Cape Girardeau Historic Preservation Commission
2009 Historic Preservation Month Walk
Theme: “This Place Matters” – May 20, 2009
Welcome to this year’s Historic Preservation Walk! This year’s walk will feature historic
structures along Main Street and adjacent areas in downtown Cape Girardeau. Your tour guides
are Dr. Frank Nickell and Ms. Hallie Fieser of Southeast Missouri State University’s Center for
Regional History, and Mr. Scott House of the Historic Preservation Commission.
Begin at Old St. Vincent’s Church.
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church – 131 S. Main
St. Vincent de Paul lived from 1581-1660 and found the Congregation of the Mission, known today as the
Vincentians. The first Catholic service performed by the Vincentians in Cape Girardeau dates back to
1821. In 1833, Father John Timon, a Vincentian priest whose responsibilities included parts of Southeast
Missouri, celebrated mass in a warehouse originally belonging to Louis Lorimier. Timon was instrumental
in building the congregation and establishing a local parish. In 1845 Timon helped found the Society of St.
Vincents in St. Louis and later became bishop of Buffalo, New York. Located on a plot of land donated by
the Lorimier heirs, the cornerstone for a St. Vincent's Church was laid on April 30, 1838. The new church
reportedly resembled the Old Cathedral that still stands in St. Louis. The church and Lorimier's Red
House were destroyed by a tornado in 1850. The present St. Vincent's Church began soon after the
tornado, using the footprint of the old church as a foundation. This English Gothic-revival church,
designed by Thomas Waryng Walsh and built by famed Cape Girardean Joseph Lansmon, was
completed in 1853. In 1900 a much higher spire was built on to the structure. In 1905 the spire was struck
by lightning and had to be rebuilt. In 1912 the tower was struck again, and this time it burned. The
present, shorter steeple was built later in 1912. The vestibule at the front entrance was added in 1926.
Additional renovations occurred in 1935 and 1952. At various times the exterior brick has been painted,
stripped, repainted, and covered with stucco. The renovation of 1962 removed the layers of stucco and
paint. In 1976, a new St. Vincent's Church was opened in the west part of town, and the old church was to
be torn down. Thanks to a small core of dedicated parishioners, it was saved and restored. It is now a
Chapel of Ease, and a part of St. Mary's parish, with almost 100 members. In addition to Sunday morning
masses, it is used for concerts and even a play has been held there. The church was placed on the
National Register of Historic Places on April 12, 1982 and on the Local Register on February 20, 1996.
Across the street is the reconstruction of Louis Lorimier’s seat of government and trading post,
the Red House. This interpretation of the original building which was lost in the 1850 tornado
was constructed in 2001-2003 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark
Expedition. Meriwether Lewis dined with the Lorimier family when the Corps of Discovery was
making its way up the Mississippi River to winter quarters and a staging area at Wood River,
Illinois, across from St. Louis. The original Red House is believed to have stood on the river side
of the parking lot and in front of St. Vincent de Paul Church where you are now standing.
From St. Vincent’s Church, please walk north along Main Street to B’nai Israel
B'Nai Israel Synagogue – 126 S. Main
The B'Nai Israel Synagogue was constructed in 1937 by the Hecht family, the local Jewish community,
and support from businesses and individuals. The synagogue, the only one in southeast Missouri, served
the entire area's Jewish citizens. In 1921 Jewish leaders and businessmen David Minnen, Louis Hecht,
and Jake Pollack helped form a charter of the B'Nai B'Rith lodge in Cape Girardeau. Founded in 1843
B'Nai B'rith is one of the largest and oldest Jewish community and benevolent organizations in the world.
In this sense, its purpose was similar to that of the German "Turner" societies. Prior to the building of the
synagogue the lodge met at various locations, including the Sturdivant Bank, old Presbyterian Church,
and the clubhouse in Fairgrounds (Capaha) Park. The building was constructed in a Mission or Spanish
Colonial Revival style with a strong Islamic or Moorish influence demonstrated by its domed rotunda. The
Islamic dome style itself was an outgrowth of Byzantine influences, originating in Constantinople.
Although no longer used by the congregation, the structure has been saved and has been renovated, an
effort made possible by the listing of the synagogue on the National Register of Historic Places.
Cross Meriwether St., and walk along Main Street in front of Hudson’s Furniture Store to
the south side of Independence Street.
This is the former location of the Planters Mill, built in 1877. At that time, Main Street ended at
the mill and a spring branch. Planters Mill was built in 1877 by Frederick W. Pott, a native of
Prussia who moved to Cape Girardeau in 1854 and later served in the Civil War. The mill
burned on March 27, 1909, and in 1920 Main Street was extended to the south.
