Blog: 1858 Capitol View of Cape Girardeau (7/6/21)

Nathan Law

Capital View of Cape Girardeau. Color lithograph by Charles Robyn and Co., St. Louis, ca. 1858. (Wikipedia commons) The above image has been reproduced several times in the pages of the Southeast Missourian, but never in color. Dating to about 1858, “Capital View of Cape Girardeau” provides images of […]

Capital View of Cape Girardeau. Color lithograph by Charles Robyn and Co., St. Louis, ca. 1858. (Wikipedia commons)

The above image has been reproduced several times in the pages of the Southeast Missourian, but never in color. Dating to about 1858, “Capital View of Cape Girardeau” provides images of the Cape Girardeau riverfront and the “north west view” of the city, as well as some of the most prominent structures then in existence. Few still remain.

On June 10, 1921, the Southeast Missourian printed an article that describes an “antique, framed drawing” owned by Cape Girardeau jeweler Otto Frederick. From the descriptions included in the story, it’s obvious that “Capital View of Cape Girardeau” is the same artwork Frederick possessed.

Here’s that story:


An interesting antique, a framed drawing of the Cape Girardeau river front as it existed in 1858, together with homes of prominent men of that time and main business houses, is in the possession of Otto Frederick, jeweler on lower Independence and an old Cape Girardeau citizen.

The picture has been well preserved and although age-marked, one can see distinctly how the river front of that time period and how the river appeared as a view from the northwest corner in a position where Teachers College now stands. It contains individual pictures of houses, some of which are still in Cape Girardeau.

A house, prominent in the picture and which stands today, is the home of George H. Cramer, corner of Pacific Street and Broadway, sitting back in a large lawn. The house is of frame and has preserved its appearance well. Mr. Cramer was former mayor of Cape Girardeau and the father of Wilson Cramer, Jackson lawyer.

Other residences still surviving are the Brunn house, near the corner of Broadway and Henderson, the S.H. Kimmel home on South Spanish, located on a large lawn near St. Vincent’s Academy,

the J.R. Wathens residence on North Main,

and the J.B. Phillipson house, opposite Bartels store on Broadway.

Business locations still in Cape Girardeau are the James Reynolds mill on Water Street a short distance north of the old Frisco depot,

C. Stamm’s brewery on North Sprigg, now at the edge of town,

St. Charles Hotel, corner of Main and Themis,

Filbrun and Sloan commission house on the corner of Themis and Water streets,

C.F. Heinrich’s grocery store opposite St. Mary’s Catholic Church, corner of Sprigg and William streets, which is now used as a residence.

Did big business

According to Mr. Frederick, the James Reynolds mill on Water Street was built in 1858 and did a great river business before the railroads pushed through. Its products shipped in great boatloads up and down the Mississippi to the time when W.F. Pott took charge.

Mr. Pott ran it many years and finally went out of business. It is now used as a location for the Nu-Way flour mill and a part of its upper floor space has been a storeroom for Meyer-Albert Grocer Company.

A brewery, owned by Frederick Hanny, location of which was on the spot where the Blue Ribbon Ice Company now has its office, is shown in the picture. It was torn down in later years. (A 1956 article locates the Hanny Brewery “above Happy Hollow off of Frederick Street.” – Sharon) The old brewery building now located on North Sprigg was then famous as the place where Weis beer was manufactured, a drink which Mr. Frederick remembers always tickled one’s nose when he drank it.

Slave labor built the Johnson House, which was in later years remodeled and named the Riverview Hotel. This building burned six years ago. (Actually, it burned in 1916, five years before this article was published. – Sharon) Possibly the oldest house shown is the Wathens home, a building that is still staunch in its old colonial attractiveness on North Main. It was made in 1838 from sandstone dug from the hills near its location.

On the site of the Trust Building stood at that time a beautiful home owned by J.N. Whitelaw. The house was removed to make room for the big structure. (The 1956 article locates the Whitelaw house on the site of the H.-H. Building, now the Courtyard by Mariott Hotel. – Sharon)

The leading churches

Two important churches were then the Methodist Church, located where the Presbyterian Church now stands on Broadway, and the Baptist Church, then where the church of the same name stands now on Broadway. (Mr. Frederick may have been confused about these churches. An earlier Presbyterian church stood where the 1921 church of that denomination was located on Broadway. That earlier Presbyterian church is the one pictured in “Capital View.” As for the Baptist church, the one pictured here was on the west side of Lorimier Street, between Themis and Independence. – Sharon)

Schools were held in them before the Civil War, and Mr. Frederick says he attended in both of them when he was a boy.

St. Charles Hotel remains the same today, save for a roof cupola, which has since been removed and which was used for a band stand. (Most local histories state the cupola was removed to the Common Pleas Courthouse. However, Bill Eddleman in a 2019 history column made a strong case for this legend to be just that: A legend with no factual basis. This article’s suggestion that the hotel cupola was removed and was transformed into a band stand is the first time I’ve read that theory. – Sharon.)

The Filbrun and Sloan store, still holding its queer form of arched doorways on Water Street, is now used as a secondhand store.

Hunt & Albert store is occupied by the Albert boat store.

Where Hirsch’s store is located in Haarig, the H.T. Allers store and residence, a large three-story building was situated in 1858. (A 1956 article locates the Allers home at the corner of Good Hope and Frederick streets. – Sharon) A Presbyterian seminary for boys and girls has given way to the Opera House, corner of Broadway and Lorimier street.

A tiny house next to (St. Vincent’s) Catholic Church on Spanish Street, the huge steeple of which has been removed since making the picture, marked the residence of Don Louis Lorimier, who first founded Cape Girardeau, and in whose honor Lorimier Street was named. The house has been torn down and in its place stands a sycamore tree. Lorimier lived in the house and was surrounded by friendly Indians, who had camps on several hills in the city limits and helped him to defend himself against enemy tribes.

The first court ever held in Cape Girardeau was conduced in the oldest house in the city, a dilapidated building, on the corner of Themis and Middle streets, which was removed about three years ago on account of its age to furnish space for the Charles Rueseler home. Mr. Frederick believes that the first city government of Cape Girardeau held its meetings in this house.

From 1856 to 1858, Mr. Frederick says, the annual county fairs were held south of Haarig, near Sprigg and Frederick streets, and that he remembers when the race tracks stretched from Good Hope to College Avenue. During the Civil War no fairs were held, he says, and in 1870 the old fairgrounds were used and in 1900 the new fairgrounds (now Capaha Park – Sharon) came into service the first time.

Here are the other drawings from “Capital View” not shown above. The Missourian’s Sesquicentennial Edition, published Aug. 18, 1956, provided more information on some of the buildings shown.

Common Pleas Courthouse

St. Vincent’s Young Ladies Academy on South Spanish Street, between William and Good Hope streets.

The Charles Davis home was on Bloomfield Road, “and later the home of Frank Burrough.” (1956 article)

The Judge Michael Dittlinger home and farm was located roughly where Kent Library is now on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University.

1956 article: “John A. Frank restaurant east side of Main, near Independence Street.”

1956 article: “…the first Lutheran Church, then located at 512 William St.”

1956 article: Corner of Broadway and Spanish Street.

1956 article: “Razed this summer…” Located approximately where the Cape Girardeau Central Junior High School campus is.

1956 article: “… on Pacific Street, between Themis and Independence streets.”

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