Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District
The Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District is on the east side of Cape Girardeau, southwest of the city's original location near the Mississippi riverfront. The Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District is located between Themis Street on the north and Morgan Oak Street on the south, roughly bounded by Main Street and Middle Street on the east and west. The area consists primarily of residential buildings, with a few commercial and institutional buildings scattered throughout the district. Within its approximately 13 block area there are a total of 199 resources, including 100 contributing and 28 noncontributing primary resources, 21 contributing and 26 noncontributing ancillary buildings, 2 contributing and 6 noncontributing vacant lots. In addition, there are 10 properties that were previously listed to the National Register of Historic Places, which contain 10 contributing primary resources, 2 contributing outbuildings, and 4 noncontributing outbuildings. The Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District is comprised of buildings constructed between 1821 and 2005 for middle and upper income residents. The buildings are one to two-and-a-half stories tall with stone or concrete foundations and primarily asphalt or asbestos shingle roofs. The contributing resources are primarily in the late-19th century revival styles or early-20th century American movements, with the majority of the homes built in the Colonial Revival, Craftsman, and Queen Anne styles. Many of the homes are vernacular forms, such as central passage, gable and wing, I-house and front gabled. Thirteen primary resources have been constructed in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District since the period of significance, but they do not significantly detract from the streetscapes, nor do they dramatically impact the setting, feeling, or overall design of the district. With a few exceptions, the buildings are in good to excellent condition and continue to reflect neighborhood design from its 1850-1948 period of significance.
The Courthouse-Seminary Historic District is located approximately three blocks west of the Mississippi River. The area slopes toward the river, inclined more dramatically at the north end of the district. The streets "terrace" the neighborhood, creating street level entrances on the eastern side of the road and elevated homes on the western side of the street. At the turn of the 20th century, the Cape Girardeau and Chester Railroad followed South Fountain Street north, curving at William Street toward South Middle Street. The tracks have been taken up, but the bed is still evident, though the corner of South Fountain Street and William Street has been redeveloped into Indian Park. A commercial district along Broadway, Spanish, and Main Streets surrounds the north and east sides of the neighborhood. The old Cape Girardeau Court of Common Pleas anchors the northeast corner of the district, but is excluded from the boundaries. St. Vincent's Seminary (now used by Southeast Missouri State University as the "River Campus") and an old Mississippi River bridge access create a southern boundary, but are not included in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District.
The Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District is comprised of one and two-and-a-half story brick single-family homes, with multi-family homes and a few commercial buildings dispersed throughout. The Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District also features several historic religious facilities, as well as a historic elementary school (now used as City Hall). The streets are laid out in a grid pattern, with alleys dividing each block. Many of the properties include rear garages or other outbuildings that access the alley, though a few have access from the street. The primary resources share similar setbacks to their neighbors, but each side of each block has a slightly different setback and the lot sizes are inconsistent. The houses sit fairly close to each other, and many of the homes have large trees in the front yard. The Knights of Columbus Hall, Old St. Vincent Church, and New Lorimier Elementary School feature open green space on their lots, as well as parking lots.
Most of the buildings in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District were constructed between 1890 and 1920, with a quarter of the primary resources constructed between 1900 and 1908. The oldest building in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District was constructed c.1848 at 9 North Fountain Street, and the most recent contributing primary resource was constructed in 1948 at 224A South Spanish Street. There are 100 contributing primary resources, and 21 contributing ancillary buildings which are not already listed to the National Register of Historic Places. Twelve primary resources and 21 of the ancillary buildings were constructed after the period of significance and are considered noncontributing. For the most part, the newly constructed buildings have a larger setback, and do not dramatically detract from the overall look of each street or district as a whole. Sixteen primary resources and 5 ancillary buildings constructed during the period of significance are considered noncontributing due to new facade material, the replacement of important historic features such as windows, or the construction of additions that overwhelm the building's original form or design. There are 8 vacant lots dispersed throughout the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District, two of which are considered contributing and 6 of which are considered noncontributing due to the demolition of historic buildings previously constructed on the sites.
