In a recent blog, I explained how Harland Bartholomew had developed a comprehensive plan for Cape Girardeau in the late 1920s, one of many that he oversaw during his long career. In 1953, Bartholomew's job prospects reached a new height: he was appointed by President Eisenhower as chairman of the National Capitol Planning Commission, "the key agency in the development of Washington, D.C."
On Aug. 31, 1954, the Southeast Missourian published an editorial, "Bartholomew City Plan Valuable to Girardeau", discussing the legacy of his original plan, as well as additional work done by Bartholomew's firm in the city. The editorial was prompted by the news that Eisenhower had sent condolences over the death of Bartholomew's wife.
Here is what a portion of the editorial said -- with emphasis added:
The matter of ample parking space is of the most general importance. Already some cities provide in their building permits that every building must including parking space adequate for its purposes. Every residence must have parking space for its cars so they need not be parked on the streets.
An occurrence that has taught Cape Girardeau a good lesson in this respect is the location of the State College Houck Athletic field and athletic building.
Some years ago when the legislature provided a fund of half a million dollars for a new athletic building the Board of Regents had to provide a site for it. When it was reported that the magnificent new building would be placed on the site of the old one that had been destroyed by fire, the matter became a live community issue and was discussed by many.
Finally the Regents became divided, some wanting it on the old site and others on a new site back of Academic Hall. Then it was decided to call in the Bartholomew organization.
A survey was made in which it was stressed that the old site was not large enough for the building and offered no parking space at all.
In the end a majority of the Board voted to use the old site and at that time it was reported that in the years to come the residences on Broadway extending from the entrance to the athletic field west to Henderson and then north to Normal avenue, might be bought and cleared away for parking space.
The Bartholomew report favored a site in the forest to the north of Academic Hall, showing that moderate development would provide a fine site for a $500,000 building no farther from Academic Hall than the old site. With several acres of parking space close by and with a wide entrance from Sprigg street and also from Henderson.
Since that episode in permanent public development, most every place built for commercial use, as well as general use, has provided its own parking space. Recent notable examples have been the several medical buildings on Broadway, every one having attractive parking space.
The new Catholic high school building, which is nearing completion, sets in a 15-acre tract and will have its own ample athletic fields and unlimited parking space. The new Central High school building will take full care of its parking needs, thus leaving only the Houck Stadium and field house to depend entirely upon street parking.
Cape Girardeau is one of the few cities of its size in Missouri to have a Bartholomew City Plan and it is often said that the city plan, as it is generally called, is used more than any other similar action ever taken by the City. The city and the Chamber of Commerce might well state on their printed matter that Cape Girardeau depends upon a Bartholomew City Plan and follows it closely. Certainly our city should not speak of itself in higher terms.
Based on this, I looked through the newspaper archives to find any stories discussing the replacement project for Houck Field House. It seems that this was indeed a "live community issue" as described by this story from Feb. 21, 1949:
"It Sounds Just Like a Lawyer"
Several men happened to meet the other day and the discussion of a basketball game at the Arena the preceding night grew hot because there were more
people present than could be seated. "We need a bigger building for sports than the Arena," said an American Legion leader. "It looks to me like we will need a larger building Friday night when Springfield comes," remarked a reporter.
Then a lawyer piped in, as usual, and spring this one on Judge I.R. Kelso, member of the College Board of Regents, who had been listening in:
"Please tell us why the Board of Regents decided to place the new athletic building, the only one on the campus to cost a half million dollars, on a space everybody says is too small and otherwise unsuited to the purpose, instead of locating it on the site selected by Harland Bartholomew who was paid about a thousand dollars to show where it should be placed?"
"I am frequently asked the question," replied the regent. "All I can say is that I was in favor of a location that would meet the present requirements and the needs of the future contemplated when the appropriations committees of the House and Senate unanimously made the splendid appropriation."
"That sounds just like a lawyer," the questioner remarked as he moved on muttering, "that's the way it goes when about everybody is disgusted."
Both of these news items underscore the old saying: The more things change, the more they stay the same.