand of chiggers.'”

Happy Hollow is cleaned up

After decades of discussion, most of Happy Hollow has been filled in and cleaned up, at least the area from William Street to River Campus. This view is looking north from William on November 9, 2010.

South Fountain extension

This is South Fountain looking north toward William Street.

Aerial view of the area

This is the aerial I ran yesterday with the Houck Railroad bridges story.

Speaking of which, I posed the question, “I wonder if ghost whistles of Louis Houck’s engines can still be heard in the neighborhood at night. I’m sure reader Keith Robinson will tell us much more about the railroad.”

Keith outdid himself with this one.

Ghost whistles in the night

The area of Happy Hollow might well hear ghost whistles in the night.

Just south of the Morgan Oak viaduct, was the location of the untimely death of my great-great grandfather, Jesse Robinson in 1901 when my great grandfather, Goley Robinson was working for Houck’s Southern Missouri & Arkansas Railroad. The SM&A was the progenitor of all the tracks in downtown Cape and to the south.

According to the Coroner’s Inquest Report, Jesse was apparently run over by an SM&A train backing down the tracks when a double-bit crosscut saw that he was carrying over his shoulder caught the back end of one of the cars. He was 56 years old and my great grandfather was 19. As result, the Robinson family ended up in a house on the Louis Houck estate until the family could get on their feet.

Goley and his younger brother, Ivan, were locomotive firemen on a number of Houck’s railroads until they finally became part of the Frisco and Missouri Pacific. My great grandfather stated that he would sound a wavering whistle every time he passed over the spot where his father died.



Creepy Lorimier School Murals

When I published the collection of pictures titled, “Do These Photos Say Cape?” I mentioned that I was pulling them together for a friend. The friend – I guess I should say Virtual Friend – was Nicolette Brennan, Cape Girardeau’s public information coordinator, who wanted them for the city’s website. I dropped them off at City Hall, the former Lorimier School, Tuesday afternoon.

Where are the murals?

When I wrote about Lorimier’s transition from a school to a city hall, someone asked me if the murals were still in the hallways. Since I hadn’t attended school there, I didn’t know what they were talking about. On the way out of the building, I asked a nice woman (who is a reader, by the way) if she knew where they were. I don’t remember if she used the exact word “scary, spooky, weird” or what, but I knew what she was talking about as soon as I saw them. Huck Finn, above, is the most benign of the batch. Ironically, because the plumbing in the water fountain or sink in front of it is broken, there was a filing cabinet in front of it that almost hid it from view.

Three Men in a Tub could cause nightmares

The Three Men in a Tub would give any kid nightmares. It’s not exactly what I would picture over a water fountain in an elementary school, particularly since the character on the left looks like he’s losing his lunch into it.

Don’t believe me?

If you don’t believe me that the characters are grotesque, here’s a closeup. Like always, you can click on any image to make it larger, then click on the sides to move to other photos. I’m not sure I would encourage you to do that in this case.

Long John Silver has Mick Jagger lips

I’m assuming the guy with the eye patch is Long John Silver or another pirate. His lips, though, look like they could go on Rolling Stone’s Mick Jagger.

Video games are violent?

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about nursery rhymes. Sing a Song of Sixpence starts off with a king being served a piece of pie that opens up to contain singing birds. I find that neither sanitary, entertaining nor filling.

Sing a song of sixpence,

A pocket full of rye.

Four and twenty blackbirds,

Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened,

The birds began to sing;

Wasn’t that a dainty dish,

To set before the king?

The birds get their revenge in the third verse, though. Animals didn’t need PETA in those days, they took care of their own problems.

The maid was in the garden,

Hanging out the clothes;

When down came a blackbird

And pecked off her nose

These graphics explain a lot about my classmates who came through Lorimier.


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.