Cape Rock Drive is example of city's twists and turns

Sunday, February 19, 2006
Cape Rock Park was built by Dennis Scivally on the east end of Cape Rock Drive in Cape Girardeau. (Historical photo)

If you're trying to get from Point A to Point B, it's best not to get there by taking Cape Rock Drive.

According to Cape Girardeau city planner Kent Bratton, Cape Rock Drive did not start out as a major street. But it ended up as one that goes literally every direction.

There's a Cape Rock Drive East, Cape Rock Drive North and a Cape Rock Drive West. Bratton traced the road on a map and tracked it from Kingsway where it runs north and turns northeast, then runs awhile and goes back down and back around.

Contrary to what some may think, Cape Rock Drive does not turn into Maria Louise Lane when it crosses Kingshighway. Bratton said Cape Rock Drive ends at Kingshighway. Maria Louise Lane begins on the other side of Kingshighway.

Country roads

When Cape Girardeau first became a city that stopped on the west at what is now Middle Street, Cape Rock Drive was a country road, Bratton said.

"It was built prior to when Kingshighway was built in the late 1920s," he said. "It was about the time the bridge was built."

The original road was designed and built by Dennis Scivally for the Cape Special Road District.

Scivally built scenic roads and a system of parks along the roads, Bratton said. He built Twin Trees Park, Cape Rock Park and Scivally Park.

One wonders where Scivally wanted that road to go.

"Back in those days," Bratton said, "they did not have the equipment they have today. In the uplands some of the roads are built along ridges, and in the low-lying areas they follow the creeks."

Until Kingshighway was built, Cape Girardeau roads followed the river, Bratton said. And like the river, the road tends to meander.

As the city began to grow, annexing areas about every decade or so, Cape Rock Drive was encompassed into the city limits. When the city was replatted in the 1940s, a section of Cape Rock Drive became known as Country Club Drive. Some people who lived along Cape Rock Drive continued to use that as their address. Others preferred Country Club Drive, although they were all talking about the same road.

In the middle 1960s, the post office wanted a one-name road. The discussion was split: About half wanted to call it Country Club, the other half wanted to keep it Cape Rock, which put the post office between Cape Rock and a hard place.

"Finally the post office said it will not deliver the mail unless this is straightened out," Bratton said.

That section is now known as Cape Rock East.

Cape Rock isn't the only unusual road in the city. Themis Street traverses most of Cape Girardeau east to west but not continuously.

Gaps in Themis

Bratton said original maps of the city show a gap at Themis that was intentionally left to accommodate the Common Pleas Courthouse.

As Cape Girardeau grew, Themis grew too, but not very straight. There's a gap at a park, which was there before the street was platted. As Themis moves west, it jogs a little.

"Part of the reason is that Cape Girardeau did not have subdivision regulations until 1976," Bratton said. "I always found that interesting because it had its first master plan in 1927. It adopted zoning shortly thereafter, but they were not in the business of controlling subdivisions."

In 1967, the city drew up a comprehensive plan and in 1975 hired the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission, where Bratton worked. When the planning commission pointed out the wisdom of having subdivision regulations, the city finally put some in place.

"The subdivision regulations, more than anything else, give us the ability to make sure the streets connect and are lined up," Bratton said.

That doesn't mean streets in Cape Girardeau follow any particular logic.

"There's an East Rodney and a West Rodney," Bratton said, "but they both run north and south."

But East Rodney is indeed east of West Rodney.

North Street runs east and west. West End Boulevard runs north and south.

Bratton said the city does its best to make sure street names are logical, inoffensive and as easy to understand as possible.

Hard to spell, hard to say

But there is an Oak Lei Drive and an Oakley Drive -- spelled differently, but pronounced the same.

"You can imagine this drives police dispatchers nuts," Bratton said.

"With annexation over the years and subdivisions being built, it's possible to have streets that sound the same." Bratton said the city also tries to keep from having duplicate names. It doesn't always succeed.

There are two First Streets, two Second Streets, two Third Streets, two Highland Drives and two Hillcrest Drives.

There's Bloomfield Road and Bloomfield Street, Cypress Court and Cypress Drive, David Drive and David Street, Stoddard Court and Stoddard Street, Lynnwood Drive and Lynnwood Hills Drive. Marilyn Drive and Marlyn Drive might confuse pizza delivery drivers by the sound of their names.

Somehow the U.S. Postal Service has been able to keep track of all the duplicate streets and the meandering roads. The USPS maintains all the street information, which is where United Parcel Service gets its information about the city streets.

Eddie Moss of UPS in Cape Girardeau said they know which street to take by the way they're numbered. It also helps that most drivers of those big brown trucks know their way around town.

"We've got drivers who have been in the city for years and they know that," Moss said.

Some streets may not be identical, but they're close enough to be baffling.

There's Deer Creek Lane and Deer Creek Road. And if that isn't confusing enough, there's also Deer Run Trails and Deerfield Lane. And then we have Park Avenue, Park Drive, Parkmor, Parksite, Parkview and Parkway. There's also Timber Lane and Timberlane Drive.

For some reason, Putters Lane is nowhere near Fairway Boulevard. But Patriot Drive is close to Paul Revere Drive.

Bratton said the city tries to do its best to make sure future names are logical and not duplicated. But it isn't going to change any existing names.

"That causes lots of heartburn," he said.

So don't even consider proposing a Cape Rock Drive South.

lredeffer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: