Cape Girardeau Landmarks Destroyed

Sep 19, 2017

It seems like Almost Yesterday that two historic landmarks in Cape Girardeau disappeared.

In April of 1909 the city council decided it was time to make improvement to Court House Park through the elimination of two building that had served the city for half a century. The first of these was the old market house which had been a fixture on the lawn of Court House Park since 1852. The second was a city jail which had been constructed in 1856.

The market house was a square brick building which was used by vendors to sell a wide variety of products for the home market, including vegetables, fruit, eggs, milk, and meat. By the turn of the century and the development of modern grocery stores, the market fell into disuse and became a storage house for the city’s surplus and unwanted items. Most notably…junk.

The city jail, commonly referred to as “the Calaboose,” constructed in 1856, had also fallen into disrepair. It too was a square brick building with several individual cells in which there were rings fastened to the walls to chain those arrested and held for trial or punishment.

The city sought to raze the buildings and offered both to a contractor for the sum of $15.00 if he would quickly demolish and remove them from the city property.

Indicating that the city’s interest in historic preservation is not an entirely new development, many people resisted the city’s plans, urging that both the jail and the market house be preserved as historical reminders of early Cape Girardeau.

But the building were demolished, the land cleared, and soon a foundation and statue stood where the old jail once stood. Within a few years a new Carnegie Library graced the hillside of Court House Park where the old market house had, for so long, served the appetites of Cape Girardeau’s early families.