Through funds advanced by the Carnegie Corporation, and supplemented by local contributions, Cape Girardeau Public Library opened its doors at its Common Pleas Courthouse Park location on April 1, 1922. Efforts to start a public library began at the turn of the century and in 1914 a library was opened in the Ellingood building at the corner of Themis and Spanish streets. World War I stopped efforts to build a Carnegie library here, but they were renewed after the conflict and resulted in this $30,000 structure. An addition was constructed at the front of the building in 1959. It served its original purpose until 1980, when a new library was built on Clark Street and the old facility was converted into government office space. (Southeast Missourian photo by G. D. Fronabarger) This story and photo appear in the book “Images of the Past in the City of Roses: Cape Girardeau, Missouri” Copyright 1993 Southeast Missourian Newspaper. In February 2007, voters of the Municipal Library District of Cape Girardeau voted a $.15 tax increase to build and equip a new state-of-the-art Destination Library. The new library was designed by The Clark Enersen Partners of Lincoln, Nebraska and was constructed by Kiefner Brothers Construction Company. The doors to the new facility were opened on May 16, 2009.
The River Theme
The architecture of the new library took its inspiration from the Mississippi River. At the Library’s Grand opening, Architect Lowell Berg of Clark Enersen Partners offered a succinct description of the river elements that may be found in the building.
“On the outside of the building there are three different brick colors…a color stratification similar to the banks of the Mississippi. The outside facades of the building include bands of limestone…representing high water marks from history’s many flood events. The flaring out at the high roofs are evocative of the flared smokestacks of the paddlewheel steamships that used to travel the river. As you look at the window walls, the blue glass at the middle is the river, the higher yellow glass, the sun. The river also metaphorically flows through the building. In the main circulation spine traveling west, you will see it in the wall behind the service counter, and in the carpet that is visually active, like sun reflecting off moving water. Or, in the blue glass tile that climbs up the bottom of the walls as if wakes are hitting the bank; a bank that is represented by limestone above the tiles. On top of the limestone bank, bamboo paneling is the forest, vertical and sepia like the trunks of trees. Above the river is a cloud ceiling, and at night, the layout of the can lights in the cloud accurately represent the constellations.”