There is a striking two-story white house at the corner of Themis and Pacific across from Trinity Lutheran School that I’ve always wondered about. I paused on a Halloween afternoon’s bike ride in 2009 long enough to pop off a couple of frames.
Frederick W. Pott was born in Prussia in 1839. He and his parents came to Cape Girardeau in 1854. Father and son joined the Union Army when the Civil War began, and Frederick was captured in the Battle of Shilo. After the war, he found employment in the milling industry. He married Mary (or Maria) Karau in 1865. They eventually had 11 children.
In 1877, he built Planters Mill at the foot of Main Street. Within four years, he owned the mill free and clear. The coming of the railroad to Cape Girardeau kicked off a boom, and around 1885 the Potts commissioned the building of this house at 826 Themis Street for their growing family. By 1888, Pott had increased the capacity of Planters Mill from an initial daily output of 80 barrels of floor to 200 and employed at least 10 men.
Disaster stuck when a fire swept through the mill on March 27, 1909. Pott’s insurance only partially covered the loss of the mill, elevator, warehouse and a large quantity of wheat, flour and bran that had been stored on the premises. The total loss was estimated at $50,000. He died the next year, in 1910.
Became office for doctors
The house remained in the family until 1938, when it was sold to D.W. Hope, a Cape physician. According to the historic places register application, professional offices were developed in the building after it was acquired by Dr. Hope, listings in city directories from 1942-1973 indicate. The H-R-S Company was formed by Dr. Hope and three other doctors: A.J. Rasche, Frank W. Hall and Mitchell H. Shelby.
The next owner was James McHaney, who sold the property to Steven and Emily Mellies on April 28, 1995.
The house is the white building at the top center of this November 2010 aerial photograph. Trinity Lutheran School is in the center.
Brother David was a clown as far back as March 1962. This looks like kindergarten or first grade at Trinity Lutheran School. He’s in green, fourth from the left in the front row. Click on the photos to make them larger.
I know what part I’d get
I don’t have access to a playbill, so I don’t know anyone except David. I’m pretty sure I’d have been cast as the south end of the horse the little girl is climbing on.
I don’t have many pleasant memories of school plays.
I TOLD my kindergarten teacher that I REALLY had to go to the bathroom before I went on stage, but she said I’d have to wait. Well, there are some things that won’t wait, even if you are going on stage. It was lucky I was wearing dark blue pants.
Friend CT, who who was an editorial writer for an east coast paper messaged me not long ago, “It was you, wasn’t it, who told me 40 years ago that writing editorials is like wetting yourself in a blue serge suit: it gives you a nice warm feeling and nobody seems to notice?”
I swiped that line from someone else, but I’m sure my traumatic moment on stage seared that old saying in my mind.
High school plays
By the time you got to high school, being accepted by acting clubs like Red Dagger or Silver Spear raised the odds that the actors would have a modicum of talent as opposed to elementary school performances where everybody had to play a part. Here are some high school and college plays.
I don’t have any more information about the play, so it is up to you to ID the players. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.
When I did the piece last week on Trinity Hall, formerly the George Alt House, I said I knew there were photos somewhere of the actual demolition. Well, here they are. The wrecking ball on a Superior Concretors crane hit the building on December 23, 1967. By Christmas Day, all that was left was rubble. The photos reveal details of the attic that I always wanted to see, but never did.
In order to spot out dust specks and other flaws, I have to blow up the images much larger than you see them here. My eye was drawn to what looks like a row of white specks on the wall of the brick school building on the right behind the crane. They are to the left of and below the white downspout. The white specks are a row of four drinking fountains mounted in a trough-like affair. I can recall slurping hot water out of those during many a recess. Funny how little things will catch your eye and bring back memories.
Photo gallery of the death of Trinity Hall
I pretty much said what there was to say in the last story, so here are the demolition photos. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.
I have fond memories of Trinity Hall, previously know as the Alt House. I know I attended kindergarten, first and second grades there. There’s a slim chance that third grade was held there, too, but I might be wrong about that.
Mrs. Bohnsack was the kindergarten teacher; Mrs. Kelpe was the perfect first grade teacher who made every child feel loved; Miss Gade controlled her second grade pupils. I remember her as a rather severe woman who wore old-fashioned black high-topped shoes. You did not want to get on the wrong side of Miss Gade. Her sister, another Miss Gade, also taught at Trinity Lutheran School. Mrs. Froemsdorf taught third grade. She combined the nicer qualities of Mrs. Kelpe with mixture of Miss Gade’s sternness.
Aerial view of Trinity Lutheran School neighborhood
This aerial from around 1966 shows Trinity Lutheran School in the middle of the photo. If you look to the left side of the frame, there are a number of changes at the Broadway / Pacific intersection. The First Chance / Last Chance Saloon is gone. Just about everything west of the Esquire Theater has been turned into a parking lot. Howards has moved into the old Vandeven’s Merchantile. The Broadway Theater is at the top center of the photo.
Closeup of Trinity School
The building with the peaked roofs nestled in behind the other buildings is Trinity Hall, originally the George Alt House, built in 1903 by Capt. George E. Alt.. Missourian librarian Sharon Sanders’ From the Morgue blog has a photo of the building taken before the land was sold for the Lutheran School.
Sharon quotes historic preservation consultant Terri Foley describing the building as a two-story house influenced by the Shingle style. It may have had two stories, but it also had a sizable attic that I always wanted to explore as a kid, but there was a gate blocking off the stairway. I either didn’t have the nerve to push past it or I never found it unlatched, I don’t remember.
Fred Lynch ran a Frony picture of the kindergarten’s wooden jungle gym from 1947. The view out the window looks like the kindergarten was on the second floor, which seems right. Mrs. Kelpe’s first grade was on the first floor on the south side of the building.
Capt. Alt killed in World War I
Sharon’s story said that Capt. Alt was born in Japan in 1870, while his father was working there. The elder Alt bought 20,000 acres of land in the Cape Girardeau area in 1875. Capt. Alt came here when he was 21 to manage his father’s real estate holdings. His family held grand balls and parties in the Alt House until they left the area in 1913. The following year, he returned to England to fight the Germans in World War I. He was killed in the second Battle of Ypres on April 15, 1915, becoming what some have said was the first Cape Girardeau casualty of the war.
I’m not sure where we heard the story, but someone told us kids that “the Englishman” who lived in the house was determined that he would never sleep off English soil, so the legs of his bed were placed in cans containing soil from his native land. I’ve never seen any written account of that, but it was a cool story, nonetheless.
The Lutheran congregation bought the property for $10,000 the summer of Capt. Alt’s death. After my generation attended class there, the school was converted to a youth center in 1959. By 1967, it was beginning to look pretty shabby inside.
The smell of wet wool on radiators
Looking at the radiator on the left side of the photo brings back the memories of wet wool drying on hot radiators on cold, snowy days.
Destruction vs deconstruction
Somebody asked me the other day what the difference was between “destruction” and “deconstuction.” My first response was to say that the latter was some new high-falutin’ made-up word. Then, when I looked at this photos, the difference became clear.
THIS is destruction. No pains were taken to salvage any of the beautiful details of the structure. Everything was to be ground into small pieces and hauled off.
Historical pile of rubble
Yet one more piece of Cape Girardeau’s past was reduced to splinters. Deconstruction would have involved a slower, more precise disassembly with the goal of saving as many features as possible for reuse.
I’ve been looking for the photos I shot of the wrecking ball crashing into the building, but they’re proving elusive. They’ll show up some day.
2010 aerial of Trinity Lutheran School
This aerial of the neighborhood looking to the east was taken November 6, 2010.