A few of the buildings in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District embody high style designs, but for the most part the buildings exhibit vernacular national forms and building types. Many buildings reflect a mixture or elements of Revival style designs, as well as early American Movement styles. There are also several Modern Movement buildings within the district, though most of these were constructed after the period of significance. The most common styles found within the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District include Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, and Craftsman, though other styles are clearly identified, including Spanish Revival, Italianate, Late Gothic, Tudor Revival, Prairie, Shingle, Art Deco, and Folk Victorian. Some of the buildings do not possess enough architectural details from any one design to be designated a particular style. These buildings have been categorized by their forms, particularly I-house, gable and wing, front gable, pyramidal and central passage, and German Brick Cottage. A few of the buildings could not be classified with any particular form or style and are simply identified by their function, including three commercial buildings.
The buildings in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District were not constructed in any particular pattern, nor did expansion happen on one street prior to another. For this reason, an 1880 house may be located next to a 1920 house or a 1900 house. However, new infill has been primarily concentrated south of William Street. The buildings in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District represent a unique grouping of turn-of-the-century upper- and middle-class buildings that have been fairly well preserved and relatively unchanged since construction. Other similar structures can be found throughout the eastern part of the city, expanding as far west as Kingshighway. However, few buildings constructed prior to 1890 can be found in concentrated groupings outside the district.
The Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District is locally significant for the National Register in the area of Architecture. Located in the southern part of Cape Girardeau's original plat, the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District is a good example of an intact, middle and upper class neighborhood constructed between c.1848 and 1948, the period of significance. Redeveloping an area of the city destroyed by an 1850 tornado, the buildings in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District were primarily constructed between 1890 and 1920, the period when Cape Girardeau's economy expanded due to rail service. Built in conjunction with a surge in population, the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District buildings represent architectural forms and designs popular at the turn-of-the-century. The Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District primarily contains one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half story brick homes constructed in national house forms and period styles. Utilizing local materials and including vernacular property types, the buildings represent Late Victorian, Revival style and early-20th century American movements. Unlike the smaller buildings constructed in the working class neighborhoods to the south and west, the buildings in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District represent high style designs, though some of the buildings have more muted decorations. Overall the district is well preserved and in excellent condition, reflecting the architectural style and form associated with Cape Girardeau's development between c.1848 and 1948, the period from construction of the oldest contributing building to the construction of the last contributing building and the most significant period of development and construction in the district.
Cape Girardeau was founded as a trading post by French entrepreneur Jean Baptiste Girardot around 1733. As the "Louisiana Territory" was passed from France to Spain in 1762, the Spanish divided the massive region into districts and encouraged settlement by French, Spanish, Italian, German and American immigrants. Using property rights to secure allegiance for the crown, Spain granted acreage with no taxes to all who took an oath of loyalty to the Spanish king.
Louis Lorimier took advantage of the offer, and was granted approximately six thousand acres just south of Girardot's trading post in 1796. The Spanish appointed Lorimier commandant of the Cape Girardeau district, and as such he controlled the trade with cargo boats delivering dry goods and furs to the area. The success of Lorimier's post drew settlers and businesses to the surrounding area, and by 1803 nearly 1,000 people resided near "Cape Girardeau." The small village was laid out in a grid by 1806, bounded by North, William, Middle, and Water Streets, centered around a two block public square with most of the businesses located along the river. Though it was an established trading post, the residential neighborhoods lacked a sense of permanence in their poorly maintained log cabins and impassable eroded streets.
The coming of the steamboats in the 1830s caused a population and building surge in the town. More substantial brick warehouses, churches, public buildings, and educational structures as well as frame homes and buildings were established during this decade. This includes St. Vincent's Catholic Church, which was constructed at the corner of Spanish and William Streets in 1838, as well as St. Vincent's College (later know as St. Vincent's Seminary) which was constructed that same year just south of the town (now at Spanish and Morgan Oak Streets). A Baptist Church was also established on Lorimier Street between Themis and Independence Streets (nonextant).
The town's growth between 1830 and 1850 was substantial, but in vain. On November 27, 1850 a tornado swept up from the southwest, hitting the southern portion of the village. Nearly a hundred homes were lost to the twister, as well as St. Vincent's Catholic Church. Damage to warehouses and steamboats on the riverfront forever changed the town's focus and design, as Cape Girardeau began to rebuild. St. Vincent's Church was reconstructed and the new Common Pleas Courthouse was established on the public square. But the Civil War also struck this small Missouri town, keeping population and building relatively stagnant. 
