Artists' concept drawings have always fascinated me. I love to compare what architects conceived for a project to what was actually built. Or, in the case of St. Mary's Cathedral, NOT built.
In the spring of 1937, a scheme was hatched to re-make St. Mary's Church in Cape Girardeau (it wouldn't become a cathedral until 1956) and enlarge the grade school to its south. The Southeast Missourian carried an extensive explanation of the work to be done, as well as two concept drawings. While the work to the school was completed several years later, the church plans did not bear fruit.
Here's that story from the Missourian, published Tuesday, April 20, 1937, along with the unnamed architect's drawings.
ST. MARY'S CATHOLIC PARISH CONSIDERS MODERN NEW PLANT
Rev. Schuermann, the Pastor, Submits Proposition at Sunday Services, and Issues Bulletin Showing Details.
At the four Masses Sunday morning, the Rev. H.F. Schuermann, the pastor, explained to the parishioners of St. Mary's Catholic Church, a proposal to erect a new church and school plant to meet the growing demands.
To remodel, enlarge and otherwise improve the church house, to provide a new rectory and to enlarge and improve the grade school building adjacent to the church, would cost around $85,000, Father Schuermann explained, and then he gave to each parishioner a printed statement showing the suggestions in detail.
The pastor made it clear that he and his advisors had merely made a study of the needs of the congregation and had not made any commitment. It is a matter that the parishioners must determine, Father Schuermann declared, and he asked the members to study the proposals carefully. Before long a parish meeting will be held to discuss the details, he said, and then the wishes of the parish will be followed.
Larger Church Needed.
St. Mary's Parish is having a most substantial growth and its work is progressing to a remarkable degree, it was shown. The present church has a seating capacity of about 450. Usually every Sunday many people must stand, and occasionally quite a few cannot get into the house, although four Masses are celebrated each Sunday morning. On other frequent occasions the building is not large enough to accommodate the crowds. There is a general demand for a larger church, Father Schuermann says.
The church house was built in 1868, at a cost of about $15,000, much labor being given free and the material was bought at low prices. At that time the church served 60 families, and the late Father (Eberhardt) Pruente often said that in those days very few people had more than a bare living. From time to time improvements have been made, but the building is now in need of repair. To rebuild, enlarge, modernize and beautify the building so it would accommodate at least 700 people, would cost approximately $50,000. The pictures accompanying this article show what the architects have in mind.
New Facilities Needed.
There is a pressing demand for ore room in the grade school, it is shown. The suggestion is to remove the old residence that now stands in front of the school building and replace it with a modern structure. The cost of this improvement was estimated at about $18,000.
The present rectory, which has outlived its usefulness, would be torn away and a new one connected with the church building would be erected. Another suggestion is to build a new rectory adjacent to the church. The cost in either case would be about $18,000.
It was shown in the booklet issued for Father Pruente's anniversary that the church building was erected in 1868, the rectory in 1885, when the parish had grown from 60 families to 75 families. Then in 1890 a school house was erected in the church yard and in 1912, when the parish had grown to 150 families, the school building was enlarged at a cost of $12,000.
Membership to Decide.
In 1924 the parish acquired what was known as the old St. Francis Hospital building, across the street, and made it into a plant with complete school facilities. The cost was about $21,000 and the parish then had grown to 225 families. The school now has an enrollment of 365. Father Schuermann shows that much money has been expended on the property in recent years and still the present total indebtedness is only $2,075. The membership of the parish is now in excess of 400 families.
"I don not propose to force my ambitions upon the congregation," Father Schuermann said to The Missourian, as he proudly showed the architects' drawings and the church record, "but we could certainly greatly extend our work and influence if we had such a plant, and I don't believe it would work a hardship on the membership to provide it. Certain it is that the members would get much enjoyment and satisfaction from such an institution.
Details of Plan.
The bulletin handed to each parishioner by the pastor Sunday giving the details of the project will be of general interest to the community inasmuch as St. Mary's church and school plant under such a program would become one of the most complete and modern institutions of the kind in Missouri. The bulletin read:
This prospectus submitted in regard to contemplated changes, additions and alterations to parish buildings of St. Mary's Parish, is the fruit of months of investigation, discussion and study. Competent men in building and architectural work have been consulted and their recommendations are as follows.
