f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

Erlbacher Building: Edsel was first

Posted Friday, April 16, 2010, at 7:30 AM

The Erlbacher Building, 1105 Broadway, is one of two neighboring structures built by Eddie Erlbacher. According to the Feb. 1, 1958 edition of the Southeast Missourian, this building was first occupied by Edgewater Motors, Inc. which sold Edsel and Renault automobiles.

G.D. Fronabarger took this picture for the 1963 Achievement Edition of the Southeast Missourian. The photo was used in an advertisement for Nations' Plymouth-Valiant. The business was owned by Wayne Nations.

According to city directories, by 1962, the building was occupied by Jan Chick Tire Co. Nations' Plymouth-Valiant is listed in 1964 and 1965. By 1967, it was occupied by University Shop sporting goods. Rhea Optical moved in by 1974 and remained for nearly 35 years.

At one time the upstairs level was leased by the city Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools. By 1967, it was leased by Metropolitan College of Business and Technology. Later an indoor miniature golf business was there.

From the National Register nomination, written by Terri Foley, 2009:

The Erlbacher Buildings were constructed 1957-58 by Eddie Erlbacher as commercial lease properties. In October of 1945, Erlbacher and his wife Grace purchased the property from L.F. Brenneisen and Dasie I. Albert. Erlbacher intended to build one large Streamline Moderne style commercial building to house two automobile dealerships and garages on the property. At the time of purchase, located on the property was a large boarding house, known as the Adams House, which had once been a single family residence. This area of Broadway was still mostly residential in 1945. To the east were a few commercial buildings. On the west side of the property were residential buildings in the next two lots. Houses were located on the street to the rear (south) of the property. Across the street to the north was Houck Stadium which set back from Broadway and was surrounded by houses to the east and west.

Erlbacher planned to demolish the boarding house in order to construct this large commercial building and lead the way in commercial development of the area. However, Erlbacher's plans for development were stalled when some residents of the boarding house refused to vacate the premises. On January 26, 1946, Erlbacher announced his plans to vacate the Adams House within a week so he could prepare the site for his construction project. Erlbacher had given eviction notices in November of 1945 to the ten families living in the Adams House (about forty people in all) but eight of the ten families had not found a new home. After months of trying to persuade the last boarders to move, Erlbacher finally started the demolition process on the vacant part of the building. By doing so, the final boarders had no choice but to relocate.

Groundwork started on October 29, 1946, for what would have been the largest building on Broadway if completed. The design was by local architect Harold W. Long. However, the project was hindered for over a year upon completion of the foundation by a post World War II steel shortage. By May 1948, Erlbacher had received only half of the steel needed for his proposed one-story Streamline Moderne style building to house the Homer Milikan Motor Company and the Waller Motor Company. Not until September 9, 1948, had enough steel been received for construction to proceed. The 1949 and 1951 Polk's City Directory of Cape Girardeau listed the property as under construction, but the project was stalled again when labor problems arose. This time, Erlbacher suspended construction for what turned out to be several years.

In the fall of 1957, Erlbacher decided to resume construction at 1105 and 1107 Broadway. But this time he felt it would be more financially feasible to erect two smaller buildings with basements. As to the earlier design, the style was to be Streamline Moderne. The buildings would be constructed of steel, brick and concrete and would feature extensive walls of glass. With enough steel on hand, construction started in the fall of 1957. The Erlbacher Buildings were completed by July of 1958...

The building at 1105 Broadway housed Edgewater Motors Inc., an Edsel and Renault dealership. Bill's Courtesy Cleaners leased the building at 1107 Broadway. Today, Courtesy Cleaners is still located within the building, but under different ownership.... While 1107 Broadway never experienced a change of occupants, the 1105 building did. By 1962, Jan Chick Auto leased the first floor of the building and the Board of Education leased the second floor. Nations Plymouth Valiant leased the building in 1964.

Editor's Note: Rhea Optical occupied the building until leaving in 2009. A Mexican restaurant, El Sol, occupies the building in 2014.


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  • Fred,

    Thanks for jogging my memory. I had some photos of a safe being lifted out of the building at 1105 Broadway back in 1966 and thought it had something to do with the School Board offices.


    Your piece confirmed that my memory was correct. The link above has some photos of the move of the safe and some shots of the block from September 2009.

    P.S. I think The Missourian is doing you a disservice by bumping your tease off the sidebar so quickly. It was there first thing this morning and it was already gone by mid-afternoon.

    I'm afraid some folks may not catch your new content.

    -- Posted by ksteinhoff on Fri, Apr 16, 2010, at 2:29 PM
  • I agree that you are getting bumped too soon. I have to go look for it, but I am a photographer and look forward to it. How many people are missing it?

    I'll tell you, too many!

    -- Posted by bobby62914 on Fri, Apr 16, 2010, at 11:26 PM
  • There was something else I noticed when I looked at Frony's picture this morning.

    One of the most prominent features in the photo is a drive-up mailbox.

    If you check out the contemporary photos at

    http://www.capecentralhigh.com/cape-photos/broadway/school-board-moves-safe/ , you'll notice that convenience has been removed.

    My photos show a strange "doorway to nowhere" on the east side of 1107 and the west side of 1105. That's the opening that the safe is coming out in 1966.

    I wonder if that would have been a hallway if the two buildings had actually been built as one, as originally planned, or if the designer put that in for the express purpose of being able to get large, heavy objects to the second floor?

    -- Posted by ksteinhoff on Sat, Apr 17, 2010, at 8:54 AM