Center for Regional History Publishes ‘Cape Girardeau: Then and Now’

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., March 4, 2010 — The Center for Regional History at Southeast Missouri State University has published a new book which provides a unique approach to the history of Cape Girardeau. 

Tom Neumeyer’s Cape Girardeau: Then and Now connects past and present by pairing more than 120 archival images with current photographs of the same subject, taken from the same approximate location.

A public release and book signing for Cape Girardeau: Then and Now has been scheduled for Sunday, March 14, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Cape Girardeau Public Library, 711 North Clark Street.

Author Tom Neumeyer and Dr. Frank Nickell, editor of the book and director of the Center for Regional History, will both be present to answer questions about the book and to participate in the celebration. Proceeds from the sale of the book on this date will benefit “the friends of the Cape Girardeau Public Library Foundation.”  In addition, an exhibition with framed and paired images from the book will be on display in the library’s Geraldine Hirsch Community Room throughout the month of March.

Some of the images used in the book portray both people and places in Cape Girardeau as far back as the mid-1800s.  These historic images are paired with the corresponding present day scene and brief written descriptions of each.  Thus, new and old are easilymatched.

While the emphasis of the book is on the visual dimension, the 300-plus page book also contains 10 essays on various aspects of Cape Girardeau’s history, ranging from an introductory essay by Dr. Robert Hamblin to Barbara Rust’s memories of the unique smells of historic Cape Girardeau. 

“The concept of pairing imagery from the past with a parallel photograph from the present is a first for this area,” Neumeyer said. “The reader sees how the foundation of the past is the basis for what we have, and who we are now.  My purpose for the book was to weave a connection to our roots with the images and descriptions creating a community tapestry.”

The book is part of a photo-documentary and exhibition that Neumeyer has created. 

“These image pairings in the book will show us what the community has preserved, as well as lost,” Neumeyer said.  “From this project, we seek to make people aware of how the forces of growth and change have impacted the city.  As such, it should also serve as a guide for future growth.”

Included in the collection are images of the Common Pleas Courthouse now a century and a half old, and still in use.   Other pairings show extraordinary historic homes, such as the Ellis-Wathen-Ranney home on North Main Street, now the site of a parking lot.

Neumeyer expressed his view that “with past and present images side by side, the reader gets a unique perspective, seeing what our early leaders built and preserved.  Here there is a sense of place and community.  There is an analogy to a family photo album where we follow children from infancy through adulthood.  With this Volume we can literally see the community grow and mature.”

Neumeyer used images from his personal collection, and from the Center for Regional History and Special Collections and Archives from Southeast Missouri State University.  All of the archive images are from hard copy originals rather than from electronic images. All modern images were taken in traditional film format.

The book is available at locations throughout Cape Girardeau and at the Center for Regional History at Southeast.

Neumeyer is a professional photographer who has previously produced other photo-documentaries.  He earned a bachelor of arts degree in communications at Southeast Missouri State and in addition to his photographic studio, teaches photography in the University’s continuing education program.  He served two terms as a member of the Cape Girardeau City Council and is a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Foundation and the Friends of the Library Foundation, as well as a number of other city and regional groups.

For more information, contact Dr. Frank Nickell, director of the Center for Regional History at Southeast Missouri State University, at (573) 651-2555 or fnickell@semo.edu or Tom Neumeyer at 25 S. Lorimier in Cape Girardeau at (573) 335-0449 or (573) 225-5633 or tomneumeyer@sbcglobal.net.