Uncovering treasures

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

The buildings are among the beauties of Cape Girardeau's downtown. Some were built in the 1800s, others in the 1920s and 1930s. From the perspective of the National Register of Historic Places, a building over 50 years old is potentially historic. Cape Girardeau's downtown is filled with buildings much older, but many of them have been plastered over to make them appear more modern. They are like beautiful women whose graceful aging has been marred by facelifts.

Some of Cape Girardeau's most beautiful treasures have been covered over. They deserve to be uncovered.

Historic preservationists have their own three R's: restoration, rehabilitation and renovation. Restoration means returning a building to its original condition. Rehabilitation is work in keeping with the building's historical character. Renovation is not in keeping with the building's original character. In historic downtown Cape Girardeau, restoration and rehabilitation ought to be the bywords.

Last year Old Town Cape asked the Missouri Department of Transportation for money that would have been used to create a facade grant fund. MoDOT turned down the request, but Old Town Cape is not dissuaded. The redevelopment organization wants to develop a reserve fund of $12,000 to $15,000 to be used as matching money by business owners wanting to redo their facades.

Seed money has a multiplying effect, but we hope downtown businesses don't wait for the money to appear before reworking their facades.

Some businesses haven't waited for a grant to redo their facades. Lang Jewelers, Cup 'n' Cork, Rude Dog Pub, Gallery 125, Renaissance and the Southeast Missourian are among those that have gone ahead recently with facade restoration, rehabilitation or renovation.

In cosmetic surgery terms, most downtown buildings don't need a facelift. They need a chemical peel to rid them of the excess layers time and the tastes of various owners have obscured. Beneath those layers, historic preservationists maintain, lies our natural beauty.

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