Cape Girardeau, MO

The historic James Reynolds House: Not every house has to be glamorous to have saving value

CJ Coombs
An older view of the front of the James Reynolds House, Cape Girardeau, Missouri (cropped).Photo bySkye Marthaler, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The historic James Reynolds House was constructed in 1857. That's 166 years ago and I find it exciting a house that old is still going strong. The home is located at 623 North Main Street in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 13, 1983.

This one-and-a-half-story home had painted brick on the exterior. The one-story wing in the rear of the house contained the kitchen. The architectural style is French ColonialWhen. It sits on a coursed rubble sandstone foundation. It has a full-width front porch.

When the house was nominated for the National Register, it was owned by the Historical Association of Greater Cape Girardeau, Inc.

Under the house is a two-room cellar along with portions unexcavated. The house faces east. There are front and rear porches. At one time, the house was painted white. In 1982, when layers of metal and asphalt roofing materials were removed from the gable roofs, it revealed cedar shingles which were replaced.

The property the house sits on used to be about five acres which Reynolds owned. After lots were sold off, it left an irregular parcel of land where the house sits.

The house sits back from Main Street, a street that didn't reach the house at the time it was built. There used to be a view of the Mississippi River from the home but that's not the case anymore due to a floodwall project which occurred in 1956.

There's also a smokehouse on the property which had its cedar shingles redone in 1982. At the time the nomination for the National Register was being processed, inside the smokehouse were the wood beams where meats used to be hung.
An older back view of the James Reynolds House (cropped).Photo bySkye Marthaler, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Board of Directors of the Historical Association voted to acquire the Reynolds House after it had been vacant. There was also vandalism. It had been sitting for decades.

The home was built by Joseph Lansmon and Edwin Branch Deane, two prominent builders in Cape Girardeau in the 1800s. Lansmon performed the masonry work on the Reynolds house. The bricklaying cost was only $475, but we are talking about the 1850s.

Lansmon came to Cape Girardeau in 1834. He also built the Common Pleas Courthouse (1854) and St. Mary's Cathedral (1868). Supposedly, his initial and the year, 1858, can still be found on a covered bridge he constructed at the Bollinger Mill State Historic Site in Burfordville, Missouri.

James Reynolds

Reynolds was a well-known and successful flour miller after he arrived in Cape Girardeau in 1852. Later, he was a partner with Union Mills. This facility was thought to be the town's first manufacturing establishment. The mill was organized in 1862 as the Union Milling Company but operated as Union Mills.

The members of Reynolds' family lived in the house for decades. Reynolds was married to Catherine Von Ohlhausen who was a native of Germany. (According to Find-a-Grave, her name was Christina, but other details are the same as the nomination form for the National Register.)

The Reynolds had four daughters, two of whom were named California and Texas which I found interesting. After James died in 1865, at age 60-61, his wife was to benefit from his Will while she was alive and after that, his half interest in the house and Union Steam Mills, shares of stock, and a farm in St. Louis County was to be divided equally between the children. The farm consisted of 110 acres and at the time of Reynolds' death, his last remaining and unmarried daughter in 1919 was in the home.

Mrs. Reynolds died February 6, 1909, at the age 100-101. She was buried next to her husband at Bellerive Heritage Gardens in Creve Coeur, Missouri.

Supposedly, Reynolds had buried gold and silver on their property in 1862 during the Civil War. While two of his daughters, Elizabeth and Julia, decided it would never be recovered, it was found. They had one old coin dated 1826 and a new one was 1861. It was about $1,200 face value. As the story goes, one man received $500 worth of gold coins from Don Grimm who was Elizabeth's son. The money was payment for a pool room on North Main Street.

The James Reynolds House Foundation

While at one time the historic home may have seemed a bit of an eyesore, it's probably good that someone's vision and the James Reynolds House Foundation saw its historic value. The below image depicts how the house appears now.

A home that is 166 years old has been restored and saved. At one time, the windows were boarded up. It has plumbing and electricity. This house could have been demolished because it hadn't been lived in for 50 years. Another piece of significant history was saved.

Visit here to read more about the renovations including some images published last year by the Southeastern Missourian.

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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