Little construction occurred in the town until the 1880s. Cape Girardeau constructed its first city school, Lorimier School, with much debate, scuffle, and objection in 1872 at the corner of Independence and Fountain Streets (nonextant). Though most of Cape Girardeau's residents preferred the private education offered at St. Vincent's Parochial School (located on the St. Vincent Church Grounds — now a parking lot) and Trinity Lutheran School, a county public school was offered and pressure to open a city school began as early as 1867.
Louis Houck's promise of a completed connection to the Iron Mountain railroad by 1881 appears to have prompted rebuilding in the city's downtown. Though the population only increased from 3,889 people to 4,297 people between 1880 and 1890, nearly thirty new homes were constructed in the district during this period. The population nearly doubled a decade later, from 4,851 people in 1900 to 8,475 people in 1910. The district also saw a corresponding boom in construction at this time as nearly 45 new houses were built.
The boundary for the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District encompasses nearly all of the residential neighborhoods within the southern half of the city's original limits, with the inclusion of four addition blocks south of William Street. With the public school included in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District, the city's fire station located a block west of the district at the corner of Frederick and Independence Streets, and the Court of Common Pleas located just outside the districts northern boundary, it is not surprising that many of the city's employees lived in the district. The constable lived on North Lorimier Street, along with the city's mailman and post office clerk. A plumber and an engineer that worked for the city both resided on South Lorimier Street, and South Spanish was home to the Sheriff's deputy, a fireman, and some other general city workers.
The residents of the district were middle and upper class families. Lawyers, physicians, and architects with their own practices in the adjoining commercial district could be found on Lorimier, Themis and Good Hope Streets. Many independent business owners also resided in the district, including barbers, a dress maker, a grocer, hardware store merchants, music teachers, life insurance agents, and saloon keepers. The close proximity of the commercial district on Broadway, Main, and Spanish Streets allowed the business owners and workers to travel easily to work by foot, and later by streetcar.
Very few of the homeowners worked as laborers in factories or doing odd jobs, but many acted as supervisors or dealers for the M.E. Lemming Saw Mill and Lumber Yard south of the city, the Roberts, Johnson and Rand Shoe Company on North Main Street, and the flour mills within the city. That is not so say that factory workers were not residents of the district, as some were found in apartment buildings or boarding houses. Other occupations held by residents included elevator operators, bookkeepers, retail managers, and secretaries. A few of the homeowners were independently wealthy, and even at a fairly young age did not hold down a specific occupation.
For the most part, the married women did not work, relying on their husbands and older sons for income. Some of the younger, unmarried women that lived in the district worked as stenographers for local businesses or teachers at the nearby schools, but for the most part they lived at home with their parents and did not work. A few of the young women in the district attended the Southeast Missouri State Normal School just west of the city limits. Though St. Vincent's College (just south of the district) was a boarding school for seminarians, some young men remained in their parents' homes while attending the college.
Transportation was a vital part of the city's economy from its early trading post days, not only for the goods that were brought to and from the city, but also because of the jobs it created. The railroad became the primary means for transporting goods to and from the city when Louis Houck extended the line in 1881, but the arrival of passenger trains did not occur until 1904 when the San Francisco Railroad routed its tracks along Water Street. In the meantime, ferries took people north and south and across the river. Workers for the ferries lived on South Spanish Street, with a short walk to the riverfront. The location of Houck's railroad depot near the corner of Middle and Independence Streets caused many of the engineers and supervisors for the railroad to live on Lorimier, Themis, and Fountain Streets. Also taking advantage of Cape Girardeau's new connection to the world, a few traveling salesmen made their homes in the district.
Travel around town was primarily by wagon or on foot at the end of the 19th century, but electrification of the city's streetcar in 1905 allowed citizens to make "the loop" around the downtown. Automobiles did not become a major means of transportation for Cape Girardeau until the end of the 1910s. The switch to local automobile travel is evident in the construction of garages along the allies, which begin to appear after 1915.
