Red House volunteers eager to start building walls

Saturday, July 13, 2002

As soon as the Missouri Department of Transportation approves final architectural plans, volunteers will begin raising the walls of the Red House Interpretive Center on Aquamsi Street.

"We're anxious to put something up in the air," said construction supervisor Steve Strom.

The Cape Girardeau Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commission had hoped to begin raising the vertical logs a month ago, but completing paperwork and submitting the final design plans took longer than expected, members said. Some modifications to the original plan were ordered, and MoDOT received the final architectural design two weeks ago. A spokeswoman for MoDOT in Sikeston, Mo., did not know how long approval might take.

Trading post

The cabin on the Cape Girardeau riverfront will resemble the trading post of Cape Girardeau founder Don Louis Lorimier, who entertained Meriwether Lewis one night as Lewis and Clark made their way up the Mississippi River in 1803.

Strom doesn't know if the plan to complete construction this fall is still feasible. "We're finding we're moving more slowly than we thought," he said. "We might be working in the spring."

But construction easily will be finished in time for the planned November 2003 re-enactment, he said.

The commission received a $78,000 federal grant to construct the center. MoDOT administers the grant and must give its approval before reimbursements can begin. Approval to begin using the smaller grant that will pay for display cases and interior furnishings already has been received. At this point there's no place to put them.

Volunteers are about one-fifth of the way toward completing the job of carving tenons at the ends of the logs. They will fit into holes in the building's foundation to make the logs stand upright.

Various clubs and civic organizations have volunteered to help -- the Zonta Club is scheduled to work today -- but much of the preliminary construction has been done by half a dozen volunteers who regularly appear at the site two or three times a week. At its last meeting, the commission inducted them into L'Ordre du Chapeau Rouge, which translated from French is The Order of the Red Hat.

Soil examination

A planned archaeological dig on the grounds of Old St. Vincent Church also is anticipated. Carbondale, Ill., archaeologist Mike McNerney plans to use the city's widening project along the east end of William Street to examine the soil at the site and determine whether a full dig is warranted.

Nip Kelley Construction, the contractor on the widening project, was given the go-ahead to start a month ago, said Brenda Schloss, the city's liaison with the commission.

Jane Randol Jackson, the commission's chairwoman, said many people regularly drive by the construction site to check on its progress.

"I think people want to see some walls going up," she said. "It's just going slower than we anticipated."

335-6611, extension 182

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