Students prepare for Missourian on national register

Sunday, February 27, 2005

On the front page of today's Progress edition, a remarkable watercolor by local artist Taylor Crowe shows off part of the Southeast Missourian building. Thanks to the hard work of several Southeast Missouri State University students and their professor, that building may soon be recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Such designations translate into prestige for our community and a draw for tourism, but they also help preserve our historic identity. By understanding the world that preceded us, we can live smarter -- and more meaningfully -- in the world today.

Important to the building owner, designations can also open the door to tax credits for building preservation, renovation and development. In the case of the Missourian, we are completing the final plans on an interior redevelopment that will cost more than $1 million, which wouldn't have been possible without the tax credits. This redevelopment will include new heating and air-conditioning systems, improved computer networking and a better work environment. Besides leading to a higher quality of work for our customers at greater efficiency, the project will solidify the Missourian building as a downtown landmark long into the future.

Gaining historic designation is a lengthy and comprehensive process, and it must go through several layers of approval. Needless to say, it also requires a historic building. For many years, the Southeast Missourian's ownership had dabbled with the idea of gaining recognition, but there was always concern that gaining designation would lead to bureaucratic limits on changes we could make. Our business is impacted significantly by new technology, and the thought that a historic designation could stand in the way of modifying our workspace was daunting. Over the years, the newspaper's librarian Sharon Sanders chipped away at this fear, bringing articles to our attention about the benefits of historic designation.

Sharon was joined by Gary Rust II, who transformed a project that began looking at consolidating our company's graphic designers into a new, creative workspace and grew into a full analysis of our Cape Girardeau workflow and where we thought we needed to be in the future. But it was Terri Foley, a local consultant on historic issues, and her former professor at Southeast Missouri State University, Dr. Steven Hoffman, who ultimately convinced us to go full steam ahead. For those of you who don't know Hoffman, he is a delightful man with a love of this community and a spirit that makes you confident about the future. He is also the current president of Old Town Cape, an organization which continues to drive positive change in our area.

Foley and Hoffman explained to us how the process works. And Hoffman said the project would be a good learning experience for some of his students. In the end, a group of SEMO students led by Melinda Winchester volunteered countless hours of their own time to put the nomination together. Besides leading the project and making the presentation in front of the state's advisory council, Winchester wrote the application's sections on the significance of the property relating to history and architecture. She also edited other portions of the nominating form and pulled together the pictures. Lisa Graham, the only graduate student on the team, wrote the architectural description and created the slides for the presentation. Michael Bricknell, Emilie Eggemeyer and Catie Myers conducted primary research.

Thanks to their work, the Southeast Missourian building was accepted by the state for nomination to federal designation. The process is not over, but the tallest hurdle has been cleared.

For Hoffman and his students, the Missourian building is merely the latest in their lengthening list of successful projects. Thanks to them, the Marquette building in downtown Cape Girardeau was saved and, with the aid of then-governor Bob Holden and Prost Builders, polished into a community jewel. They organized the nomination for the H&H building, the B'nai Israel Synagogue, the Wood building, and the Judith Crowe house. In all, nine of the 17 buildings with federal designation in Cape resulted from the work of SEMO students. Because of Hoffman and these successes, the university's program on historic preservation is becoming known around the country.

In so many ways, the community is lucky to have them in our midst.


Talking about history, the Progress edition in today's newspaper is a must read. My congratulations to the news department of the Southeast Missourian for its fascinating stories and photographs. And to the advertising department and local merchants: Your ads are informative and exciting. There is so much going on in this area that it can be overwhelming to try to keep on top of it all. My congratulations to the Missourian press crew for printing a beautiful section. Remember what our paper looked like two years ago? And now? What a difference! To the circulation department and our independent contractors, without you, it doesn't matter much what happens before. Getting the paper to the doorstep on time is the final, crucial step in the process. Thanks.

Jon K. Rust is the publisher of the Southeast Missourian.

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