Another month and yet another road trip. The end goal was to visit our family in Omaha but we took 3 extra nights to allow us to explore south and north central Missouri.
To get to where I wanted to start in southern Missouri, we had to pass through parts of Kentucky and a little bit of Illinois. After passing Paducah Kentucky, we continued west on US Hwy 62, then KY Hwy 286…all the way to Wickliffe Kentucky.
The photo above is of the Ballard County Courthouse in Wickliffe. This courthouse was the first and only permanent courthouse in the County Seat. It was completed in 1905. The original courthouse and county seat was in Blandville…but it burned down in 1880. I can't imagine living in a town called 'Blandville'.
It’s unusual for me to be unable to find any significant information about a specific county or town…but I didn’t find much history about either in this case. I can say that both the county and city were much more populated at some point. It appears that coal mining was the driving economic force in the 1800s and into the early 1900s. Ballard County had a population of 14,378 in 1880. Even as late as 1910, there were still 12,690 residents. Today, only 7,650 people call the county home, about half of the number here in 1880. Wickliffe has 670 residents, down from 1,211 in 1970.
Ballard County is one of 8 that were eventually created from the “Jackson Purchase”, commonly known as ‘the Purchase’. In 1818, Andrew Jackson and the then Governor of Kentucky purchased this western tip of Kentucky from the Chickasaw Indians. During the Civil War, this area of Kentucky was the strongest supporter of the Confederacy.
Cairo Illinois is right across the Ohio River from Ballard County. This river city, right at the conjunction of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers is the only city in the state that is surrounded by levees. This watery portion of Southern Illinois is known as “Little Egypt”, hence the town’s name…Cairo…after the capital of Egypt on the Nile River. Cairo is the county seat for Alexander County Illinois.
The Church of the Redeemer, an Episcopal church at 600 Washington Street in Cairo was completed in 1886. This eye-catching and solid looking church is an outstanding historic structure, a true survivor in a blighted city. It replaced an earlier wood frame church that had been completed in 1862, only to be commandeered by Union Forces as a hospital during the Civil War. That original structure was still standing in the late 1980s, having been used by the Catholic Church as church and school for ‘colored’ children for many years.
Unfortunately, at least from our observation, Cairo today is a wasteland. Developed as a river port and as the southern terminus for the Illinois Central Railroad, the area was later bypassed by changes in transportation and industrial restructuring. Racial tensions and related violence, including lynching, also contributed to the town’s slide into obscurity. In 1920, the city had 15,203 residents but in 2020, only 1,733 folks call Cairo home… Much of Cairo is best described as a shabby and deteriorating ‘ghost town’.
So how bad can Cairo be? Look for yourself. Check out the photos at Photos of Cairo IL - Bing images. Believe me, in person it looks much worse than these photos show...
The first 2 photos are of the old Thebes Courthouse in Thebes Illinois. The first view is looking at it from below the bluff where it was built above the Mississippi River. The second photo was taken up on the bluff...and it shows just how modest in size it is. A meeting or event of some kind was taking place in the old building. The mid-1800s log cabin in the third picture was recently added to the site.
The Alexander County seat was moved here from Unity in 1845. This ‘Southern Greek Revival’ style structure was completed in 1848 at a cost of $4,400. In 1860, the county seat was moved again, this time to Cairo Illinois. Thebes, like the city of Cairo, was named after the Egyptian city of the same name.
The village was established in 1835 but then it was known as 'Sparhawk Landing'. In 1880, the town had 114 residents. By 1920 the population peaked at 857 and today only 208 people reside here. Abraham Lincoln practiced law here and legend holds that Dred Scott, a slave whose freedom suit reached the Supreme Court may have been imprisoned here while his case was heard.
The local community has centered on maintaining and expanding this historical spot. See Thebes Historical Courthouse - Home (thebescourthouse.com).
Note: In popular literature, Thebes is the home of Captain Andy Hawks, his wife and daughter in the novel “Show Boat” by Edna Ferber.
This is the Thebes Railroad Bridge. This 5-span cantilever truss bridge was completed in 1905 as a joint endeavor between the Missouri Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads. It served both rail lines and, 118 years later, it still carries Union Pacific trains across the Mississippi River.
This 3,959 foot long bridge has a clearance over the river of 104 feet. The longest span is 651 feet long. It is now owned by Southern Illinois and Missouri Bridge Company, a Union Pacific subsidiary.
Upon arriving in Cape Girardeau, our first stop was The Annie Laurie Antique Shop. It was planned to be one of our high points for our visit to Cape Girardeau Missouri, an historic city that was our first overnight destination. Note the well dressed manikin waiting for the bus in front of the store...
