Historic Reynolds House gets on endangered list

Friday, May 9, 2003

Cape Girardeau's run-down Reynolds House has landed on a Missouri preservation group's Ten Most Endangered Properties List for 2003.

Missouri Preservation, a statewide, nonprofit group, annually identifies structures in deteriorating condition that need to be preserved.

But the Historical Association of Greater Cape Girardeau, which owns the Reynolds House, says it doesn't have the money to restore the 146-year-old house. The structure is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Dr. Joel Rhodes, an assistant professor of history at Southeast Missouri State University and a member of the board of directors of Missouri Preservation, said he hopes his group's efforts will draw public attention to the historic home and help secure government grants and private funding to preserve it.

"The Reynolds House needs money pretty immediately just to stay standing," he said Thursday. "Right now, you can't go in it without a hard hat."

The whitewashed brick house at 623 N. Main St. sits back from the street on a grassy lawn that looks in better shape than the structure. The windows and doors are boarded up with plywood. The ancient bricks are pulling loose in spots. A board is propped up against a chimney on the north side of the house to lend added support to the buckling wall.

The wooden, front steps leading up to the porch are rotting away.

Rhodes said officials with Missouri Preservation plan to visit Cape Girardeau later this year to hold a public meeting to discuss the significance of the old house and what can be done to preserve it and use it.

"Right now, nobody has come forward with a plan," said Rhodes.

No date has been set for the meeting.

The Historical Association of Greater Cape Girardeau has owned the house since 1982. But the association has done only limited maintenance work on the home because of a lack of money, said David Bibb, who serves on the group's board of directors.

"The Reynolds House has kind of been in a holding pattern," he said.

Bibb said the association has put most of its money into maintaining and making major repairs to the Glenn House, the stately Victorian style home at 325 S. Spanish. Steamboat tourists and other visitors often tour the house.

In contrast, the Reynolds House remains largely ignored, barely getting a glance from the motorists who travel on Main Street.

"Most people when they drive by are probably not immediately taken by its aesthetics," Rhodes said. "It looks very modest. It looks very humble."

But Rhodes and other historians say the Reynolds House is one of the least altered early dwellings in the city. Built in 1857, it is in the style of earlier French colonial architecture with its sloped roof extending over a porch running across the entire front of the house.

Joseph Lansmon, a brick mason who built the Common Pleas Courthouse and other structures in Cape Girardeau, constructed the house according to plans drawn by Edwin Branch Deane, the architect of the Glenn House and other large homes in the city.

The original owner of the house, James Reynolds, operated a steam-powered flour mill that extended out over the Mississippi River just north of Broadway.


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