The South Middle Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
The South Middle Street Historic District is located on the south side of the City of Cape Girardeau, in Cape Girardeau County. Bounded on the north by William Street and the south by Good Hope Street, the South Middle Street Historic District consists of 11 contributing houses, 1 noncontributing house, 4 contributing outbuildings, and 4 noncontributing outbuildings with addresses on South Middle Street and William Street. The area is comprised of homes constructed between 1890 and 1931 for working and middle-class residents. The buildings feature primarily stone foundations, brick or wood facing, and shingled roofs. They were designed in the Victorian, Craftsman/Bungalow, and Vernacular styles. Most of the buildings are one-and-a-half stories tall, with a few one- or two-story homes. The buildings share the same relative setback to the street, with stone or concrete walls running along the sidewalks. The South Middle Street Historic District has undergone very few changes since the c.1890 to 1931 period of significance, and most of the buildings retain their original stylistic details. With a few exceptions, the structures are in excellent condition and continue to reflect the feeling, association, location, materials, setting, workmanship, and design of a turn-of-the-century working and middle-class neighborhood.
The South Middle Street Historic District is located in the southern part of the city, just one-half block northeast of the Haarig Commercial Historic District (National Register listed 7/20/2000), a mid-nineteenth century shopping center located along Good Hope Street. Scattered commercial buildings stretch along Good Hope Street from Sprigg Street east to Fountain Street, creating a separation between the South Middle Street Historic District and the residential neighborhoods south of Good Hope Street. Remnants of the Cape Girardeau and Chester Railroad are found along South Fountain Street one block east of the South Middle Street Historic District. William Street, the northern boundary of the district, has become a major thoroughfare and most of the buildings fronting this avenue have undergone substantial changes in the last few decades. Most of the buildings fronting South Frederick Street immediately west of the South Middle Street Historic District have been demolished and replaced by soccer fields and asphalt parking lots for St. Mary Cathedral School. The nature of the surrounding blocks creates a residential enclave of historic homes along South Middle Street.
The South Middle Street Historic District was constructed for middle and working class residents utilizing some high-style detailing while maintaining simple designs in popular styles. The architectural motifs include Late Victorian, Vernacular, and Craftsman/ Bungalow. The Late Victorian houses include the high-style Queen Anne detailing, as well as examples of the simple Folk Victorian style. The Bungalows also exhibit some high-style Craftsman elements, though most are found on the interior rather than the exterior of the building. Some of the more decorative elements found in the South Middle Street Historic District buildings include fish-scale shingles, turned spindles, molded cornices including brackets, segmental arched brick lintels, classical pillars, pedimented dormers and awnings, multi-light wood doors, exposed eaves, and bay windows.
The buildings in the South Middle Street Historic District are primarily faced with brick (sometimes painted) or wood, each possessing a porch and gabled or cross gabled roof. Early buildings have stone foundations, while the later buildings have concrete. The homes within the South Middle Street Historic District are set back approximately 20-25 feet from the street, with sidewalks lining the avenue. The buildings mostly sit about 5 feet above street level. Concrete or stone walls run along the property line near the sidewalk. There are eight outbuildings within the South Middle Street Historic District. Half are noncontributing sheds, though a few historic garages and outbuildings remain. These are mostly designed with wood paneling, wood doors and windows, and gabled roofs.
There have been few changes in the district since the period of significance. Most of the changes occurred in the interior and have not affected the feeling, association, or setting of the street. A few garages or other out buildings were added after the period of significance, but these are not visible from the street. Although the original wall facings are intact beneath the siding, three of the buildings (208, 219, and 226 South Middle) in the district exhibit modern exterior wall cladding. Despite the cladding, the nonhistoric material does not overwhelm the original design and workmanship of the building at 219 and 226 South Middle. However, changes to the windows after the period of significance and the stucco facing on 208 South Middle have significantly changed the overall look of the building from the period of significance. Alterations to the porches have been minimal, consisting primarily of new supporting posts or banisters. The porch was enclosed on 205 South Middle but the small wood surround does not overwhelm the remaining brick facade and elaborate gabled second level. Overall the South Middle Street Historic District retains the character of a turn-of-the-century working and middle-class neighborhood with most of the buildings in good condition and fairly unchanged since the c.1890-1923 period of significance.