The residents of the district were in close proximity to the city's commercial area, located on North Main, Spanish, and Broadway. However, a few small businesses were established within the neighborhood. As the automobile was embraced by residents, dealerships, repair shops, and service stations were established within and near the district. Selling and utilizing the materials and supplies brought by the railroad, and later the interstate bridge (constructed 1928), the local business owners primarily served the district community.
The district's neighborhood identity fostered a spirit of community during the 1920s and 1930s. The majority of the district was constructed by 1921, and by the end of the decade all of the streets were widened and paved. Each street established its own baseball team and after a 1926 fire destroyed the 1842 St. Vincent's Academy (where the Knights of Columbus Hall now sits), the neighborhood played on the empty lot. This was also the site of the Municipal Band concerts in the 1930s. The city's rapid expansion at the turn-of-the-century resulted in the establishment of six grammar school districts, each requiring construction of a new building. In 1935 the city's oldest school district finally received a new building, replacing the 1872 Old Lorimier School with a new building that could hold many more pupils. This new school received an additional wing two years later, offering eight additional classrooms. Keeping their focus on children during this decade, the city also closed Independence Street between Fountain and Spanish, and Lorimier between Themis and Merriwether when it snowed so that children could go sledding.
The 1940s was a slow growth decade for Cape Girardeau, and most of the limited growth occurred at the city's western edge. During this period three commercial buildings filled empty lots, and an apartment building replaced a burned home in the district. In 1949, a tornado again struck Cape Girardeau, destroying 202 houses and damaging 231 more. While the buildings in the district required some repair, the area between the courthouse and seminary was spared from most of the destruction, and the turn-of-the-century buildings were retained. Focus in the city shifted to the western edge after 1950, with new shopping centers opening on Kingshighway in the 1960s and the arrival of the new Interstate 55 in 1972. Construction of a few apartment buildings in the 1960s, and a hotel near the interstate bridge in the 1970s created a few holes in the streetscape, but for the most part the buildings remained unchanged and many fell into disrepair. Renewed interest in the riverfront, the reconstruction of a new interstate bridge, the reuse of St. Vincent's Seminary by Southeast Missouri State University, and organized redevelopment efforts in the historic downtown on North Main, North Spanish, and Broadway occurred at the beginning of the 21st century, and has encouraged the preservation and restoration of many of the buildings within the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District.
Residents and their Homes
The close proximity of the commercial district on Main, Spanish, and Broadway caused many of the local businessmen to build their homes between Broadway and Morgan Oak, expanding only a few blocks west of the river. The more prominent citizens constructed the more high style and elaborate homes, while the middle class residents typically built in simple forms and applied some ornamentation to their homes that imitated the popular styles.
There are several large houses within the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District that stand out as high style or noteworthy because of their size. The owners were typically of Cape Girardeau's upper society, and exhibited their wealth by hiring architects to design elaborate homes. One example is the Glenn House (325 South Spanish, National Register listed 10/11/79), an elaborate two-and-a-half-story Queen Anne that was home to David Andrew Glenn, a prominent banker and founder of the Glenn Mercantile Company on Main Street. The protruding rounded porch and central pyramidal roof on a projecting bay are uniquely extravagant within the districts architectural parameters, display the family's prominence and wealth. Likewise, the George Boardman Clark House (Kellerman House) at 6 South Fountain Street (NR listed 7/22/94) is a grand Queen Anne constructed for a prominent citizen. After serving as the State Auditor, Clark established the Malden and New Madrid Narrow Gauge Railroad, laying out the town of Malden and running the Courier newspaper in Cape Girardeau. Demonstrating his prominence when he became the first Vice President of the Cape Girardeau Building and Loan Association on Main Street, he had the large home constructed in 1882 in the gable and wing form. The structure has intricate ornamentation in the gables and a massive two-story porch that is not reflected on any of the other homes within the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District.
Despite the prominence displayed by some of the districts well-known inhabitants, the middle-class residents found themselves in the simpler homes that were of good quality and constructed for practicality. An example of this is the Colonial Revival style American Foursquare house constructed at 300 Good Hope Street in 1906 for Robert Wichterich (NR listed 8/12/99). The pharmacist and physician had the home built the year before he opened his own drug store, which was probably located in the nearby German Haarig Commercial District at Sprigg and Good Hope. The house lacks the outstanding embellishments found on the Glenn and Clark houses, and instead features carved classical columns, dentiled cornice lines, and turn spindles on its first level porch. The more simple design reflects Wichterich's middle-class status.
