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Handball court demolition discussed at commission meeting

Friday, January 18, 2013

(Photo)
The handball court at the Southeast Missouri State University River Campus Thursday, Jan. 17. The court, which University officials say is not structurally sound, was built around 1843 and is the oldest handball court west of the Mississippi River.
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The old handball court at the Southeast Missouri State University River Campus will in time be dismantled, but the bricks used in its construction will live on, members of the Cape Girardeau Historic Preservation Commission were told at their meeting Wednesday night by Kathy Mangels, vice president for finance and administration at Southeast.

"We felt it was right to go before the commission and let them know what the university's plans were for the handball court," Mangels said in an interview Thursday. "We've always worked with the community when it comes to our projects."

The buttressed, brick handball court, which could have been built in either 1843 or 1853 on the grounds of what was then St. Vincent's College, is showing significant signs of deterioration. Portions of brick are missing in several areas, and in one extreme case there is a hole entirely through the wall. The mortar depth in some places has been reduced three inches.

Mangels said it was pointed out to the commission that improvements to the handball court would not have been cost-effective.

"We were looking at trying to fix something that's unfixable and also would have to add seismic protections in the process," she said. "Even with those protections, the damage to the handball court in an earthquake could be substantial."

Another problem with the handball court is that it sits where the new building that will house academic and residence hall space is going to be located. The building's main entry will be on the south wing of the first floor where the handball court now sits, further necessitating its removal. But Mangels said she told the commission that the Southeast board of regents had in December approved a plan to incorporate salvageable bricks from the court into the design of the new building.

"The regents considered the commitment that went into preserving the old seminary building, so they were certainly aware of the significance of the handball court," Mangels said. "We're looking to use the bricks in the building of the entry in a design that will architecturally mimic the handball court. Also, bricks with historic markings will be incorporated into the building's inside corridor features. We don't want to see everything go away."

The meeting was purely for informational purposes, and there was no action taken by the commission afterward. Richard Withers, commission member, said he believes the last thing the university would do is disrespect one single brick of the handball court.

"I'm very pro-university," Withers said. "I don't look at it as the university tearing down the handball court. I see them as taking it down and using portions of it in the new building. That way the bricks live forever. I don't see anything wrong with that."

klewis@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

Southeast Missouri State University River Campus, Cape Girardeau, MO


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"Mangels said it was pointed out to the commission that improvements to the handball court would not have been cost-effective."

How does the university put a price on history to decide that it is not cost effective?

and then we reach the crux of the university's real problem, it is in their way. "Another problem with the handball court is that it sits where the new building that will house academic and residence hall space is going to be located"

so they try to apease the public by using the bricks in the new building. PLEEEASSEE!!!!!!

-- Posted by mystery9 on Fri, Jan 18, 2013, at 8:40 AM

I think someone needs to get it on the National Historic Register before SEMO University can do anything with it!

-- Posted by Jax12 on Fri, Jan 18, 2013, at 10:11 AM

Mystery9 you got it right -- unfortunately as we all know, often it's not what you say but how you say it. Kathy Mangels is excellent in the area of PR for the university among her other talents. Where are the historic preservationists at the university? Did they get rid of that major? I'm afraid there won't be enough public interest and then all of a sudden, it will be gone. Sad to say the least. Shocking probably fits better.

-- Posted by amazedinMO on Fri, Jan 18, 2013, at 11:11 AM

Give me a break....you all talk about wasting money on city and school projects...then you want someone else to use their money instead....on something they were to preserve in a respectful way...it could have just went to the landfill and it would have been cheaper ! So thank them for saving some of its history within the future !

-- Posted by CB1 on Fri, Jan 18, 2013, at 11:30 AM

"could have just went to the landfill" ouch! how about "could have just gone to the landfill"? Sorry but "have went" is one of my pet peeves in English usage around here--it's very common. No offense and yes I know that my language skills aren't perfect either.

-- Posted by amazedinMO on Fri, Jan 18, 2013, at 12:07 PM

I'm sure the university will sell it to someone if they want it. Then they can rebuild it and charge admission to play on the oldest handball court in the west. I do not want my tax dollars to go towards the repair of something like this. We are nearly broke and need to be more conservative with our money. Thank goodness the university turned some useless buildings into parking lots or there would not be any parking on Broadway.

-- Posted by dhinkle57 on Fri, Jan 18, 2013, at 3:31 PM

The court needs to sandblasted, tuckpointed and sealed. No big deal just do it and quite making up bogus excuses. This is a piece of history as well as the beautiful view of the Seminary could be lost. No different than SEMO maintaining the water fountains around the campus.

-- Posted by stinker on Sat, Jan 19, 2013, at 9:32 AM

"I'm very pro-university," Withers said. -Hello!!!! Of course this quote made the paper...

"I don't look at it as the university tearing down the handball court. I see them as taking it down and using portions of it in the new building. That way the bricks live forever. I don't see anything wrong with that." -REALLY?!!! He's on the historic commission and is in favor of scavenging a historic structure to use the bricks to build Disneyland...!!

Don't get me started on the price estimate from the St. Louis design firm, the Lawrence Group...they have no forensic engineering background and have no knowledge of historic preservation . Hey semo preservation students and grads, write a grant already !!!!! Get this thing moving and SAVE IT !!!!

-- Posted by jacksonjazzman on Sat, Jan 26, 2013, at 12:30 AM


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