What’s a fire pole doing in the new Central High School library? (I wonder how long the Pacific Street Central High students called our high school on Caruthers the “new” Central High School?)
Julia Howes Jorgensen, Central High School librarian, and I met to talk about running an advertisement for the Cape Central High School Centennial book. We’ll go into more detail about that, probably when I get back to Florida. With luck, I’ll be wheels-up Sunday and home by Monday night.
Anyway, there was this fire pole with some bunker gear on top of it over in the corner, so I assumed that had something to do with career day or the like.
Mrs. Jorgensen, Class of 1969, pointed to a plaque to its left: “Thousands of Central Students used this Fireman’s Pole to go from classrooms to the gym floor at Central High on Pacific Street from 1917 to 1963. Donated by the Class of ’54..”
She said that Coach Lou Muegge was known to stand at the base of the pole with his “Character Builder,” taking swats at students who lolly-gagged coming down the pole, who didn’t display the proper take-no-prisoners attitude or who just happened to be the last to slide down.
Bench from girls’ locker room
Outside the library, she had scrounged desks and other memorabilia, including this wooden bench from Central’s girls’ locker room. Even if the statute of limitations hadn’t run out, I wouldn’t admit to having ever seen it before today.
Developer Chad Hartle is sitting in the main lobby area. The walls are covered with murals depicting the history of the school. They are rich with illustrations and photos from the school paper, yearbook and local papers.
Reading through the names gives you a great feel for the continuity in a small town. I recognized the names of grandfathers, fathers and my generation of students. We, of course, have become fathers and grandfathers ourselves. We all are part of an unbroken chain.
Informal meeting areas scattered around
It’s easy to find a place to sit and talk with visitors or other residents. Small, informal seating areas are all over the public areas.
Locker space turned into displays
In order to preserve the original look of the school, the width of the hallways was preserved, along with original doors, transoms and flooring. Chad tried to collect vintage items that reflected the after-school clubs and activities through the years and display them in the spaces where lockers had been located.
Some of the trophies came from a safe that school had acquired from the Sturdivant Bank after it failed.
Shuffleboard court preserved
The original shuffleboard court is as shiny as the day it was installed.
Well-equipped exercise room
There’s a good-sized exercise room with modern equipment. The room also has comfortable seating for residents who would rather relax and visit instead of working out.
Family room for visiting children
There’s a room set aside with small chairs, toys and electronic games for residents who have small children visiting them.
Apartments are bright, energy efficient
On a day when I brought my mother by to check the place out, we struck up a conversation with two women in the parking lot. Evelyn Seabaugh was kind enough to give a couple of strangers a tour of her apartment.
We were knocked out by how bright and cheerful the place was. Chad replaced the windows from the 1960s with energy efficient ones that more closely resemble the ones from the 1915-era.
Each apartment has a washer, dryer and full kitchen. Ceiling fans circulate the air. The 13-foot ceilings make the apartments easy to cool in the summer. Chad said utility bills were running around $50 a month on average for the coldest months of last winter.
Apartments are unique
Bill Mansel is a model train enthusiast. Almost every square inch of his one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor is occupied by train memorabilia.Bill said he was the third resident to move into the complex.
There are 45 apartments in the building, split fairly evenly between one and two-bedroom units.
Cameras and alarms provide security
All of the doors are kept locked and are equipped with keypads for security. There are cameras monitoring all of the hallways and public areas. There was some discussion about allowing residents to monitor the security cameras, turning the apartment building into a virtual “Crime Watch Neighborhood.”
I heard some talk, also, about letting residents start a community garden on what used to be the school’s playgrounds. I don’t know if either of those plans will ever come to pass.
The cool fire escape is gone
Several readers reminisced, some more fondly than others, about the curving tube-like fire escapes on the old school. They no longer exist.
The top floor with the old lobby going to the balcony of the auditorium has been cleaned up, but is unfinished at this point.
Floors have rich color
The floors leading to the old balcony lobby have been refinished.
Safe from Sturdivant bank
When Chad bought the school, there was an old bank vault from the Sturdivant Bank in a storage room on the ground floor. After he drilled the lock, something that convinced him that he didn’t have a future in bank robbery, he found old school plans and sports trophies that are now on display in the hallways.
The walls in the room were covered with the names of many of my classmates. I ran a piece earlier where I posted the photos of all the names and asked if anyone could identify where they were taken.
The Schultz Senior apartments are a real boost to the neighborhood and to the community at large. In a time when so many of Cape’s landmarks are being bulldozed, it’s good to see this one saved. It could have gone the way of these schools:
Marla Mills, Executive Director of Old Town Cape, wrote, “One of the most difficult challenges a community can face is the dilemma posed by a white elephant – a big, empty, deteriorating building that no knows what to do with. It was not so long ago that Cape Girardeau was faced with a building that could have easily become a white elephant.