Architectural Forms and Styles
When the railroad entered the city it not only created a way for local businesses and farmers to send products across the country, it also brought new ideas, products, and people to the city. The nationalization of products also brought the standardization of materials, forms and designs for items. This nationalization was also seen in architecture, as house types and styles percolated across the country, resulting in national forms and designs utilizing local materials and mixing in vernacular and high style elements. The district buildings reflect the national house forms and designs popular at the time of their construction, with a wide variety of styles demonstrating the changing architectural motifs during the last few decades of the 19th century and the first half of the twentieth century.
As railroads expanded across the country, new materials could be incorporated into structures as they never had before. No longer relying on the resources in the immediate vicinity, houses began to take on more intricate plans, though still designed with some pre-railroad traditions. While many of these "National Folk" forms were adorned with applied materials and decorations that categorize them into specific styles, some buildings within the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District lack a distinctive identification, and are therefore categorized by form.
Gable Front — The Gable Front homes in the district are primarily one-and-a-half stories tall with horizontal siding and simple cornices, and a front gabled roof. While adopted by the Greek Revival movement in the northeast, the Gable Front houses within the district have a simpler design that was prolific in the south between 1880 and 1930. Many of the buildings with this form were probably more high-style buildings, but have lost their applied architectural decoration and are left with the gable front as their primary defining feature. An example of the Gable Front form is represented by the building at 12 North Middle Street. The structure is simple, one-and-a-half stories tall, with a front gabled roof, wood siding, and ornamentation limited to wood window pediments.
Gable & Wing — The Gable and Wing design consists of a front gabled house with a side or hipped roof gabled wing. Typically a shed roof porch is found at the junction of the two building portions. Many of these homes were constructed in phases, originally designed as a single block with a wing added later. The Gable and Wing buildings in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District were constructed all at once, as a single house type rather than a progressive design. Often, additional decoration was applied to give these buildings a hint of popular style. A two-story example of this form is found at 101 South Lorimier. The building has a two-bay front-gabled portion, with a hipped roof wing that extends to the east. A one-story example of this form is found at 220 Merriwether. This building also features a two-bay front-gable but has a side gabled wing extended to the east. Both of these examples have applied ornamentation which further classifies them as a particular style as opposed to denotation by form.
Central Passage — A few of the older structures within the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District have a simple Central Passage form, though they have received rear additions. These houses consist primarily of a two-room wide, one-room deep floor plan with a side-gabled roof. Often a porch is added to the front of the building, though it can expand across the entire facade or rest just above the entrance. This house type remained common through the early-twentieth century, but most of the examples found in the district date from the last decades of the 1800s. An excellent example of the Central Passage form is found at 24 South Lorimier Street. The five-bay building has a central entrance with a side-gabled roof. A small, hipped roof porch is found at the entrance. Chimneys are found in both gables, and a shed dormer is centered on the roof.
I-House — The I-House is most simply described as two-rooms wide, one-room deep, and two stories tall with a side-gabled roof. The I-House often received decorative applications to porches, windows, and doors that create a specific stylistic identity. The nondescript I-Houses in the district were constructed prior to 1900, and have very simple if any detailing. An early example is at 151 S. Spanish constructed in 1838. This side gabled, brick building is two stories tall, and five bays wide, with a central entrance. Another brick example is found at 232 Good Hope Street, where an entrance porch has been removed, resulting in overall simplicity of design.
Pyramidal — The Pyramidal house became popular between 1905 and 1930, replacing the smaller Hall-and-Parlor or Central Passage and creating a new look for massed-plan homes that typically were two rooms wide by two rooms deep, one story tall. While many homes in the district have the pyramidal roof design, only one (located at 10 South Lorimier Street and constructed in 1890) lacks specific decoration for categorization under a style.
American Foursquare — The American Foursquare house is the two-story "subtype" of pyramidal home made popular in pattern books between 1905 and 1915. The building type consists of a square floor plan with a steeply pitched hipped roof or pyramidal roof, and occasionally featuring hipped dormers. The entrance is slightly off-center, and often covered by a full width porch. The Foursquare design was easily modified by decorative application to give the form high-style detailing.