Turn left and walk along Independence Street to the corner of Spanish Street to view the
Klostermann Block/Alliance Building (currently housing Mollie’s Restaurant and an art
Klostermann Block / Alliance Building
The Alliance Building at 7-15 S. Spanish St. was built in 1905 by Louis F. Klostermann. Klostermann, was
a prominent businessman and German immigrant, and had this building designed in the Italian
Renaissance Revival style during a major economic boom. During the period from 1905-1929, it was
used for various stores, an advertising company, a utility office and a garage. There were also 15 lodging
rooms on the top floor. The "Morning Sun" was published at 7-9 S. Spanish from about 1915 to 1922. The
façade is covered in elaborate pressed tin panels and represents the last surviving example of this
decorative technique left in the city. It is a Mesker Metal Storefront. In 1989, there was a fire that
destroyed the neighboring building immediately to the north and severely damaged the north wall,
resulting in its replacement.
Return to Main Street. The area north of Independence is part of the Main-Spanish
Commercial Historic District.
Across Independence St. is 1 N. Main, which is the former F.W. Woolworth "Dime" Store. On
June 12, 1914, the Woolworth store opened at this location. Woolworth's remained a landmark
in Cape, surviving several floods prior to the construction of the floodwall. The business outgrew
the original store, resulting in the present building being erected c. 1950. The store closed on
Dec. 27, 1977, and has since been an antiques store, and was then remodeled as a restaurant.
Next door is the former J. C. Penny Store at 9-11 N. Main. No town was complete without a
local J.C. Penny outlet in the early part of the twentieth century, and Cape Girardeau was no
exception. This building was constructed in about 1915. The building is currently being
Cross Independence Street, and then cross to the east side of Main Street. Walk two
The next featured building illustrates the patchwork of older and newer buildings in the
downtown area, and the history of the downtown area and its past renovations.
Montgomery Ward Building – 18 N. Main
In 1872 Aaron Montgomery Ward opened a mail order dry goods supply house in Chicago, catering to the
needs of rural America. In 1926 the first Montgomery Ward and Company Store opened in Indiana and
only three years later there were already 531 stores nationwide. Cape Girardeau's Montgomery Ward’s
opened in 1928, located in a building at 430 Broadway. On November 25, 1933 the store opened its new
building at 18 North Main, which was constructed at a cost of $75,000. A couple of buildings were
demolished to make way for Montgomery Ward. They were the "I. Ben Miller Ice Cream Factory," which
was built c. 1900 and faced Water St., and Kassel's Photography Studio which faced Main St. The three-
story high I. Ben Miller building was made of brick and had a large painted sign taking up most of the
facade. Kassel's was responsible for many old photographs of Cape Girardeau from the early part of the
twentieth century. In 1962, Montgomery Ward purchased the former Bahn's Hardware building and the
adjoining structure at Independence and Water, demolished the buildings and built a 14,000 square foot,
one-story addition, while also renovating the older structure. The store closed on Christmas Eve, 1981
and the buildings have been used by a variety of businesses since then. In 2000 Montgomery Ward
closed the last of their retail stores; today Wards.com has returned to its roots, offering mail order goods
via the Web.
Look across the street to the next featured buildings.
Lyric Theater Building – 25 N. Main
The Lyric Theater was reportedly opened in this building on Main Street in October 1907; the building is
likely older. This may have been the first regular movie theater in Cape Girardeau. It seems likely that
earlier films were shown in make-shift theaters, perhaps in the Planters House building or other venues.
The Lyric Theater showed some of the first silent movies created for public viewing. The theater
apparently did not last long and was soon replaced by the Vandivort Dry Goods Company. In 1926, the
People's Store opened here, and the structure has been remodeled and used for many other commercial
ventures since. Currently an antiques store occupies the old structure.
David A. Glenn Mercantile Company – 27-29 N. Main
David A. Glenn, a pioneer merchant of Cape Girardeau who built the Glenn House, opened his new store
here at 29 N. Main Street in 1891. By 1906, Glenn had expanded to include 25-27 and 31 N. Main Street.
His store occupied 29,000 square feet in 1906. Glenn's store went out of business when he declared
bankruptcy in 1914 due to problems at the First National Bank, which he presided over. The original 29 N.
Main was demolished around 1920 and replaced with the present building. The exterior of both buildings
have been remodeled. Back Porch Antiques and Zickfield’s Jewelers are now located here.
Now walk to the corner of Themis and Main.
Arcade Saloon – 44 & 46 N. Main
The Arcade Saloon, built around 1870, was known as "the wettest corner in Cape Girardeau" because 46
N. Main (the north half) always seemed to have a tavern. 44 N. Main (the south half) was a pool hall,
barbershop, restaurant, and printing company throughout its life. This building has been changed
significantly over time. When built, the ground floor has a large circular arched opening for the main entry.
