Alice Harper, a long time Maplewood resident and member of the prominent Harper family, proprietors of Harper’s Pharmacy has just recently passed away. I had the good fortune to meet Alice once in 2008 while doing research for the Maplewood history book commemorating the 100th anniversary of our incorporation.
Alice had sold her family’s home at 7378 Hazel and was living in an apartment at Laclede Forest on Laclede Station Road. She generously shared with me her historic family photos and patiently explained her family history which I am repeating below as a tribute to her.
Alice’s passing should remind us all that these older folks have had interesting and very different life experiences. Get to know them while you can. It’s too late to ask Alice any more questions.
Alice’s grandfather, William H. Harper moved to Maplewood in 1904. In 1913 he married Gertrude Cape, daughter of Dr. Leander and Mrs. Cape*, and opened his pharmacy at the corner of Hazel and Sutton.
The 1912 Directory of the City of Maplewood lists four Harpers living at 7373 Flora, “Dr. Jno G, physician, Hannah, steno, Mary H, tchr, and Will H, sales”. The same directory also lists three Capes, “Dr. LW, phy, and Mrs, cor Hazel and Sutton and Gertrude Lee, piano tchr,” same address.
By 1924, William Harper had prospered enough to move into the new Cape/Harper building with his father-in-law, Dr. Cape. The building still exists with the original spectacular cabinetry at the corner of Maple and Sutton. It recently sprouted a sign that indicates a search for new tenants.
In 1935, young Bill Harper joined the business with his father. Bill increased the section of the store devoted to cameras and equipment and eventually concentrated only on that.
When I moved to Maplewood in 1975, Harper’s Pharmacy was still a camera store with a drive up window on the Maple side. Very handy to drop off film and pick up prints and I used it many times. Syl Beletz, another long time Maplewood resident, purchased his Speed Graphic camera there quite a while before I came along. He used it to take aerial photos but that’s another story.
Bill’s daughter, Mary Harper Hall, has also contributed generously to our historic photo inventory.
Harper’s Pharmacy occupies an important spot in the history of our community and has left us a landmark building to protect. May you rest in peace, Alice.
*I should mention that there exists an excellent history of Dr. Cape and his buildings by the well-known area expert in most things related to historic preservation, Matt Bivens. This can be found on the site of our state historic preservation office (SHPO), National Register listings, St. Louis County, Dr. Leander Cape buildings or I’ll be happy to forward the PDF to anyone who asks.