Stack-House — The Stack house is the two-story derivative of the Hall-and-Parlor house, consisting of a single room on each level, with a side gabled roof. Central Missouri descriptions of Stack houses include tall profiles of at least two stories, some with a loft or attic above. Complications to the house form are typically minimal. Though pent roof entrance surrounds may be common, the form usually lacks front porches, one-story rear kitchen additions, and gable-positioned chimneys. The only example of a Stack House within the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District is found at 14 North Fountain Street. This building has a rare example of a front porch, as well as a one-story kitchen addition. A half-story "loft" is found above the second level.
Two-Part Commercial Block — The two-part commercial block building is described as a commercial structure with two divisions that are noticeably separate and typically used for different functions. The lower, street level space is typically openly commercial, while the second or upper level spaces are used for more private activities, such as office space. These buildings can be decorated with applied ornamentation to classify them in almost any style. There are two examples of the form in the district, located at 221 Merriwether Street and 224 South Lorimier Street. Neither has applied ornamentation that would constitute a specific style. Rather, they are both brick structures with flat roofs, first-level display windows, and second-level metal hopper windows.
Like the Stack house, there are a few forms in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District that are only represented by one or two examples. The 1850 building found at 227 South Lorimier, is the only example of a Double Pen design. The form consists of two rooms, side-by-side, connected by an interior doorway. The side gabled roof, end chimneys, and two facade entrances are typical elements of this form. Another of the rare forms found in the district is the German Cottage, which is found in brick at 323 Themis Street, and is executed in a frame design at 225 South Lorimier Street. Constructed by German immigrants, these buildings are local replications of forms used in Hannover and Bruenswick, Germany. At the turn-of-the-century, these buildings were found near the German Haarig Commercial Historic District, and scattered in the older parts of town. Simple and compact in appearance, the defining features include steeply pitched, side gabled roofs, arched windows, simple brick corbelled or paneled entablatures, and broken pediments on the gabled ends. Typically the buildings are one to one-and-a-half story full or quarter Georgian plans, with rear ells or additions. In some instances the entrances have sidelights. Another example is the Colonnaded Apartment building. The only example of this structure is found at 43 South Lorimier Street. The building was designed with large columns that rise from the first level to above the second floor, terminating at the roofline. These structures offered street facing porch space for tenants regardless of what level they lived on the building. Unfortunately, the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District example has been significantly altered and is considered noncontributing.
Primarily constructed in the two decades before and after the turn-of-the-century, the stylistic designs within the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District can be categorized into three groups: Late Victorian, Revival styles, and turn-of-the-century American movements. Most of the buildings are national folk forms as described above, with decoration applied to windows, doors, and rooflines to imitate high-style designs.
Late Victorian houses were constructed across the United States in the last decades of the 19th century and first decades of the 20th century, loosely based on Medieval designs and mixed with some colonial designs. The Victorian buildings were some of the first to utilize balloon framing, allowing for more creative footprints than the rectangle or square. In addition, industrialization impacted the architectural world with new technologies that could not only mass produce decorative facing materials and basic facade items at a low cost, but also send them cross country by way of the expanding railroad lines. Though the new styles were unique at their inception, they quickly became prolific and somewhat uniform as towns across the country could share the same decorative elements such as verge boards, stained glass windows, carved doors, turned spindles, and elaborate window and door surrounds.
Queen Anne — Queen Anne houses are known for their asymmetrical facades that feature dominant front-facing gables, steeply pitched roofs of irregular shape, patterned shingles, cutaway bay windows, and full-width or wrap around porches. While many of the buildings in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District feature intricate spindlework of the Eastlake subtype, most of the Queen Anne style buildings in the district are Free Classic, meaning they use classical columns instead of turned spindle porch supports, as well as utilizing cornice line dentils and Palladian windows, similar to asymmetrical Classical Revival style homes. One of the most intact examples of a Queen Anne house can be found at 401 Themis Street. This Free Classic, wood sided, two-and-a-half story example has a steeply pitched front gable roof with a cross gable extending east. Fish-scale shingling surrounds a Palladian window in the front gable. A porch with a corner conical roof wraps from the north facade to the east elevation, terminating at a two-story projected bay window, which also features fish-scale shingling.