The South Middle Street Historic District is locally significant on the National Register in the area of Architecture. Located in the southeastern part of the City of Cape Girardeau, in Cape Girardeau County, the South Middle Street Historic District is a good example of intact, working and middle-class homes constructed between 1890 and 1931, the period of significance. The buildings were constructed at a time when the city's population jumped dramatically, caused in part by the construction of new railroad lines connecting Cape Girardeau to St. Louis and Arkansas. In addition, the buildings in the district were primarily constructed in conjunction with the expansion of the streetcar line to the Haarig Commercial Historic District, which is located on Good Hope Street, near the South Middle Street Historic District's southern boundary. The buildings in the district represent Victorian, Craftsman/Bungalow, and vernacular architectural styles, featuring some high-style elements on muted, simple forms. Unlike the large two- to three-story brick homes found in the other neighborhoods that remain from the same period, the buildings in the district are small in scale and simple in design and are in fairly good condition. The South Middle Street Historic District continues to reflect the architectural style and form associated with Cape Girardeau's turn-of-the-century neighborhoods.
Though Cape Girardeau's development is closely tied to the routing of the railroad through the city, the town's access to the Mississippi River played an early role in its establishment and growth. Acting as a trading post in the early years of the eighteenth century, Cape Girardeau was originally used by travelers and hunters moving across the western portions of the country. Substantial settlement began after the Spanish granted the land to Louis Lorimier in 1793. Lorimier platted the town in 1806, and by 1843 the city was incorporated. At the time, the settlers engaged in industries focused on agriculture and its associated trades, including flour mills, saw mills, cotton gins, and tan yards.
By 1870, the boundaries of the city had expanded west to Middle Street. This was due in large part to the influx of German immigrants that came to Cape Girardeau between 1840 and 1850. Following a chain migration pattern, Germans settled in rural areas and were joined at a later date by family and friends from the homeland. This is evident from the early census records showing that more than 1,300 of the 2,000 Germans living in Cape Girardeau County in 1860 originated from the German states of Hannover and Brunswick. The role that the German immigrants played in the development of the city is visible in the early architecture in the commercial and residential districts, and was so recognized at the time that the primary commercial thoroughfare was officially known as German Street until it was changed to Main Street in 1890.
The Railroad, the Streetcar, and the Development of South Middle Street
At the turn-of-the-century Cape Girardeau was economically challenged with a nearly stagnant population. Desperately tied to the riverboat traffic, Cape Girardeau's connection to the rest of the country was slow and dying, and the city was struggling to attract any means of revitalization. It was during this period that the railroad became a major factor in the Untied States' industrialization, playing the part of both a physical connector from one side of the country to the other, and an economic connector between entrepreneurs and the farmers that could now do business between big cities and rural towns. Cape Girardeau's first attempts to engage the railroad system were not accomplished, but by the last decades of the nineteenth century the city utilized its own lines.
The first railroad to run through Cape Girardeau was completed by Louis Houck in 1881 after numerous financial problems threatened to stop the project. The line connected downtown Cape Girardeau and the Mississippi River to the Iron Mountain line in Delta, Missouri. Over the next forty years, Houck laid nearly five hundred miles of track, extending from the Arkansas state line north to St. Francois County. The operation was headquartered in a small depot on Independence Street, at its intersection with Middle Street. From the depot, the tracks ran just east of the district, connecting to the lines south of town.
Houck eventually sold his interests to the Frisco Railroad in 1902, which started a plethora of frustrations, but did not inhibit the arrival of the city's first passenger train in 1904. Recognized as "the event that perhaps more than anything helped launch Cape Girardeau's boom years," the passenger trains brought new businesses to the city, which required new office and shop buildings. Most importantly, it brought people to work and spend money in the city. With new commercial ventures available on almost every corner, the town began to grow at an amazing rate. The population nearly doubled from 4,815 people in 1900 to 8,475 people in 1910.