SCHOOL -- An addition will be built to the school 60 feet wide and 37.9 feet long, two stories and basement. The first floor will contain two new classrooms with wardrobes, and a new stairway serving both the school and the auditorium. The present side entrance from the yard to the first floor of the school will remain. The present front stairs to the second floor will be removed. The second floor of the school building addition will consist of additional space for the auditorium and new toilets for men and women and new cloak rooms.
The construction of the new addition will be in conformity with the construction of the present building.
A new fire escape from the auditorium will be added on the south side of the building.
The approximate cost of this new addition will be $18,000.
CHURCH -- The thought embodied in the church additions and alterations is to take advantage of as much of the existing structure as possible.
In order to do this and still create a new appearance to the structure, it is the intention to veneer the exterior walls of the building with a new face brick. The steeple of the new church will be removed and a new belfry of Terra Cotta and brick will replace it.
The rear wall of the present church will be removed and the building extended as shown on plans. New confessionals and new exits will be constructed on the sides of the building, so that on completion there will be three confessionals and five exits.
A new tile roof will be put on the church building. The roof of the school addition and the rectory will be tile to match.
Interiorly the present flat ceiling of the church will be removed exposing the present wood trusses of the building. These trusses will be veneered with a thin facing of wood and new members will be added to the trusses at the same time strengthening them and adding to their appearance. The new trusses will be made to match.
The underside of the roof rafters will be covered with pre-decorated building board, (or similar material), which would serve the purpose of insulation and acoustical correction.
The walls of the church will be finished in a Travertine or Caen stone effect.
The new pews will be built in a new arrangement, the side aisles will be placed next to the outside of the building, resulting in two tiers of pews instead of three as at present. Each pew will seat nine persons.
The heating of the church will be accomplished by a warm air heating system with blowers, which system might later be converted into a cooling system for summer use.
The cost of these contemplated changes and additions will be approximately $50,000. This price does not include new altars. It does however include new pews and art glass.
RECTORY -- The rectory building will be placed to the rear of the church with its entrance on William Street. The arrangement and number of rooms shown on the rectory plan is a suggested arrangement and is subject to revision based on further conferences. The placing of the rectory abutting the rear of the church makes for economy and conveniences, convenience in that access to and from the church is very easy, and economy in that the rear wall of the church forms one wall of the rectory. The plan is fairly self explanatory and requires no further elaboration as to its arrangement. The rectory would be heated by a separate hot water or vapor system heating plant.
The cost of this building will be approximately $16,500.
An alternate plan for the rectory is to build a separate unit not using the back wall of the church. The cost of such a rectory would be approximately $18,500.
The total cost of the project above would be about $84,500 or $86,500.
Because this project is of such magnitude, I personally did not want the trustees of the parish to shoulder the responsibility without submitting it to you, the parishioners of St. Mary's Parish.
I ask you to take this prospectus home, consider it carefully and then come to a parish meeting which will be called shortly when the whole project and its feasibility will be discussed in detail,
VERY REV. H.F. SCHUERMANN, Ph. D., D.D., V.F., Pastor.
In the end, only parts of Schuermann's plan were achieved.
Fund raising efforts in June 1937 allowed the parish to demolish the old, two-story, eight-room convent, formerly used by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, in July. The unoccupied house sat in front of St. Mary's Grade School on South Sprigg Street. The nuns by then were housed at the former Saint Francis Hospital on the northwest corner of Sprigg and William streets. With the demolition completed, work began on the new school addition.
The general contract for building the addition went to Anton Haas & Son at $22,952. Subcontractors included A.E. Birk, plumbing and heating, and John Hill, electrical. An architectural fee of $1,415.55 was paid to F.A. Ludwig & Co., of St. Louis.
Work progressed rapidly on the brick annex, and it was completed by January 1938. It continues to be used for school purposes.
Construction of a new rectory to house the priests assigned to the parish, also part of Schuermann's scheme, wasn't built until 1957, a year after St. Mary's became a cathedral parish. In addition to serving as a home for St. Mary's pastor and associate pastor, it also contains quarters for the bishop of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese, when he is ministering on this side of the state. As suggested in the 1937 plan, the priests' house was attached to the east wall of the cathedral. The addition was completed in September 1957. It was designed by architects A.F. and Arthur Stauder.
Finally, the cathedral itself never saw the renovations Schuermann anticipated. Over the years, the interior has been altered numerous times, but none of the changes called for in the above plan were carried out. Likewise, the exterior of the church remains much as it did when it was built in 1868.