“Going to be Gone Forever”

I was going to shoot a quick mug shot of the building at 501 Broadway, the one that has the big blue mural on the side of it, because it’s going to be torn down in the next couple of weeks. The property has been purchased by Trinity Lutheran Church. The cleared lot will be used for parking or for green space, a Missourian story said.

I happened to there at just the right time to catch David Renshaw, the guy who is going to knock it down. He gave me a tour of the old building and said some things that are worth a whole separate story. This post spins off one I did about neighborhood businesses and landmarks in Cape. One of them was Discovery Playhouse, a Broadway success story. The old building, constructed in 1916, has been turned into a children’s museum.

When I checked the link, I saw this March 22, 2010, photo taken from the second floor of the Playhouse, looking past the old Walther’s sign toward the building across the street that’s going to be torn down. (The Walther’s sign has been changed to read Discovery Playhouse, as you can see in the photo below.)

Nobody will have this view again

Renshaw said there wasn’t much to see upstairs at 501 Broadway, and I had to agree with him. I love old buildings, but this one was in sad shape. As much as I would have loved to have done a weeper about a poor old historic building being destroyed, I couldn’t do it. Sometimes the patient is too far gone for for heroic measures. The time to have saved it was before the roof started leaking and the mortar between the bricks started crumbling to powder.

Just as I started to walk out of the room, I turned and said, “I guess I should get a picture of the building across the street. It may be the last picture ever taken with this viewpoint.”

A friend of mine who used to do construction rehab said, “I don’t think I’ve ever met an introspective–much less, articulate–demo guy.  Usually they’re the bottom of the construction hierarchy, along with roofers.  Probably because both trades normally hire casual labor with little in the way of permanent skills.”

“Gone. No more”

Well, my friend never met David Renshaw. What he said captured my thoughts exactly.

Renshaw said, “I learned one thing in demolition – and I look at it from a lot of different ways. This is it. You just said it. This is going to be gone forever. Gone. No more. Right now you just experienced the last thing forever.”

He nailed it.

If I get my act together, you’ll see photos inside and outside 501-503 Broadway tomorrow. Renshaw was also the guy who used a pair of huge shears to make all the cuts on the Mississippi River Traffic Bridge just before it splashed into the river. I’ll share his touching story about something he found on the bridge that will show that he’s not just some brute who knocks things down.

Walther’s Becomes Discovery Playhouse

Volunteers were busy converting the old Walther’s Furniture Store and Funeral Home at 502 Broadway into the Discovery Playhouse when I was home earlier this spring. It opened April 22.

It looks like it’s going to be a great place for kids to cool off during Cape’s hot and humid summer.

Playhouse starting on the ground floor

The Playhouse is a two-story building, with an attached section that rises to three floors. All of the work is concentrating on the first floor at this time, with the other floors to be developed as funds become available.

Landmark sign to stay

I was told that the landmark Walther’s sign will remain, although it will be changed somewhat. I don’t know what those changes are.

The old parts of the building and the views from the windows fascinated me more than the playhouse in progress.

1916 was a big year

A Missourian roundup on Dec. 31, 1916, said that “1916 is prominent for the number of fine business houses erected, among them being the new home of the Buckner-Ragsdale, ‘Quality Corner Store,’ a handsome structure, the upper floor of which is occupied by the Cape Girardeau Business College; Walther Brothers Furniture Store, one of the largest in Missouri outside the three largest cities; the I. Ben Miller ice cream and candy factory, declared by State Dairy Commissioner Bennett to be the finest in the State of Missouri; the Meyer-Suedekum Hardware Company’s building and others.”

That’s a lot of landmark businesses in year. Meyer-Suedekum (now Meyer Supply) is the only one that has survived.

501-503 Broadway

Looking to the south from the second floor of the building, you can see 501 and 503 Broadway across the street. Hinchey-Greer Merchantile company occupied 501 Broadway around 1906. Alvin Cotner modified the building in 1919 or 1920 to house the Auto Parts Company, which was there until 1957. Cape Paint and Glass occupied the property from 1958 through 1991. An interior connection between the two buildings was made somewhere between 1908 and 1915.

Mural sponsored by Trinity Lutheran Church

A mural, sponsored by Trinity Lutheran Church is on the west wall of 503 Broadway. It reads, “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” That’s probably fitting to be across from the Discovery Playhouse.

It’s easy to get lost in old newspaper stories

While researching the Walther’s history, I got sidetracked with stories of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic and accounts of local boys going “over there” to fight the “huns.”  One thing that surprised me on the front page of the May 13, 1921 Missourian, was a pair of obituaries.

The first was three paragraphs giving an account of the funeral of Allbright Walther, retired furniture dealer of Cape Girardeau. It contained very little personal information.

Directly under it, was one headlined, Sam Randol, Ice Dealer Is Dead; Long Illness Fatal to Colored Man.” It went on to say that “Sam Randol, well-known colored ice dealer, died at his home…following a long illness with dropsy. It listed his relatives and the organizations he belonged to and some funeral arrangements.

It concluded by saying that “Randol was among the better colored citizens of Cape Girardeau and stood high both among the people of his race as well as among the white citizens. He had been in the ice business here since a young man and was known by most every family in the city.”

I would never have expected the second obit to have been given such prominence in that era. He must have really been an exceptional person.

Walther’s was the city’s oldest retail store

A business column announcing the closing of the furniture store in 1984 said it had been open continuously for 120 years, making it the oldest retail business in town.

Gallery of photos from Walther’s Furniture / Discovery Playhouse

Here is a selection of photos taken of the Discovery Playhouse renovation and views of the neighborhood. As always, click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the photo to move through the gallery.