Cape Girardeau, MO

From a high school to senior housing: historic Louis J. Schultz School

CJ Coombs
The historic Louis J. Schultz School building is now an apartment building for senior citizens.Photo byGoogle Maps.

The Louis J. Schultz School, previously known as Central High School, is a historic building located at 101 South Pacific Street in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The building was later repurposed into the Schultz Senior Apartments. On July 18, 2008, this building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The central section of the building was constructed in 1915. It consists of three stories with a basement. The architectural style of the building is Renaissance Revival. The architect and builder were D. B. Foster of J. H. Felt and Company out of St. Joseph, Missouri, and Vogelsang Brothers Construction Company. The two-story wing was completed in 1919. In 1942, a shop wing was added.
The back of the Louis J. Schultz School, Cape Girardeau, Missouri.Photo byNyttend, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The building

At the time the school building was nominated for the National Register, its chief function was still an educational facility. Originally a school building, it's a combination of the original three-story building of 1915 and a two-story wing added to the north side in 1919. Located behind the 1919 wing, a shop wing was added in 1942.

The school building was originally named Central High School, but in 1964, the school was renamed the Louis J. Schultz School. During that time frame, the building systems were upgraded and windows and doors were replaced. The flooring was replaced and a new roof was installed. What used to be an auto mechanics shop was converted for use as a cafeteria and auditorium.

This building served as the original Central High School for Cape Girardeau. It was used as a public high school from 1915 until 1953, at which time a new Central High School was constructed. The original building continued to serve as an educational facility. First, it was a junior high school and then a seventh-grade center in 1964. After that, it was a school for alternative education classes.

Once the building became a seventh-grade attendance center, it was renamed after the building's first principal and retired school superintendent, Louis J. Schultz. Because there could be confusion having two buildings named Central High School, it was renamed.

Also important, this building was the first high school in Cape Girardeau even though the city has had a public school system since 1867. The 1919 wing was added due to the increase in the student population.

Interestingly, until 1908, the public schools in Cape Girardeau only taught Grades 1 through 8. Like other cities in the state, Cape Girardeau didn't support high school classes. A lot of parents felt that what was called the Normal School provided enough secondary-level classes. Some even believed it was a waste of taxpayers' money to build high schools.

The Normal School eventually evolved into what used to be Southeast Missouri State University, now Missouri State University. By 1908, Cape Girardeau began offering high school classes at Lorimer School. The first high school graduating class in the city had four students. In 1912, a graduation ceremony was held for 53 students.

With the growth of classes, there was finally a bond issue in 1911 to get funding for the construction of a high school building. Unfortunately, it didn't pass. By 1913, there were two state laws instituted in Missouri and one of them provided funding for the building of high schools across the state.

There were communities smaller than Cape Girardeau that were financially supporting education, so when another bond issue came up to construct a high school, it passed.

The new school

When the new high school was completed in the fall of 1915, there were 250 students in Grades 8 through 12 that moved into the new Central High School from the Lorimer School. The school's population grew fast which required the addition of a new wing.

In 1952, construction began on the new high school building to be located on Caruthers Avenue. By the time the new Central High School was completed, the old one was converted into a junior high school.

In 1964, when the original high school building was converted into a seventh-grade center, the original principal was honored by having the school renamed after him.

Louis J. Schultz

Louis J. Schultz was born in Cape Girardeau in 1896. He received a bachelor of science degree from what is now known as Missouri State University in 1916. In 1924, he started teaching at the old high school. After two years of teaching, he was the high school principal for eight years.

In 1931, Schultz received his master's degree from the University of Iowa. In 1935, he was chosen to become the city's Superintendent of Schools which he held until 1962 when he retired.

Selling the old school building

By 2007, when the school building was no longer useful plus it would be costly to rehabilitate, the school district decided to sell the building. In 2008, a local developer named Chad Hartle acquired the building. The goal was to convert the building into affordable senior housing and yet, continue to historically preserve the building.

The classrooms were converted into apartments. The walls contain murals displaying the school's history. The width of the hallways remains the same and vintage items including trophies were collected and put on display.

Here's to another historic building having a new purpose.

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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