Maplewood History: Cape, Koester and Our First City Hall

Dr. Leander Cape began practicing medicine at 2700 Ellendale in the City of St. Louis in 1893. Obviously attracted to the rapidly growing community just to his west, in 1898 he built two commercial buildings at 7401-3 Hazel.  7401 Hazel, a turreted building on the NW corner of Hazel and Sutton, is mistakenly believed by some to have once housed Maplewood’s first city hall.  It never did.

In 1904 Cape purchased a fine home that had been constructed in 1900 by James Hardie on the SE corner of Sutton and Hazel now the site of a parking lot. This impressive residence was an early victim to the age of the automobile.  It was demolished to provide parking spaces for Bettendorf’s, one of our area’s first supermarkets.

Many in the area had been trying for years to generate interest in incorporation in order to provide for basic services such as police and fire protection, streets, sidewalks, water and sewers etc.  In January of 1908 a devastating fire at the Banner Lumber Company located at Manchester and Sutton made the need for fire protection impossible to ignore.

By March a petition had been filed for incorporation with the County Court. In the same month, Dr. Cape filed for a permit to construct two brick buildings at what would be 2737-39 Sutton. These two buildings would become the homes of our first City Hall and our Fire Department.

Maplewood was incorporated as a third class city on May 20, 1908.  The first meeting of the new city government was held in Dr. Cape’s brand new buildings on June 12 of that year.  They had been constructed by the contractor and builder, William Koester at a cost of $5,000.  He had built them start-to-finish in about 3 months.  Wow.

The first election was held in April 1909.  Dr. Cape and William Koester were both elected as councilmen.

The above information is from the research done by Matt Bivens in his splendid nomination of  the Dr. Leander Cape buildings to the National Register. These 6 adjacent buildings were the first in Maplewood to be listed in the National Register.  Woodside was next.

Dr. Cape’s home and office at 2700 Ellendale Place. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

Dr. Cape’s home with side entrance to his office at 7396 Hazel. This is the SE corner of Hazel and Sutton…now a parking lot. Courtesy of Mary Harper Hall.

Dr. Cape in his later years. This and the prior photo of his home have never been shown publicly before. Courtesy of Mary Harper Hall.  Ms. Hall is the granddaughter of William Harper, Mr. Cape’s son-in-law, owner of Harper’s Pharmacy.  Note that the photo appears to have been reversed.

The front elevation of the first city hall and firehouse drawn by William Koester. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

Mr. Koester, he of the winged roof. Photo from the 1909 Plat Book of St. Louis County.

Mr. Koester’s own home, built by him, just one block south of Dr. Cape’s home. Koester’s address was 7395 Flora on the corner of Flora and Sutton. The photo may be from 1939. This home has been meticulously restored by Jim, Beth and Jack Abeln. It is a true historic treasure. The urns in the front yard were from the 1904 World’s Fair but have been replaced by exact copies.  Note the wings on the roof that are still there. Photo courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

Maplewood’s finest with the first city hall and fire department buildings in the background. The 60 foot brick hose-drying tower is under construction. The fire hoses made of linen needed to be hung in order to dry and prevent rot. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

Undated photo of another crew. The building to the right is the first wood frame building that housed the Maplewood Mill and  Stair Works. It was replaced about 1926 by the still extant Mill building that sits at the back of the parking lot between Saratoga Lanes building and the building that now houses The Muddled Pig Restaurant.  Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

This is an enlarged image in the collection of the Maplewood Public Library. It was originally a postcard produced by H.H.Bregstone, St. Louis.  It is undated but as one can see the hose tower has been completed.

12 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Cape, Koester and Our First City Hall

  1. The image of Doctor Cape is a photograph that I took of the original which was donated to our collection by Mary Harper Hall. I included the photographer’s handwriting on the mount and on the negative just to add interest.

  2. Maplewood is blessed to have such a rich photographic resources, thanks largely to your collecting. Regarding the picture of Dr. Cape, if look at the picture in a mirror, he appears to be writing with his left hand, which seems unlikely in those days. My guess is that the photographer marked the wrong side of the negative before the print was made. The notation on the album page at the bottom seems to be right side up, although I can’t say that I can read it, except for the last word “City”

    • Do you think people just started to be left handed in recent years? I have a long line of family members that were left handed no matter how hard teachers tried to make them right handed! Shame on you for even pointing it out and implying that it is bad to be left handed.

      • My dad (born in 1930) was taught to write right-handed regardless of being left handed. During his school days many kids were forced to write right-handed because that was “correct”. I’m glad teachers don’t do that now. I think it is rude to publicly scold someone for stating a situation that was unfortunately common in the past. Does anybody know if Dr. Cape was right or left handed?

      • Interesting. I read the comment as completely neutral, no implication of shame whatsoever. The only inference to be drawn was perhaps that children were all encouraged to write with the right hand. Anyone left-handed (and yes, I have plenty of personal experience) knows how messy, awkward, frustrating and difficult writing with the left hand can be.
        Very clever, Tom Bartholow, using the vest fabric and buttonholes to verify whether the photo has been flipped (in this photo, the orientation is correct for a man’s vest)

        • I agree with Claire’s comment. I also agree that Tom is very clever as he has shown many times in the past.

    • The album page reads “Schilling / Kansas City, M[…]” and so agrees with the photo studio mark in the corner of the print. I’d offer that one good way to know the orientation of the subject is to look at how the buttons on his vest fasten. 😉