The immense development in the western portion of the city during this period prompted the laying of the electric street car lines around the old "muley" paths from the 1890s. The cars traveled west on Broadway, south down Sprigg, east on Good Hope, and then north on Spanish Street to Broadway. The street car line connected the riverfront commercial district to the western neighborhoods and the Haarig Commercial District (National Register listed 7/20/2000) on Good Hope Street near Sprigg Street. The Haarig district was well known for its German operated businesses, including Meyer's Hardware, the Nussbaum and Stehr Merchantile Company, and Unnerstall's Drug Store.
The expanding population, extension of the railroad, and creation of the electric street car lines shaped the development of the homes on South Middle Street. The earliest homes in the district were constructed in the 1890s, about a decade after the development of the Haarig district and around the time that Louis Houck established his railroad lines and opened his depot. Construction of the street car lines down Good Hope Street made access to the large riverfront commercial district and expanding businesses on Broadway much easier. Most of the buildings in the South Middle Street Historic District were constructed between 1905 and 1910. Nestled between the railroad line one half block to the east, and the Haarig district one half block to the southwest, the residential neighborhood along South Middle Street connected the residential neighborhood on William Street to the bustling commercial district on Good Hope. The final building in the South Middle Street Historic District was constructed at the end of Cape Girardeau's railroad boom near 1920, when the population topped 10,252 people.
Property Owners, Architects, & Contractors
South Middle Street developed in the late-19th and early-20th century, but remained a working and middle-class community through the period of significance. The homeowners and residents had a variety of occupations and responsibilities, playing a part in several different sectors of the city's community. Many took the streetcar to work in the northern part of the city, though most of the married women did not work. The children in the district attended the Lorimer School, located three blocks northeast on Independence Street between Middle Street and Fountain Street.
Even before the construction of the railroad or the extension of the streetcar, Benjamin Eggimann and his German wife, Matilda, owned most the east side of South Middle Street. Though they did not live on South Middle Street, the couple oversaw the construction of homes on three of their plots, (addresses 208, 220, and 230 South Middle) between 1890 and 1908. The couple had several children, and when Benjamin died between 1905 and 1910, Matilda moved to St. Louis and their daughter, Mary, assumed ownership of most of the property.
Mary married William Bergmann in 1868. William was in the Missouri Home Guard during the Civil War, and joined the militia in 1863. He opened a dry goods store called Bergmann & Bartels on Broadway, but continued to served his community in public office; he was elected city treasurer in 1900 and began two terms as second ward alderman the same year. Though the couple did not live on South Middle Street, they managed the property Ben and Matilda Eggimann had owned, and commissioned the construction of the house at 216 South Middle Street in 1923.
The west side of South Middle Street was developed by several different owners. The oldest buildings are the two Queen Anne homes at 213 and 219, constructed during the period the property was owned by P.R. van Frank between 1890 and 1900. Van Frank was a colonel in the United States army, and a well-known businessman in the city. He also owned the Riverview Hotel (constructed 1857), which was located at the corner of Broadway and Water Street, facing the river and just beyond the Frisco depot. Van Frank owned the west side of South Middle Street before he sold it in individual plots between 1895 and 1900.
Around the same time that P.R. van Frank was commissioning the construction of homes at 213 and 219 South Middle Street, Rudolph Feldhoff was constructing his Queen Anne home at 513 William Street. Feldhoff worked for the Cape Foundry & Machine Company at 331 Main Street. Rudolph and his wife Pauline became naturalized citizens in 1889 when they moved to the United States from Germany.