Additionally, the roof was originally gabled. Sometime before the 1920s, the roof was flattened. You can
still see the upper story windows cut in half and bricked up on the north side of the building. The Cup and
Cork is currently located in 46 N. Main.
Across the street is the site of the former St. Charles Hotel, 45 N. Main, which is now occupied
by a 1967 structure that was built to house Sterling’s Variety Store after the hotel was
demolished. Currently it is occupied by Past Times Antiques. The St. Charles Hotel, one of the
great original Cape Girardeau landmarks, was constructed in the years between 1838 and
1844. It was built by Joseph Lansmon, architect and builder of the Common Pleas Courthouse,
St. Vincent's Church and St. Mary's Cathedral. Honored guests reportedly included Ulysses S.
Grant, Samuel Clemens, and Charles Dickens. Additional remodeling in 1895 included the
installation of electricity. At the time that the St. Charles Hotel was torn down in 1967 to make
room for a retail store, there were no Cape Girardeau sites listed on the National Register of
Historic Places. The demolishing of the St. Charles is viewed as one of the biggest losses for
historic preservation that Cape Girardeau has ever experienced.
Turn right onto Themis Street and walk down the hill to the corner of Themis and Water
to the Port Cape Restaurant. Port Cape is part of the Warehouse Row National Historic
Port Cape/Filburn and Ivers Commission House – 19 N. Water
This structure, built around 1860, is one of the oldest buildings still standing on what was once known as
Warehouse Row. This building began as the Filburn and Ivers Commission House, a business much like
a distributor warehouse, buying, storing, and reselling goods for a commission. Local lore has linked this
property to General Ulysses S. Grant, who made his headquarters on the riverfront for a week in late
August and early September, 1861. Grant made at least one return trip to the Cape in October 1861,
reviewing progress on the forts which were nearly finished. With easy access to the Mississippi River
steamboats and the railroad, the businesses located on Warehouse Row made major contributions to the
economic and commercial growth of the community. This building remained a commission house and
armory until the late 1890s when the main floor was dedicated to storage. The third floor was used as a
band hall around the turn of the twentieth century. Around 1915, a general merchandise and furniture
store began operating here. In the 1920's the building was being used as the Townsend Furniture Store.
Eventually it was renovated and turned into the Port Cape Restaurant.
Originally the structure had a peaked roof, but a fire took the top off of this building and the building
behind it that housed the Arcade Saloon. Over time, the roof was altered at least four or five times. During
the latest change, sometime after 1900, the roof was flattened. The building was one of the first in the
area to have an elevator.
The parking lot across Themis from Port Cape is the site of the former Meyer-Albert Grocery
Co. Sebastian Albert came to Cape Girardeau as a young man and started a wholesale
grocer/mercantile at this location, and eventually become the largest distributor for the area.
Before Albert arrived in Cape, he went west during the 1849 Gold Rush and nearly starved to
death from his experiences there.
Proceed back towards Main Street and walk across Themis Street. We are in front of the
next featured building, and across the street from another. North of Themis is the Cape
Girardeau Downtown Historic District.
Cape Girardeau Building and Loan Association Building – 102 N. Main
The Cape Girardeau Building and Loan Association was organized on December 14, 1882 during a
meeting at the Common Pleas Courthouse. The Association continued to meet there until April 6, 1911
when it moved into the second First National Bank building at 117 N. Main Street. In the early 1920s, it
was decided that the Association should have their own building. At the time this lot, owned by Louis
Houck, was empty. The Association purchased the lot and construction began on March 23, 1925 and
was finished later that year. In 1956, the Association was reorganized into the Cape Girardeau Federal
Savings and Loan. On July 1, 1974, it changed into the Colonial Federal Savings and Loan Association,
and moved to west Broadway. It was during the 1970s that the classical columns were added to the
building (probably as an association with the new name). Colonial Federal Savings and Loan continued to
use the building until April 1981 when they left. The ornate cornice has been covered, and the left front of
the building was originally built as a store front, making it oddly non-symmetrical. That part has been
changed, as have the lower level windows in the front and side. The arched window on the side is typical
of the front windows. This is a classic federal style building. The A.D. Leech building previously stood on
this spot and housed a ladies clothing and dry goods store, as well as a dance hall and tailor. It was
demolished in the mid 1920s. Missouri Barge Lines is currently located here.
