Commission to take second look at design guidelines for Cape Girardeau historic district

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The old Jefferson School in Cape Girardeau is one of two sites under consideration for the National Register of Historic Places.

Design guidelines for Cape Girardeau's first historic district will get a second look by the city's historic preservation commission, which meets at 7 p.m. today at city hall.

Supporters of the new district expressed dismay in December when they learned what restrictions would apply. Lynn and David McLain said the new rules would inhibit their ability to renovate their Hillcrest Drive home's "stark and austere" exterior.

West End Boulevard resident Mike Sheehan, who worked on the project for more than a year, said Tuesday he was confident it would be approved.

The commission will also consider two National Register of Historic Places applications, for Jefferson School at 731 Jefferson St. and the Julius Vasterling Building at 633-637 Broadway. Guy and Rene Tomasino own the buildings.

The school, built in 1904, started out with first- through sixth-grade classes for white students, but from 1953 to 1955, it was reserved for black students. The building, now vacant, had held apartments.

The Tomasinos hired Melinda Winchester, a historic preservation consultant with the St. Louis-based Lafser & Associates, to help with the National Register application. Winchester's other National Register projects have included the H&H Building and the Southeast Missourian building, both on Broadway.

The Tomasinos also own what was once known as the Seehausen Sanitary Meat Market, 633-637 Broadway at Sprigg Street.

"Isn't that a horrible name? That was actually a business," said Winchester, laughing. "The condition of meat at that time was a problem area, so if you called it a 'sanitary' meat market, people would know it was safe."

Preservationists prefer to call it the Julius Vasterling building, she said, after the man who designed and built it sometime around 1868. One of the few remaining German-style house stores, the second story reflects the building's original bare wood and brick state. Exterior features include cast-iron half columns, plate-glass display windows and brick embellishments.

Once a National Register designation is approved, the Tomasinos can pursue tax credits for restoration, ranging from a 25 percent state credit on rehabilitation costs for residential and anywhere from 20 to 100 percent in federal credits, depending on the type of work being done, for commercial.

Winchester said getting the nod for Jefferson School -- whatever it becomes -- will help the South Cape neighborhood overall.

"If other property owners or developers see someone is willing to take the time to invest in that property, they are more likely to do the same," she said. "And there are layers of financial incentives."

If approved, the National Register applications will be reviewed by the Missouri Advisory Council on Feb. 13 in Jefferson City before going to the National Register offices in Washington, D.C., for final review and approval.


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