Central High School, located in Cape Girardeau’s downtown area, was used as the public high school from its construction in 1915 until 1953 when the new Central High School was built on Caruthers Ave. The original high school building continued to be used as a public school, initially as a junior high. In 1964 it became a seventh grade center and was renamed in honor of Louis J. Schultz, an educator who served the public school system for 36 years working in the building as a teacher, a principal, and superintendent. Most recently portions of the building were used for alternative education until its closure in 2008 when the building showed evidence of deferred maintenance.”
A true neighborhood school
You can see from this aerial photo taken in November that Central High School was truly a neighborhood school where a substantial number of its students were within walking distance. (Click on the photo to make it larger.)
Schultz School saw many changes
Marla explained that “the 1915 Central High School had undergone many changes to meet growing school needs. A 1919 arts wing and a 1942 shop wing were added.
“In 1964, major alterations updated the facility, replacing the original sash windows with banks of aluminum awning windows and reworked doorways with commercial aluminum framing. The original hallway wainscoting with its simple wood cap was replaced with simple 4×4 off-white glazed tiles, the doorways to the upper level of the gymnasium from the main hallway were blocked up, numerous additional lockers added, and the stairways reworked, replacing the original wood wainscoting and railings with a modern small tile mosaic half wall and aluminum railings. Some of the stairways were enclosed with complete walls.
An additional stairway was built between the 1915 and 1919 wings, and in 1991, an elevator was added, making the building handicap accessible. [That addition covered up half of the original 1914 cornerstone.]
School District sold Schultz School in 2008
By 2007, the school district had determined that the building had outlived its usefulness and would cost too much to rehabilitate and renovate.
That’s where local developer Chad Hartle stepped in. He worked to get the school listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once that happened, it allowed him to seek state and federal rehabilitation tax credits and housing tax credits.
He bought the building in August 2008 for just under two million dollars. To make the project work, he had to figure out how to provide affordable senior housing, preserve the original character of the building through historic preservation and to do it in a way that made economic sense.
Hartle preserved Cape’s heritage
From Marla: “But Chad did more than just save a building… he helped preserve Cape Girardeau’s heritage. With the project completed, the building still illustrates its original use – a school—even as it successfully accommodates its new use—senior housing.
“The current historic rehab project removed most of the 1964 alterations. The 4×4 tile was removed, the wood wainscot cap reconstructed in the hallways and stairways and the openings to the upper level of the gymnasium were reopened. The staircases were reopened and the wood cap railings reinstalled.
“The 1964 staircase was eliminated to create a larger elevator lobby. Classrooms were converted into individual apartment units. The original width of the hallways has been retained, along with original doors, transoms and flooring.
“And to help achieve an “old school” feeling and association, the 1960s windows were removed and replaced with windows similar to the original 1915-era windows. Even the space where the lockers were in the hallway has been retained to preserve the look and feel of the old high school.
“In addition to the rehab work, Chad made an effort to incorporate the history of the school and the community in the interior design. He incorporated murals depicting a time line and other memorabilia that gives visitors and occupants a true sense of what happened within the walls of the old school. All this is incorporated into completely modern, up-to-date and energy efficient apartments.
Preservation of Heritage Award
Old Town Cape awarded Chad the Preservation of Heritage Award for his work on Schultz Senior Apartments. In making the award, Marla noted that this isn’t an annual award. “In fact, it has only been presented three times before: in 2004 for the Marquette Towers project, in 2006 for The Southeast Missourian project and in 2008 for the River Campus Project.”
We’ll go inside the Schultz Senior Apartments tomorrow. Be prepared to be impressed.The apartments are first-rate and the public areas make you feel like you’re in a museum. It’s one of the nicest apartment buildings I’ve been in.
The Downtown Merchants Association decided to celebrate DOWNTOWN Cape Girardeau’s historic structures and DESTINATIONS through a series of collectible ornaments starting in 1997. When the DMA merged with Old Town Cape, Old Town Cape continued the tradition, Toni Eftink, project manager, said. [Toni’s the one who wanted me to capitalize DOWNTOWN and DESTINATIONS, so I guess there’s something special about that phrasing.]
This year’s ornament depicts Schultz School, the old high school on Pacific that has been turned into Schultz Senior Apartments.
If you decide to buy an ornament, let my OTC friends know you heard about them here.
2009 was The Glenn House
Toni said that each ornament is hand-crafted and painted by Hestia Creations in Massachusetts, so no two ornaments are exactly alike. About 400 to 500 ornaments a year are ordered. It’s turned into one of the most popular and largest fundraisers for the organization.
It’s a good fit. The ornaments recognize and promote landmark buildings in Cape; Old Town Cape’s goal is to revitalize the downtown area.
Some ornaments are sold out
Some of the ornaments in the photo gallery have been sold out, so don’t wait too long to place your order. The ornaments that aren’t available as of this writing are 1997 Clock and Courthouse, 1998 Academic Hall, 1999 Old Mississippi River Bridge, 2003 Emerson Bridge and 2005 Southeast Missourian Building.
Photo gallery of Old Town Cape ornaments
Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.