Cape commission releases endangered buildings list

Thursday, April 19, 2012
The B'Nai Israel Synagogue, 126 S. Main St., is one of the buildings on the Cape Girardeau Historic Preservation Committee's 10 most endangered list.

As one Cape Girardeau Historic Preservation commissioner puts it, buildings can't speak for themselves. So the city advisory board hopes a recently released list of endangered buildings will do the talking for them.

At a study session Wednesday night, the commission gave a final fine-tuning to the list of 10, which includes four former schools, two Broadway theaters and a synagogue. Most are on the National Register of Historic Places.

"This list is a way to bring a voice to some of these structures in Cape Girardeau that are in dire need of help," said Alyssa Lage, a member of the commission and an account executive at the Southeast Missourian. "It's not a list to point a finger at any one person. It's just a list to let the community know, to let the property owners know, that we do care about these buildings."

The list, which is not ranked, includes the B'nai Israel Synagogue, the Broadway and Esquire theaters, the Fort D blockhouse, the Lorimier Apartments and the old Sturdivant Bank building. It also includes four former schools -- Franklin, Hanover Lutheran, old Jefferson and Kage, the latter of which dates to the 1880s.

The criteria for endangerment, Lage said, range from simply being abandoned or neglected to imminent threat of demolishment.

Several of the buildings' property owners said they did not have a problem with being on the list. In fact, some of them relished the possibility of getting their properties recognized in ways that could help revitalize stalled renovation projects.

Bonnie Kelpe doesn't own Hanover Lutheran School on Perryville Road, but she's on the church committee that manages the building, one of the last standing one-room schoolhouses in Missouri. Hanover Lutheran Church is considering razing the school, built in 1924, as it has fallen into a disrepair. Kelpe, who hopes to save it, says being included on the list can do nothing but help her cause.

"It's a good thing," Kelpe said. "It makes people aware there's a problem, that something needs to be done."

Kelpe has until June 1 to get contractor bids and cost estimates to replace a roof that has asbestos shingles and make other minor repairs. Then, the congregation will vote. Kelpe thinks church members are leaning toward saving the school.

Sam Blackwell and his wife own the Lorimier Apartments on South Lorimier Street. He was unaware that his building made the list, but he said he didn't mind, acknowledging the two-story brick apartment building with boarded-up windows has sat vacant for several years. Blackwell, a former managing editor at the Southeast Missourian, said they have spent thousands of dollars to bring the building up to city code but that the renovations stalled when the economy tanked.

But Blackwell still plans at some point to do something with the building that is part of a historic district. Possibilities include selling the building, converting it into condominiums or renting it as apartments again.

"That's still the plan," he said.

The Esquire Theater's endangerment has been well documented, including a recent plan by developer John Buckner to renovate it into an independent film house that could be teetering. When reached Wednesday, Buckner said he had no opinion about the building, which is owned by Phil Brinson, making the list. But he said he was to meet with Brinson on Wednesday night to try to "iron out" the purchase of the building.

At its work session, commission members said they hope the list encourages owners to do something with their properties. Members acknowledged that not every building can be saved and they knew that Franklin School, which is to be razed for a new public school, is probably one of them.

But they hope such a list can at least save some of the buildings from meeting the fate that robbed the community of structures with architectural merit or were associated with distinguished and prominent citizens. Several of the commissioners listed the old St. Charles Hotel as a prime example. Built in 1844, the four-story hotel that hosted Union general U.S. Grant was razed in 1967.

"We hope it brings awareness to these buildings," commission chairman Scott House said. "We want to save all that we can."

Lage said the list might spark ideas and lead to future development of the buildings that will make them a useful part of the community in the future, while maintaining a link to the city's rich past.

"We can't go stand in front of a building, link our arms together, and stand in front of a wrecking ball," said Lage, who has a master's in historic preservation. "But this list is one way we can help provide these buildings with some publicity and it might attract the right kind of attention."


Pertinent address:

126 S. Main St., Cape Girardeau MO

805 Broadway, Cape Girardeau MO

824 Broadway, Cape Girardeau MO

920 Fort St., Cape Girardeau MO

2949 Perryville Road, Cape Girardeau MO

731 Jefferson Ave., Cape Girardeau MO

3110 Kage Road, Cape Girardeau MO

142-148 S. Lorimier St., Cape Girardeau MO

101 N. Main St., Cape Girardeau MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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