"The History Around Us" - 2/21

Feb 21st, 2013

Cape Girardeau, Missouri is the second stop for “The History Around Us” blog. Home to Fort Hope Apartments and Napa Ridge Duplex Homes, Cape Girardeau has a rich history dating back to pre-Revolutionary War times. In a state that is known for its popular sports teams, big cities, and its role in the expansion west, Cape Girardeau proves to have its own distinct and individual heritage.

Located just north of the southeast corner of Missouri, Cape Girardeau sits on the banks of the “Mighty Mississippi”. The city bears the name of an 18th century French soldier, Jean Baptiste de Girardot, who established a trading outpost at the location in 1733. The town was incorporated in 1843, due in large part to large growth in population size because of its location along the Mississippi. Cape Girardeau was once the largest port located between St. Louis and Memphis, Tennessee.

The river, and the commerce that it facilitates, has always played a crucial role for Cape Girardeau. It served as one of the country’s most important ports throughout much of the 19th century, especially after the advent of the steamboat in 1830. The Mississippi River was the preeminent facilitator of commerce and trade in the United States during the 19th century and was the focal point for both Confederate and Union forces during the Civil War. It was inevitable that Cape Girardeau would be caught amidst the struggle to control the Mississippi waterway. In 1863, Union and Confederate Forces collided in the “Battle of Cape Girardeau”. The battle took place at “Fort C”, a Union Army stronghold throughout the war. The location of both “Fort C” and the bloody battle that took place there is also the site that Fort Hope Apartments sits today.

Cape Girardeau’s history is not all dismal. In the early 1900’s, the Sisters of St. Francis used the site to construct a 3-story hospital building, eventually totaling 75,000 square feet. After the hospital was decommissioned, the building was utilized as a college dormitory for a short time before being vacated. When PDC Companies took possession of the building, several medical artifacts were discovered in the attic of old building. The tools were happily donated to the Sisters of St. Francis, who used them in an exhibit on the origins of modern medicine. The hospital’s cornerstone and the historical marker commemorating “Fort C” continue to be preserved at Fort Hope, and serve as reminders of the role the site played in the history of the Cape Girardeau, the state of Missouri, and the nation as a whole. The apartments adorn the name “Fort Hope” because of the site’s former use as a fort and its location on Good Hope Street.

The purpose of this blog is to bring to light some of our country's fascinating, albeit unfamiliar, history. Because we do business in so many small communities, their past can often times get overlooked. However, if we look just a little more, dive in just a little deeper, there is no limited to all the fun and interesting things we can find. Check back next month for part 3 of “The History Around Us”!