Last week's blog told of a fire jinx that had attached itself to Paul Leming in 1923. He apparently recovered from life's misfortunes and continued to live in Cape Girardeau until his quiet death on March 11, 1939. At the time of his death, he resided at 311 N. Ellis St., the home his parents built in 1898-99.
The two-and-half-story brick house remained in the family until 1957, when it was sold to Centenary Methodist Church. For a brief time, it served as the Methodist Student Center, before being torn down in 1965 to provide additional parking for the church.
Published Thursday, Sept. 16, 1965, in the Southeast Missourian:
(Southeast Missourian archive)
HOME OF FORMER MAYOR
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DAUGHTERS SALVAGE SOME REMNANTS OF 'LEMING PLACE' BEING RAZED FOR PARKING
By JERRY OBERMARK
Missourian staff writer
Some tile from an old fireplace, a brass doorbell and two doors from an old china cabinet. To you and me these items in themselves have little meaning.
But they are more than souvenirs to two of the daughters of one of the former leading citizens of Cape Girardeau. They are remnants in the strict sense of the word. They have "residual magnetism."
These relics are all that Mrs. C.P. Harris and Mrs. Frank Kenyon have salvaged from the home where they were reared, at 311 N. Ellis St., which is in the process of being razed to clear the way for parking space for Centenary Methodist Church.
Mrs. Kenyon and Mrs. Harris are the two daughters of the late Mr. and Mrs. M.E. Leming. Mr. Leming was mayor of Cape Girardeau from 1909 to 1911, and the former president of the Commercial Club, a precursor to the Chamber of Commerce.
"Father was always interested and active in civic affairs," Mrs. Kenyon said.
It has been said that the turning point in Cape Girardeau history occurred during his administration as mayor.
He came to Cape Girardeau in 1892, and established a lumber mill. He was associated with A.R. Ponder in building an early street car system here and a railroad in Texas.
During his term as mayor, horse-drawn fire equipment was purchased. Main Street was paved with wood blocks, and the Broadway hill was surfaced with granite blocks.
Mr. Leming had the official honor to serve as host to President William Howard Taft in October 1909, when a presidential barge party on a cruise from St. Louis to New Orleans, Louisiana, stopped here at noon to attend a brief program at State College.
Along with his many civic and business activities, Mr. Leming helped Mrs. Leming rear eight children in the home at 311 N. Ellis.
In 1957, the home was purchased by the Centenary Methodist Church and was used for the past two years by the Wesley Foundation. But during the previous 58 years the home was known as the "Leming Place."
"A lot of living went on in that old home," Mrs. Harris said.
The Lemings reared five of their own children and three nephews in the home.
Only thee of the children are surviving. They are Mrs. Harris, Mrs Kenyon and M.E. Leming Jr., who carried on the lumber business. He and Mrs. Harris were born in the house.
"Mother wanted the home to be built in time to have her fourth child born there," Mrs. Kenyon said.
"For a while, she didn't think she would make it. An explosion at the mill of a steam boiler which powered the saw caused quite a bit of destruction. This happened the day that the architect came to Father with the plans for the new house."
Despite the explosion and the havoc that naturally followed, the house was built in time for the deadline. The house was completed on Sept. 1, 1899, and the baby, M.E. Leming Jr., was born Oct. 1, 1899.
"There's nothing of particular historic interest about the house. Oh, the bishops of the Methodist Church often stayed there when the district committee meeting was in town. But the house holds a lot of memories," Mrs. Kenyon said.
The daughters had their wedding receptions at the house. Some prankster called the fire department during Mrs. Harris' reception to cause confusion and block the departure of the newlyweds.
"Probably the biggest thing that happened in the house was the celebration of the golden wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Leming on Sept. 30, 1935," Mrs. Kenyon said.
"Three years later Father died. He didn't design the house, but he did insist on one innovation in the home. All the downstairs wood paneling and the huge sliding doors were made of red gum wood."
Some of Mr. Leming's peers in the lumber business told him it was ridiculous to use red gum. They said it would warp and never hold up through the years. He solved the problem by kiln drying the wood, a practice not very common in those days.
"That red gum paneling is as beautiful today as it was when the house was built," Mrs. Kenyon said. "Father used to say, it's a sin to paint red gum."
"Today red gum is used mostly for furniture — expensive furniture. It would be impractical to build a home of red gum, because it's so expensive," M.E. Leming Jr., said.
In the years since the Lemings owned the house, the woodwork upstairs has been painted, but it wasn't red gum or any of the types of wood that would have constituted a sin if painted. The plaster was badly cracked, and falling in places, but the red gum paneling was something Mr. Leming would probably boast about if he were alive today.