Shingle — Shingle style homes are categorized by their wall-facing material, and can appear in many different forms and styles. Two of the Shingle style buildings in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District (101 South Lorimier Street and 313 Independence Street) represent the Gable and Wing form. The only other Shingle style building in the district is located at 227 South Spanish Street, found in the American Foursquare form. These buildings are categorized as Shingle style buildings because their upper levels are completely covered in wood shingles. In addition, the buildings are similar in their steeply sloped roofs, classical columns, and stone foundations.
Italianate — Only one building in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District is classified as "Italianate," though several buildings possess some of the style's decorative elements. The Italianate style is recognized for its low pitched roof, wide overhanging eaves, decorative brackets, and tall and narrow windows with elaborate crowns. The district's example includes all of these elements. The example found within the district is located at 301 South Lorimier Street. This structure has a low-pitched roof with wide overhanging eaves supported by hand painted and carved wood brackets. Tall, narrow windows with bracketed stone sills emphasize the buildings verticality, reinforced by the smooth brick walls.
Turning back to European design traditions, the turn-of-the-century was a time when homes featured materials and decorations that ornamented homes in the "old country." In Cape Girardeau, the revival styles dominated the architecture of the late-19th century. While distinctive styles are identified under the general category "Revival Styles," some of the buildings in the district have a mixture of decorative elements that could not be specifically identified, and were categorized as the general "Revival Style."
Colonial Revival --The most popular style found within the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District is the Colonial Revival style, represented by eighteen examples, though most are muted and simple. The style is mostly identified by pedimented or exaggerated entries or entry porches, fanlight transom windows, sidelights, symmetrical facades, double-hung and paired windows. While a mixture of these elements can be seen on the buildings in Cape Girardeau, the district's examples are usually simple square, two or two-and-a-half story buildings with hipped roofs, segmental arched brick lintels, full-length porches with classical or simple column supports, and hipped or gabled dormers. These examples are sometimes referred to as the "Classical Box." An example of this type is found at 340 South Spanish Street. The building has a steeply pitched pyramidal roof with a full width porch and second-level balustrade that feature classical columns and turned spindles. The windows are ornamented by stone sills and segmental arched brick lintels. A hipped-roof dormer is centered on the roof.
Late Gothic Revival — The only building in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District constructed in the Late Gothic Revival style is St. Vincent's Church. With its steeply pitched roof and cross gables, pointed-arch windows, conical finials and domed central tower, the building exquisitely demonstrates the style's defining features. However, the house at 220 Merriwether Street also possesses Gothic detailing, including a steeply pitched cross gable roof and Gothic arched window in the gable.
Tudor Revival — Tudor Revival buildings are recognized by their steeply pitched, side-gabled facades with dominant cross gables. Often half-timbering is present, with tall narrow windows found in groups with multi-pane glazing, and massive chimneys. There are three subtypes found in Cape Girardeau: Stucco Walled, Brick Walled, and Stone Walled. Within the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District, all the examples of Tudor Revival buildings have brick walls, and most have cross gabled projecting entrance bays. The 1935 Lorimier School building and 1936 Knights of Columbus Hall are larger, late examples of the style.
Turn of the Century American Movements
At the turn-of-the-century, styles that rejected the historically accurate designs of the revival styles. An early "modern movement" developed at this time, and was easily adopted in residential neighborhoods across the country. The two early modern styles found in the district are the Craftsman style and the Prairie style. Influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, the Craftsman style house was featured in many magazines during the first decades of the 20th century, including Western Architect, House Beautiful, and Good Housekeeping. Due to the national publicity, pattern books and pre-cut packages were created to enable local laborers easy construction of the Bungalow. Though the high-style interpretations are most recognized in California, simply designed one and one-and-a-half-story examples became the most popular and fashionable small house type in the country.