This attractive structure/former home has over 5,000 square feet of showrooms. The website states that they feature ‘a curated collection of vintage finds and high quality new merchandise’. They also have a sizable selection of fresh plants and floral items.
We thought that Annie Laurie’s was OK…but it lacked enough antiques, our primary interest, and much of what they had to offer was a bit too quirky for our tastes. They were nice folks though and the store was busy. To learn more, go to
This handsome Mission/Spanish revival style former hotel is located at 338 Broadway Street in Cape Girardeau. It was built in 1928 with a north wing added in 1936. This 7-story structure featured 115 guest rooms. Love the Mission décor and the Spanish-style towers at each side of the building’s façade…
The Marquette tower has been completely renovated with several businesses occupying offices in portions of the building. Space is still available. See Marquette Tower – The Rhodes Group. This handsome building is also home to the ‘Top of the Marq’, an upscale restaurant on the 7th floor. See Top of the Marq | Fine Dining in Cape Girardeau, MO. In addition, the ground floor is home to ‘The Ground-A-Bout’, one of 4 locations for this local chain of coffee shops. See Welcome - The Ground-A-Bout (thegroundabout.com).
Some areas of the USA are up to date with their on-line listings on the National Register of Historic Places. Apparently, the multiple listings for parts of Cape Girardeau Missouri aren’t readily available and haven’t been digitized by the National Park System...
I was able to identify this attractive 2 story brick building as the Kage House at 120 Broadway in the Old Town Historic District. This structure was built ca. 1880 – 1882. The look calls to mind eighteenth-century New Orleans architecture. While the signing on the windows would indicate that the lower level of the building is involved in banking, I couldn’t verify that…
Interestingly, the second level of the building is offered as a VBRO short term rental. The apartment is right in the middle of the historic and shopping district and it's only a 10 minute walk to the local casino.
This is the Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church at 200 Broadway in Cape Girardeau. It was formerly the First Baptist Church. This building was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places earlier this year. I couldn’t discover any history regarding the building but I did find photos that show that part of the building…the second floor…had been converted to an apartment. Note the new addition to the rear of the church.
Apparently, at least the lower portion of the old church is once again being used for its original purpose. Given its recent nomination for listing on the National Register, it is almost certainly over 100 years old.
Once again, I’ve been mildly duped. It happens at least once on every one of our road trips. This ‘old’ cabin near Cape Girardeau’s riverfront on the Mississippi River…isn’t old. It’s called the “Red House Interpretive Center and it was completed in 2004 through a cooperative effort between the City and the Cape Girardeau Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission. The architectural style is from the French colonial era in the Mississippi Valley. The Center commemorates the life of community founder and French-Canadian, Louis Lorimier as well as the visit here by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in November of 1803. (The Lewis and Clark Expedition)
The original ‘Red House’ was built by Lorimier in 1797. It was destroyed by a tornado in 1850. In the early part of the 1800s, the ‘Red House’ was the best known trading post between St. Louis Missouri and Memphis Tennessee. It also served the community and governmental center for the area. Lewis and Clark had stopped at the ‘Red House’ to buy supplies for their planned expedition.
This handsome old home is known as the William Henry and Lilla Luce Harrison House, or alternatively as the Dr. Samuel Harris House. This classic 2.5 story Queen Anne style brick home was built in 1897. The wraparound porch and circular verandah were added between 1900 and 1908. The Mississippi River is a short distance away and it can be seen from the kitchen and the attic room. Dr. Harris had the home built but within a year after completing it, he sold it to William Henry Harrison.
The Harrison family was one of the most important families in Cape Girardeau’s history. William Harrison was a business owner and executive and banker. He also owned several major buildings in the downtown area. His wife Lilla worked to establish the city’s first sanitary ordinance and create a public library. The couple’s son, Charles, was involved in the construction of the Marquette Hotel and the building of the original Mississippi River Bridge, among other things. The home remained in the Harrison family until 1988.
This building at 121 Broadway was originally built as Cape Girardeau’s Masonic Temple. It was completed in 1892. In 1970, the Masons sold it to Vida Key. The Vida Key Music Store continued operations until 2001. Rust and Martin Interior Design is now the primary occupant of the building. That company began as a small re-upholstery shop in 1933 during the Great Depression. To learn more, go to Rust and Martin – Interior Design.
In a portion of the lower level of the same building, Minglewood Brewery is right across the street from that second level VBRO rental in the Kage House. In addition to craft beer, this brewpub features salads, sandwiches, wraps, a number of appetizers and pizza. You can learn more at Minglewood Brewery | Cape Girardeau | Craft Beer, Pizza, & More.
That's enough for now. Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave