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The Past Is Never Far: Historic Preservation in Cape

There’s a reason the Seven Wonders of the World are all ancient landmarks: History can be awe-inspiring, especially when it takes the form of man-made structures like the Great Pyramids or Colossus of Rhodes.

Preserving those structures – whether it’s an internationally renowned statue or a beloved local landmark – is critical for many reasons, from tourism to scholastic or sociological endeavors. As Jackie Kennedy once said: If we don’t care about our past, we can’t hope for the future.

Cape Girardeau has some wonders of its own when it comes to historical landmarks – even dating back to the city’s founding in the late 1700s. The month of May is National Historic Preservation month, so we’re taking time to share some of the area’s most historically significant sites as well as behind-the-scenes insights into why preservation should be important to everyone.

To do that, we spoke with our very own Alyssa Phares, Senior Director of Sales & Strategy for VisitCape, who just happens to be a historic preservation expert! Alyssa has her B.S. and M.A. degrees in historic preservation, so she knows her stuff.


So, let’s start with the basics. What is historic preservation?

“Historic preservation is a ‘conversation with our past about our future’, historic preservation is a tangible way to learn things about our history and our community. It helps tell the stories through many different mediums. Instead of thinking of a building as just a building, think of it as a window into Cape Girardeau’s history. Historic preservation is more than just saving a building. It is about saving a part of our past to share it with the future.”


Why does historic preservation matter?

 “In a time of unprecedented change (once again) it is important to not let the perceived idea of progress, development, and technology erase how we got here and from where we came. Understanding the past can help us create a more inclusive and diverse story of our lives. Historic preservation is such a broad discipline too. It includes structural preservation, cultural preservation, interpretation, museum studies, architecture, sociology, archaeology, and more. I think that is what makes it so fascinating.”


What is the significance of historic preservation to Cape Girardeau?

 “Locally, we tend to focus our historic preservation discussions around the physical manifestations of the term. Downtown, especially has seen the benefits of our community believing in and carrying out historic preservation. Economically, it makes sense. Aesthetically, it makes sense. Visitors to Cape Girardeau consistently mention how much they love our Downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods because we have so many restored and intact historic buildings.”


Any specific areas in Cape that benefits from historic preservation the most?

 “Downtown, the surrounding neighborhoods, the University campus area, and the parts of our community that still need some attention like the Red Star district and south of William Street come to my mind.”


So, what can we do to ensure that our historical sites are being preserved?

 “Get involved. Volunteer for community commissions or boards for some of our historic associations. If you have the means, invest in our community. Look at buying and developing a historic property to bring it into use in the 21st century and beyond.”


So, now that we all know more about historic preservation and its importance in our community, let’s all step up and do our part in  preserving our history here. Our rich history helps define our community, let’s keep the history alive together!

“Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone…” – John Ruskin


Want to checkout some of Cape’s historic sites? Here’s some info for you!

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