Across Main Street is the Sturdivant Bank Building
Sturdivant Bank – 101 N. Main
Robert Sturdivant moved to southeast Missouri in 1835 and worked at various trades. Following the Civil
War, in 1866, he opened his own bank. He retired from active banking in 1902. A new bank building was
constructed at the northwest corner of Main and Themis Streets in 1882 by local contractor Henry
Ossenkop. The bank business occupied the ground floor of the building while other offices were located
on the upper floors. The bank used this building until 1930 when it moved to the H&H Building on
Broadway; it closed its doors in 1932, a victim of the depression. The safe of the bank, inscribed as
Sturdivant Bank and built by the Mosler Vault Company, has been preserved, incidentally, and is located
in the basement of the original Central High School where it was used as the school vault.
Colonel Robert Sturdivant came to Southeast Missouri in 1835 and worked at various trades, including
the mercantile business, teaching, newspaper publishing and banking. In 1866, he acquired the assets of
the Third Branch Bank of Missouri and opened a bank under his own name at the northwest corner of
Main and Themis streets in Cape Girardeau. This structure was torn down, and a new bank building rose
in its place in 1892. It was designed by St. Louis architect J.B. Legg and built by Cape Girardeau
contractor Henry Ossenkop. A small office on the second floor of the new building housed Cape
Girardeau's first telephone company and switchboard in 1896. Sturdivant retired from banking in 1902,
but the institution continued to thrive. In 1930 it abandoned its Main Street location and moved into the
Himmelberger-Harrison Building on Broadway. A clock which had hung on the bank building since 1917
was purchased by H.I. Himmelberger in 1939 and was also removed to the H-H Building. The dark days
of the Great Depression saw the demise of the Sturdivant Bank in 1932. Since then, it has been occupied
by a series of retail stores, including Cape Wiggery and most recently, Bella Flora.
Continue north on Main Street a short distance, and look across the street to the next
historic building on the tour: Hecht’s Clothing Store (now Club Moxy).
Hecht's Clothing Store – 107 N. Main
The building at 107 N. Main was the third location of Hecht's clothing store, founded in 1917 by Louis
Hecht. A grocery and confectionary store was demolished in 1927 in order to build the present building.
Thomas P. Barnett, of St. Louis, architect of the Southeast Missourian Building, designed the current
building. Various buildings in Paris were his inspiration for the unique eclectic design of this building,
which features Spanish, French, Mediterranean and other architectural elements. Note the original entry
to the store whose roof still has the original Art Nouveau stencils. Hecht's Clothing Store operated for over
75 years, until closing in 2004. Now the building is occupied by Club Moxy
Continue a short distance north until you are in front of the next stop, Lang’s Jewelry
Lang’s Jewelry Store – 126 N. Main
This two-story brick building was constructed in about 1905 with Colonial Revival detailing, and it has
housed a jewelry store since its construction. In about 1960 the storefront was altered with a recessed
entrance with an aluminum and glass door, aluminum and glass display windows, and aluminum
bulkheads. A decorative terra cotta cornice separates the two floors, and the second story has a central
projecting tri-part bay window flanked by the original single-light glass and wood windows. Windows have
dentilled molding and transoms with decorative diamond lights, topped by concrete lintels with central
keystones. The central window has a triangular pediment, and the roofline is a terra cotta cornice with
modillion blocks and dentils.
Another short walk and we reach the last stop on the corner of Main and Broadway,
currently housing the Buckner Brewing Co. and Ragsdale’s Bar.
Buckner-Ragsdale Building – 132-134 N. Main
The original Buckner Ragsdale building, owned by L. B. Houck, was destroyed in the great downtown fire
of March 15, 1916. After no replacement was being scheduled, C. M. Buckner purchased the lot from
Houck later that year and a new store rose in the place of the old. Buckner thus became the first
businessman to begin revitalizing the destroyed commercial area. The present building was designed as
a fire-proof structure, including an innovative sprinkler system that still works today. This Buckner-
Ragsdale store was one of eight chain clothing stores in Missouri, and was the most popular such store in
Southeast Missouri. This was the location where Levi jeans could first be purchased. Buckner Ragsdale's
also sold scout uniforms to several generations of young area residents. Cape Girardeau Business
College was once located upstairs. The store closed in 1982; the building was used for a few purposes
thereafter but eventually sat vacant. The current owners purchased the building, opening a bar
downstairs and eventually reopening the upstairs as a popular restaurant, pub, and micro-brewery. Much
of the original layout of the interior was preserved during its renovation, which was made possible by tax
credits supported by the building's location in the Main Street commercial national historic district. The
original Buckner-Ragsdale's exterior corner sign hangs inside today.
The parking lot across Broadway from these buildings is the site of the Riverview Hotel, which
was built originally in the late 1850s, was used as a hospital and officers’ quarters during the
Civil War, and burned in the great downtown fire of 1916.
This concludes the historic walking tour of downtown Cape Girardeau. We hope you enjoyed
the walk, and encourage you to stay and dine at one of the downtown restaurants. Should you
wish, a shuttle will be available to take you back to the starting point.