Craftsman — The Craftsman style is a rather prolific type in Cape Girardeau, found in abundance in the eastern portion of the city, and specifically along West End Boulevard. Within the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District there are 15 examples. The Craftsman home typically features brick or stucco siding, though some examples are also frame. Additional elements of the style include a low-pitched, gabled roof with a wide overhanging eave and exposed rafters, and often decorative beams added under the gables. They commonly utilized low piers without columns. Most of the side-gabled Craftsman houses have a centered shed or gabled dormer. The windows on Bungalows are most often single sash, with multi-light and sometimes stained or decorative glazing in the upper portion. However, most of the examples within the district are double-hung sash one-over-one windows. Windows and doors have simple, square surrounds, sometimes utilizing sidelights. An excellent example of Cape Girardeau's Craftsman homes is the building at 429 Themis Street. The structure is side gables with brick first level with a full-width porch featuring square columns and piers. A front-gabled dormer is centered on the roofline, featuring small brackets below a wide eave. The level windows are ten-over-one wide double hung sashes with segmental arched brick lintels and stone sills.
Prairie — Two-story homes with low-pitched, hipped roofs, wide overhanging eaves, and first-level porches with massive square porch supports typify the Prairie style. There are several examples of Prairie style homes in Cape Girardeau, and those found in the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District are two-story brick buildings, typically with entry porches rather than full-length porches. A melding of Colonial Revival and Prairie style designs is also reflected in some of the designs. The district's examples of this style are of the American Foursquare form, simple in ornamentation and design. The district's examples of the Prairie style are best represented by the building at 220 South Spanish Street. This simple building features a hipped roof with wide overhanging eaves, and a first level entrance porch with square brick supports.
Turning away from the historical interpretations of the past, and utilizing new building techniques and materials, Modern Movement buildings did not really explode across the country in residential architecture until after World War I. Even after the adoption of new materials into mainstream residential styles, the Great Depression hindered a full embrace of the Modern Movement across much of the country until after World War II. In Cape Girardeau, the early Modern Movement buildings from the 1920s to the 1940s are distractive in the city because they are so few. Art Modern and Art Deco structures are scattered, and more clearly represent infill rather than whole streets or neighborhoods. A second population surge in the 1950s and the coming of the Interstate in the 1970s resulted in construction booms of popular styles, identified as post modern but more accurately described as Neo-Colonial. Within the Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District, most of these buildings were constructed after the period of significance and are considered noncontributing resources. Some homeowners remodeled their turn-of-the-century homes at this time, and the application of new materials and changes to the facade design gave the buildings a "Modern" look. However, a few of the buildings were constructed in early Modern Movement designs, utilizing Moderne or Art Deco elements and lines. While most of the contributing district examples cannot be specifically categorized, the apartment building at 2 North Fountain Street executes the Art Deco style.
Art Deco — Art Deco buildings are recognized for their smooth wall surfaces, geometric motifs, towers an vertical projections, which often rise above the flat roofline, and ornamentation that includes zigzags or chevrons. The Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District's only example is a brick apartment building with Central projections that rise above the flat roofline and square stone used as ornamentation.
The Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District reflects not only the high style and muted designs popular during the period of construction; it also reflects the cultural traditions of the residents that lived in the homes and the builders and architects that designed and built them. With a strong German heritage, as well as some French influence, the buildings reflect elements of the city's history in their decoration. One example is the use of corbelled brick cornices, which are often found on buildings in Missouri's German towns, such as Hermann. This particular element is found on many of the older brick structures, particularly the German Cottage at 323 Themis Street, but also on I-houses like 127 South Lorimier and the Double Pen at 227 South Lormier. A second observation of local design is that nearly every residential building in the district has a full-width porch. While full-length porches were popular on turn-of-the-century styles, the lack of homes with entrance porches or no porches at all reflects the southern and French influence within the city during the period. Full-width porches were also a practical element, helping residents escape the muggy summer weather.
The Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District continues to reflect the turn-of-the-century community and construction boom associated with the coming of the railroad, and the houses demonstrate the forms, styles, and designs of middle and upper class homes reconstructed in the original residential neighborhoods. The Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District also reflects the transition to automotive transportation, as driveways, garages, and automotive services were constructed and streets were widened. The buildings are in good to excellent condition, and current preservation and restoration activities are reinvigorating the district.
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† Julie Ann LaMouria, Lafser & Associates, Courthouse-Seminary Neighborhood Historic District, Cape Girardeau County, MO, nomination document, 2009, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.