Trinity Hall AKA Alt House

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.

This photo shows the kindergarten class I wrote about earlier. Click on any photo to make it larger.

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.

Other Trinity Lutheran School stories

Photo gallery of Trinity Hall

Here are more photos of the razing of Trinity Hall / the Alt House. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.



22 Replies to “Trinity Hall AKA Alt House”

  1. Ken, thanks for the memories. I remember Trinity Hall well as I had kindergarten and third grade in it. We also had Sunday School and Walther League in the old house. I must have been away at college when it was torn down as this is the first time I have seen pictures of its “destruction”. As much as we would like, it isn’t always possible to save all the buildings from the past.

    1. I shot the pictures of it being torn down on Christmas Day, 1967, if the negative sleeve is to be believed.

      I can understand not saving the building, but I can’t believe that nobody salvaged some of the fixtures. I wonder if the chandeliers went down with it. I can remember those.

  2. Having gone to Trinity all of my K-8 years, this is interesting stuff. What I can’t believe is that I knew nothing about the Alt House and had no idea that it was ever there. It looks so strange to see my school that I felt so familiar with and see a house sitting right amongst it of which I was completely unaware. My mother had Mrs. Kelpe as a teacher and I had her as my 1st grade teacher. She taught a long time and was very much loved. I also had Mrs. Froemsdorf for 3rd grade. I’m curious about Mrs. Gade, as I had a Mr. Don Gade as my 8th grade teacher. Was that his wife? If so, I was completely unaware of that as well.

    Good stuff! Thanks for posting!

    1. The two Miss Gades were stereotypical Old Maid school teachers. I can’t imagine either of them every marrying. I don’t recall their first names or I’d see if I could find their obits.

  3. Thanks Ken-the Alt story was interesting. It is a shame about the destruction of the house. It wouldn’t have taken long to save the best parts like the stained glass.
    I was only on the campus a few times as an adult, bowling a couple of years at the bowling lanes in a league. I think it was in the basement of one of the buildings, but I can’t remember which one.
    The aerials were of interest as it shows the changes on Broadway, Independence, Themis and even Ellis.

  4. Holy cow there was school there too…I thought it was only a bowling alley…and the only place where you could hdo Duck Bowling with the smaller pins and with REAL pin boys. There were no automatic pin setter only REAL live teenagers that reset all the pin after every ball was thrown.
    Actually I was only there for bowling as a UTE and only in the building one time when our junior high basketball team played Luthern. I remember that Terry Robinson killed us and Mike Frise was one the team but other than that not a lot. It was a pretty cool place.
    The Alt sotory I had never heard either, very interesting, I last the sleeping on english soil with 4 cans under each one the bed posts…neat!
    Thanks Dude!

  5. Thanks Ken for sharing these pictures/memories!
    I remember Kindergarten with a very scary slide down from the 2nd floor in case of a fire! I think my teacher was Mrs. Bender. I learned how to play pool on the main floor during Walther League meetings.
    Dad says he and Mr.Dunham were scout leaders and they met in this house. But he doesn’t remember the name as Alt House, but something else?

  6. Its pretty neat to see my house on N Benton from the air in 1966 then later in 2010. Not too much has changed. One of the houses on N Benton was obviously torn down and built new at some point.

  7. Was this the same mrs. Kelpe that taught at Alma Schrader In the early sixties i think she taught first grade there too?

  8. I remember the old house as the Walther League “retreat” but never set foot in the house, it was removed when I was 13. If my memory serves me correctly it was a light green color.

  9. Thanks for te walk down memory lane, Ken. We transferred our membership from Hanover to Trinity in June of 1960, right after Confirmation. I remember high school Bible class and Walther League in Trinity Hall. I do remember it being torn down. I think there were some fire dangers and expensive upkeep issues. I am also surprised no one saved any of the leaded windows. I remember all the beautiful woodwork inside. I had never been aware of the history. Thanks for your story.

    1. This is mind-boggling. Using your info, I did a search for Irma Gade and found her obit in the May 7, 1963, Missourian. The story was datelined Chester, Ill.

      “Funeral rites for Miss Clara Gade, former teacher at Trinity Lutheran School in Cape Girardeau, were held Wednewday at St. John Lutheran Church. The Rev. Eric Cash, pastor, officiated.

      “Miss Gade, who was 43 years old, died April 28. She had been ill about three months. Before accepting her position here six years ago, she had taught in Cape Girardeau several years. She had made her home with a sister, Miss Irma Gade, who survives as does a brother.”

      I can’t believe she was only 43 years old in 1963. That would have put her in her 30s when we were haunting the halls of Trinity. Teachers were automatically “old,” but I would have put her on the ancient side of “old.”

      Now I have to track down her sister. Thanks for the lead.

  10. Wow! I forgot about the fire escape upstairs. I was so upset in first grade when I didn’t get Mrs. Kelpe and was moved into Miss Gades’s 3rd grade class of 15 with about 10 other first graders. Then I had her for 2nd grade too. There were 35 2nd graders that year. Lots of fond memories of Trinity Hall playing pool with my cousin Mike and playing records.
    Thanks for the memories.

  11. I remember Kindergarten in Trinity Hall. Mrs. Bohnsack was my teacher. I remember climbing the spiral starcase to the classroom.
    I then had Mrs. Kelpe for 1st grade. The classroom was was in a room behind the kitchen, at he rear of the auditorium.

  12. Thanks sO much for that post! I remember mrs kelpe and her “stinger” you got switched on the hand with if you were bad! I had ms froemsdorf in 2nd grade. She pinched my ear once for acting up in line. I had mr gade in 8th grade. He had a sign over the clock that said “ time will pass, will you?” Too funny… but I graduated 1979 valedictorian and will always remember TLS is the best!

  13. Just taking a trip down memory lane and came across your blog.

    I’m assuming your “Miss Gade” was Irma Gade, although another comment mentioned a sister, Clara. Miss Irma Gade was my third grade teacher at Immanuel, Olivette, 1972-73.

    I remember the shoes, and she was kind of scary. Any misbehavior in the classroom and blackboard erasers would fly through the air and smack the errant child. She also wasn’t shy about smacking the boys over the head with her textbook.

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