Cape architect's homes toured

Monday, May 6, 2002

The legacy of John L.E. Boardman was honored Sunday with an architectural tour of homes hosted by the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri.

About 200 people went on the tour, which included six locations, both residential and commercial properties.

Judy Hutson, who hosted dozens of people at her town home on Aquamsi Bluff, said that it was a shame that Boardman never got to see the finished product that she, her husband and Boardman began. This project was his last. He died in 1999 before it was finished.

"Yet who knows?" Hutson said. "Perhaps he knows ... and perhaps he knows that all of these people are here today to see and honor his work."

Hutson and her husband, Charles, had for years wanted a home with a view of the Mississippi River. The Hutsons already owned the property at Aquamsi Bluff; the challenge was to create something unlike anything else in Cape Girardeau.

Through the Hutsons' ideas and Boardman's creative expertise, a condominium featuring four town homes was created along that land overlooking the Mississippi. It features modern, clean lines, and the earthy colors that mimic the browns and grays of the Mississippi bluffs themselves. Light and space abound.

Boardman's touch wasn't limited just to the architecture, though. Much of his artwork, including a rose marble statue of the face of a woman, and several oil and water color paintings, are prized possessions in the home.

Hutson said her enjoyment of this home is bound to only increase through the years, as the riverfront goes through a renaissance with the completion of the new bridge and of SEMO's River Campus. The view of the lighted bridge will become part of her own backyard view.

Few walls as possible

Part of Boardman's charm as an architect and a person was his ability as a problem solver. Dr. C.R. Talbert said there seemed to be no architectural problem that Boardman couldn't solve.

"We were almost afraid to ask John's help in designing our house, because it was so different from anything else he'd ever done," Talbert said. He and his wife, Betty, decided to build a home in the mid-1970s which would offer them everything they wanted.

"We really didn't have time to travel," Talbert said. "We decided our home had to be not only our home, but our vacation spot. So we came up with this idea to have a home built around an indoor pool. The idea was to have lots of space, and as few walls as possible."

Boardman designed a home based on the Parthenon in Greece, built with steel beams so that the house would be self-supporting. Greek-style columns line the perimeter of the house. Inside are unusual touches like a mirrored curved wall that is the backdrop for the winding staircase.

"He was just a great problem solver," Talbert said. "Whatever the problem, give him a couple of days, and he would come up with a solution."

Some projects have gone through numerous changes since his original design, such as the building now housing Celebrations By Request, 615 Bellevue. The original structure dates back to the 1850s, but Boardman bought it in the late 1960s, restoring and restructuring the building.

James and Pat Allen, owners of the restaurant, have worked to retain the Boardman trademarks, like the enclosed courtyard and large garden.

On the other hand, the walls of this restaurant have become backdrop to many works of art by local artists that the Allens have collected over the past 29 years.

"This finally gave us a place to display it for everyone's enjoyment," James Allen said. "And we've tried to bring that feeling of artistry to everything we do. Cooking, art, music ... all are forms of art. We want to continue to bring that love of all things beautiful to Cape Girardeau, just like John Boardman did."

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