I can still remember 25 years ago standing in front of St. Mary's Cathedral and looking south down Sprigg Street to see a massive mechanical claw reach out to tear down historic Farmers & Merchants Bank. It was a sad day for me. I had been in the historic preservationists' corner, rooting for some way to save the old building.
In the 25 years since, time has not been kind to Haarig. Only two buildings remain at the Sprigg and Good Hope intersection, and the one on the southeast corner looks as if a strong breathe would knock it over.
But still, the Salvation Army, which tore down the bank in 1995, is a strong presence in the area, offering a variety of adult and youth ministries as it upholds its mission to "preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination."
Published in the Southeast Missourian, Jan. 13, 1995:
Demolition of the former Salvation Army headquarters, which had been the Farmers and Merchants bank building at 701 Good Hope, began on the south side of the building Thursday. The main part of the structure is to come down Sunday while traffic is blocked on Sprigg Street. (Fred Lynch ~ Southeast Missourian archive)
DEMOLITION BRINGS REGRET
By BILL HEITLAND
Judy Coburn and Bob Cardwell watched the demolition of the two-story Farmers and Merchants Bank building at 701 Good Hope Thursday with contrasting sentiments.
"I hate to see the bank go down because I can remember when my dad used to take me when he did business there," Coburn said. "I guess I was about 10 or 12 years old then. I used to look forward to getting the candy they always gave out."
Coburn, who still lives in the neighborhood, said, it is hard to see a part of his childhood and adulthood taken away.
Cardwell, who helps raise funds for Salvation Army projects, was more practical.
"I'm happy to see us finally out of that building," Cardwell said. He has been with the Salvation Army for 40 years.
"We can feed more people and do more for those in need now than we ever could in that place," Cardwell said, nodding in the direction of the building that was being systematically demolished.
The bank building had only 4,200 square feet of usable space. The new Salvation Army Building, the result of a $1 million capital campaign, features 17,200 square feet of space.
Boatmen's Bank of Cape Girardeau donated the bank to the Salvation Army when the bank ceased operations in mid-August 1985. It was the oldest operating bank facility in Cape Girardeau.
Cardwell saw the removal of the bank building, which was constructed in 1923, as a necessary step toward progress.
"If we would have kept it, it would have cost around $250,000 to make the improvements to get the building up to code," he said.
Nip Kelley, who is handling the demolition project, will complete the job Sunday.
Due to hazardous traffic conditions on Sprigg Street, Cape Girardeau police will block off the street Sunday until the demolition is completed.
Salvation Army Capt. Elmer Trapp is also happy to be in new quarters.
"It seems like we've been in that old building forever," he said. "Once the building comes down, this new place will stand out even more."
(Fred Lynch ~ Southeast Missourian archive)
John Schneider, president of the Historic Preservation Commission of Cape Girardeau, said he was saddened to lose the fight in 1992 to save the bank building.
"The building was a landmark for the neighborhood," Schneider said. "I'm very sad that we'll lose it. We put up a fight, but I really think we were too late in getting started."
Schneider said the battle waged by the Historic Preservation Commission began after the Salvation Army had already begun its push to raise funds for a new building.
"We had only been in operation for a year as a group when we started the fight to save the bank building," Schneider said. "I understand how the new building will be more practical and that it will save money to move out of the bank building. But I just wish we could have found a way to save the old building."
Schneider said, "I remember the building because my father-in-law's medical office was across the street and I used to go there a lot."
After the demolition is finished Sunday, Trapp will look forward to seeing the beginning of the final phase of the project begin. Kiefner Brothers will build a parking lot where the bank building stood.
Removal of the bank building was delayed because asbestos had to be removed from pipe insulation in the basement of the bank.
"We were fortunate that the asbestos removal only cost around $4,700," Trapp said. Midwest Environmental Study removed the asbestos from the building in early December.
Tom Holshouser, chief architect for the project, said the asbestos removal was completed for less than half of the highest bid.
"They were able to do some of the work out of their home, so that cut down on the overhead," Holshouser said.
Kelley is doing the demolition project at cost. "That's their gift to us and it is certainly appreciated," Trapp said.
Published in the Southeast Missourian, Jan. 16, 1995:
Nip Kelly construction company got off to an early start Sunday morning, tearing down what was left of the old Salvation Army building at the corner of Sprigg and Good Hope streets. The old building was replaced by a new complex at an adjacent site. (Southeast Missourian archive)