This House, This Town: One Couple’s Love Affair with an Old House and a Historic Town has been published by Copperdome Books, an imprint of Southeast Missouri State University Press.
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., April 1, 2010 – In 2003, Dr. Robert Hamblin, professor of English at Southeast Missouri State University, and his wife Kaye purchased and moved into a century-old, deteriorating Victorian house in downtown Cape Girardeau. Over the next several months, they restored the house, researched its history, and placed it on the National Register of Historic Places.And now they have produced a book about their adventure.This House, This Town: One Couple’s Love Affair with an Old House and a Historic Town has been published by Copperdome Books, an imprint of Southeast Missouri State University Press. A book launch to celebrate its release will be held at the Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp II Museum at the River Campus on Friday, April 30, from 4 to 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. The Hamblins’ book will be available for purchase and signing.The book is a collaborative effort of the Hamblins. Husband and wife together conducted the research — Robert wrote the narrative and Kaye supplied more than 40 photographs to illustrate the story.“The book started out to be a small chapbook about the history of the house,” Robert said. “But as we came more and more to enjoy living in downtown Cape Girardeau close to the river, and to appreciate the fascinating history of Old Town Cape, the book grew into a memoir about our impressions and experiences.” In its mixture of personal narrative, communal history, advocacy of historic preservation, and humor, the book, Kaye says, is “unlike any you’ve ever read.”“This book is truly unique,” said Dr. Susan Swartwout, the director of the Southeast University Press and editor of the manuscript. “The Hamblins have written their family’s stories within the tales of a house and tales of Cape Girardeau. They complement and regenerate one another like the rings of a hearty oak tree.”The house, with its Queen Anne architecture and signature wrap-around porch and balcony, is located at 313 Themis Street, a half-block from the Common Pleas Courthouse. Known primarily as the “Harrison House” because three generations of the William Henry Harrison family (of the Himmelberger-Harrison business connection) lived in it, the house was built in 1897 for Samuel Harris, a local physician who, late in his life, became the Cape Girardeau postmaster, and his wife Julia Russell Harris.The designing architect was Jerome Legg of St. Louis, who also designed Academic Hall and other buildings on the Southeast campus, as well as the Oliver-Leming house at 740 North Street. Legg also designed the historic courthouses for St. Charles and Ste. Genevieve counties and restored the Common Pleas Courthouse in Cape Girardeau.In addition to information on the house and its restoration, This House, This Town includes chapters on such local landmarks as the Common Pleas Courthouse, Old Lorimier Cemetery and the Mississippi River. There are also chapters based on interviews with local citizens, like Bert and Mary Ann Kellerman, who have been heavily involved in the preservation and development of downtown Cape, and Jerry Ford, who remembers what Cape Girardeau was like when he was a boy. The Hamblins hope the book will make a strong case for the importance of historic preservation, not only, Robert adds, “just of buildings and landmarks but of the stories that bind a community together.”