Cape Girardeau, MO

Historic Julius Vasterling Building in Cape Girardeau, Missouri: one section had to be razed

CJ Coombs
Historic Julius Vasterling Building, Cape Girardeau, Missouri.Photo byNyttend, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Julius Vasterling Building was located at 633 Broadway, and is still at 635 and 637 Broadway in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. It is also referred to as the Seehausen Sanitary Meat Market. This commercial building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) on June 17, 2009. It is also located in the Broadway Commercial Historic District.

From the above image that was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons in 2013, it looks like 635 and 637 are in great shape. The 633 east bay section of the building was demolished in 2010. According to the Southeastern Missourian, the "structural integrity was compromised." The other two sections of the historic building were renovated and saved.

Building background of 633, 635, and 637

This historic building was constructed around 1868. It's a two-part commercial block with storefronts on the first level and residential space on the upper level. It's a painted brick building on a stone foundation. Vasterling, a German merchant, was the builder.

The Vasterling Building faces north and is at the southeast corner of Broadway and Sprigg Street, and it's also the oldest building at that intersection.

Originally, there were three storefronts containing large plate glass windows for display. This building is one of the few left serving as an example of a German house-store. Between 1925 and 1927, the eastern bay (633, which is now demolished) was converted to commercial space.

The eastern bay (633) had a large open space for commercial use. The walls contained plaster and wood panels. At the time the building was nominated for the National Register, the drop ceiling and wall coverings needed work. Also, the historic brick walls and wood ceilings were exposed in many places.

The central and western bays were combined to serve as one commercial space. The second floor still retained some of the original trims, floorings, and wood stairwells. There was wood paneling in the living areas and a drop ceiling was installed. This building is significant for its architecture.

By 1884, the rear of the building had two additions. Vasterling's heirs took care of the business, and the saloon was converted into a clothing store. Eventually, two other sons, Alexander and Albert, ran the dry goods store until 1910.

The commercial space at 635 and 637 Broadway was rented to Landgraf & Klughrtz for a saloon and pool hall. A local baker named Oscar Childs rented the townhouse. Between 1920 and 1925, the value of the building doubled. This may have been when Albert Vasterling converted the townhouse into more commercial space. It's also possible the conversion could have occurred in 1926 when E. G. Gramling purchased the building.

By 1928, the east bay was a new storefront. The middle storefront was also altered with new display windows and new front door. For a duration of 25 years, many tenants leased the building from E. G. Gramling. The longest tenant was Seahausen Sanitary Meat Market which occupied the west bay from 1926 until late 1946. Other tenants included an electrical supply company, a contracting company, a restaurant, a cafe, and home appliance store.

E. G. Gramling sold the building in 1953. It was also a time when commercial businesses were moving toward the highway and away from the riverront commercial district.

Sometimes downtown areas experience a decline when businesses go elsewhere, especially those that go to strip malls. However, when old buildings are revitalized, there is the potential to turn business around.

Cape Girardeau

In the early 1700s, Cape Girardeau was established as a trading post. It was located on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. Cape Girardeau was founded by Louis Lorimier when he received the land from the Spanish in 1793.

Cape Girardeau was an important trade and travel stop. This led to the platting of the town in 1806, and in 1843, it was incorporated. Later, it became an important steamboat stop, but until then, its early settlers put their focus on agriculture and associated industries. They also built flour mills, sawmills, cotton gins, and tan yards close to the river.

By the mid-1850s, the commercial district was growing beyond the riverfront to what's known today as Main Street. German immigrants were arriving between 1840 and 1850 which also increased residential neighborhoods. A group of settlers would arrive and then they would be joined by others from their homeland. Many came from the German states of Hannover and Brunswick.

The Germans played a key role in developing this city. Main Street used to be called German Street until 1890. The German immigrants also established commercial buildings between 1850 and 1900 on Broadway.

Julius Vasterling, Sr.

Julius Vasterling, Sr. was born in 1822 in Brunswick, Germany. His wife, Johanna, was a native of Hannover, Germany, and came to the United States in 1849. Their first son, Julius Vasterling, Jr., was born in 1854.

By 1860, Vasterling was already achieving success as a merchant plus he owned some real estate. In 1869, he hooked up with other prominent local businessmen on the Board of Directors of the Cape Girardeau & State Line Railroad Company. Their plan was to build a railroad from south Cape Girardeau to the Arkansas state line.

Vasterling's house-store building originally had three parts. The eastern bay (633 Broadway) was built to serve as a townhouse. The other bays (635 and 637 Broadway) were designed as a two-part commercial block.

By 1872, Julius Jr. was living in the townhouse. He worked as a clerk in his father's general store on the other side of the building. Vasterling had a relative named Henry who operated a saloon in the center part of the building on the lower level. When Vasterling, Sr. died, the house-store was passed down to his heirs.

Julius Vasterling, Sr. died on October 2, 1881, at age 59. His wife, Johanna, died on October 7, 1905, at age 83. Julius Vasterling, Jr. died on June 22, 1882. He was only 28.

The Vasterling Building is an example of Missouri-German vernacular architecture as well as a good example of a German house-store. While a piece of the building had to be demolished, the remaining sections are restored. Today, the 635-637 sections of the building house the Industry Dance Company.

Thanks for reading.

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Multi-genre writer and author/publisher with a BA in Eng Journalism/Creative Writing. I worked in law firms for 30+ years and retired early to pursue writing. I was born into the Air Force, so you could say I'm from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, research, history, true crime, reading, art, and travel.

Kansas City, MO

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