The homes at 203 and 205 South Middle Street were constructed between 1900 and 1905 for two daughters of Lewis Roth, a local cooper. Margaret Roth and her sister, Louisa Layton, shared the property until 1900, when the ownership was split. Louisa and her husband, Miles (a hostler for the Frisco Rail Road), commissioned the construction of a house at 203 South Middle and raised their two daughters there. Margaret, who had the house at 205 South Middle Street constructed around the same time, married a Mr. Liles, and rented the property to several tenants including her brother, George, a hired laborer and later a contractor.
The buildings at 225 and 229 South Middle Street were constructed between 1905 and 1908. The property was owned by Henry C. Ossenkopp at the turn of the century, which he sold after he opened his office in the Mechanic's planing mill at 516 Good Hope Street in 1905. Ossenkopp designed the house at 225 South Middle Street, which was built by a retired Prussian gunsmith named George W. Bahn, Jr., the new owner. Before he retired, Bahn ran a hardware store on Main Street with his brother, W.C. Bahn, and the two rented out space to other businesses in what became known as the "Bahn Brothers building." 229 South Middle Street was constructed around the same time, though it is not evident if the home was constructed before Ossenkopp sold the property to the independently wealthy Mary L. Schwepker.
Though some of the property owners lived in the district, most rented the buildings out during the period of significance. The renters were primarily middle-class citizens that worked within the downtown area. Most were married with children with a single income. Many of the residents were German immigrants that moved to Cape Girardeau around the turn-of-the-century. The residents held occupations from electrician to grocer, and some women worked as maids or house cleaners in upper class homes.
The home at 203 South Middle Street was occupied by three renting families during the period of significance. Arthur and Minnie Bauer were one couple that lived in the home. Arthur Bauer ran a grocery store at 621 Good Hope Street, one block east of the district. They shared the space at 203 with James and Marie Parker. James worked as an electrician for the Cape Girardeau Portland Cement Company, which had its offices in the H. & H. building on Broadway.
Like Margaret (Roth) Liles, Louisa Layton rented out space to her family during the period of significance. Though Miles and Louisa owned the home, Miles' sister, Alma, also rented a room. To afford the rent, Alma worked as a seamstress at Wippermont and Bongard, located at 117 Broadway. Other renters in the district included the manager of Waters-Pierce Oil Company on North Main Street, an employee for the Standard Advertising Company at the corner of Henderson and William, a butcher at the Hirsch Brothers Mercantile & Providence Company on Sprigg Street, a newspaper agent, and a tailor at W.J. Masek Company on Main Street.
Architectural Styles and Forms
The South Middle Street Historic District retains buildings constructed between c.1890 and 1923. They were constructed in a variety of styles, applying some high style elements to simple designs. These styles include Craftsman/Bungalow, Late Victorian and Vernacular.
The Craftsman/Bungalow 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. Influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, the Craftsman style house was featured in many magazines during the first decades of the twentieth 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 primarily limited to California, vernacular one- and one-and-a-half-story examples became the most popular and fashionable small house type in the country.
The Craftsman/Bungalow style home features brick or stucco siding, a low-pitched, gabled roof with a wide overhanging eave and exposed rafters, and often includes decorative beams added under the gables. Bungalows are also identified by their large porches supported by tapered square columns. 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 a single sash, with multi-light and sometimes stained or decorative glazing in the upper portion. Windows and doors have simple, square surrounds, sometimes utilizing sidelights.
A good example of the Craftsman Bungalow as found in middle and working class neighborhoods in Cape Girardeau can be seen at 230 South Middle Street (constructed between 1905 and 1908). This home features a side-gabled roof with a wide porch and central, gabled dormer. Square pillars support the full length porch. A large overhanging eave with exposed brackets extends beyond the rounded porch cross beam. The first level sash window has a square wood surround, and the dormer window features three-over-one sash windows found in triplicate.
A few vernacular homes can be seen scattered in the older neighborhoods of eastern Cape Girardeau, expressing hints of German influence. Unfortunately, many are not in good condition or have experienced significant alterations which have nearly eliminated any connection to the German architectural designs that are found in a few other Missouri towns. A large number of German immigrants made their way to Missouri in the mid-19th century, and played a large part in the architectural landscape of the State. Many of the German immigrants that came to Cape Girardeau were from the Brunswick or Hannover regions of Germany, and therefore most of the buildings constructed by German builders look similar. Constructing homes similar to those found in their homeland, the German brick and stone masons gradually adopted selected American styles and forms for incorporation in their homes.
The vernacular buildings that seem to express some German design influence in Cape Girardeau are primarily one-story, side gabled, brick residences with stone foundations and chimneys found on one or both of the gable ends. The more elaborate and defined German Vernacular houses found in Hermann and Washington, Missouri feature rectangular or L-shaped footprint, and patterned cornices, often utilizing corbelled brick. Round or segmental arches and stone or wood sills were often used around openings in these areas, and double-hung or casement windows were utilized as the primary form of fenestration.
The building at 220 South Middle Street appears to have some possible German Vernacular influence, though it does not possess enough intact detailing to be categorized as a German Vernacular style building. The side-gabled house features sash windows with segmental arched brick lintels and stone sills. The building's stone foundation peaks beyond the brick walls, and corbelling is found at the roofline.
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 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. In Cape Girardeau, many of the Victorian buildings styles filtered into the city with the railroad. In the South Middle Street Historic District, two distinct Victorian designs are utilized: Queen Anne and Folk Victorian.
The Queen Anne buildings in Cape Girardeau feature steeply pitched roofs, mostly with a front-facing gable and complex or irregular shapes included. Patterned shingles are widely used in the city, as well as cutaway bay windows and other devices that help avoid symmetrical and smooth-walled facades. In addition, a one-story porch is almost always found on these buildings, on the facade alone or wrapping around to a secondary elevation. The town's Queen Anne buildings also feature intricate spindle work and turned porch supports, and some include decorative spandrels at the corners. Many of the more elaborate Queen Anne designs are found along Pacific Street between William Street and Independence Street.
An excellent example of the Queen Anne style within the South Middle Street Historic District can be found at 213 South Middle Street. This one-story residence features a complex roofline including a primary front gable with a side gable and side facing dormer. The facade includes a cut-away bay window, with fish scale shingling in the gable and corner brackets with spandrels. The porch features intricate brackets, spindle work and turned porch supports. In addition to the applied decorative elements, the building also includes stained glass windows and a carved wood door. The building even retains weatherboard facing, a common exterior element for Victorian homes in the area.
The second Victorian design utilized in the South Middle Street Historic District is the Folk Victorian style. The Folk Victorian style is less ornate than Queen Anne, though it shares the decorative spindle work and turned porch supports, as well as a full or partial porch. The building at 229 South Middle Street is an example of the Folk Victorian style. The building is constructed in the Gable Front and Wing form, with a half hip in the gable. The porch extends along the wing portion, with turned porch supports and spindle work creating a frieze. The building also has a thick cornice, and while not made of the typical weatherboard seen in Cape Girardeau, the brick building includes the prefabricated carved door common with the style.
While the South Middle Street Historic District has seen some disrepair, it continues to be a neighborhood for working and middle-class residents. Unfortunately, the house at 202 South Middle Street (constructed between 1890 and 1895 by A.W. Fletcher) is no longer standing, demolished after 1951. In addition, the homes on the western side of the South Middle Street Historic District have been removed for soccer fields for St. Mary's Cathedral. Despite these changes the remainder of the neighborhood is intact. While the railroad tracks have been removed, the footprint remains on the district's eastern boarder. Henry Ossenkopp's planing mill remains on Good Hope Street, though it has undergone substantial alteration for use as an auto mechanic's shop. The neighborhood continues to reflect the working and middle class housing that filled this area of the city at the turn-of-the-century, and is relatively unchanged from the 1890-1931 period of significance.
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‡ Julie Ann LaMouria, Lafset & Associates, South Middle Street Historic District, Cape Girardeau County, MO, nomination document, 2009, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Fountain Street South • Frederick Street South • Middle Street South • William Street