Maplewood History: In memory of Alice Harper, a short history of Harper’s Pharmacy

 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.

In this undated photo of the Maplewood Loop(as it was known), the turreted building, first home of Harper Pharmacy,can be seen.  Directly to the right is the rear of Dr. Cape's home now a parking lot on the SE corner of Hazel and Sutton.

Maplewood Public Library

In this undated photo of the Maplewood Loop (as it was then known), the turreted building, first home of Harper's Pharmacy, can be seen. Directly to the right is the rear of Dr. Cape's home now a parking lot on the SE corner of Hazel and Sutton.

This image is of either the Pharmacist William Harper or Dr. Cape.  I don't know which.

Alice Harper

This image is of either the Pharmacist William Harper or Dr. Cape. I don't know which.

Dr. Cape

Courtesy of Ken Massey

Dr. Cape

Dr. Cape's home seen from Hazel looking south.  This beautiful home was an early casualty of the rise of the automobiles.  it was razed in the 1940's to clear parking for the Bettendorf's Supermarket.

Maplewood Public Library

Dr. Cape's home seen from Hazel looking south. This beautiful home was an early casualty of the rise of the automobiles. It was razed in the 1940's to clear parking for the first Bettendorf's Supermarket.

A view looking east of Dr.Cape's home and office.

Maplewood Public Library

A view looking east of Dr.Cape's home and office.

The first Bettendorf's Supermarket in 1930.  Located at 2808-12 Sutton just north of the Cape/Harper building.

Mary Harper Hall

The first Bettendorf's Supermarket in 1930. Located at 2808-12 Sutton just north of the Cape/Harper building.

The Cape/Harper building, the second home of Harper Pharmacy in 1930.  This photo and the one prior or sections of a wonderful panoramic photo given to our collection at the Maplewood Public Library by Mary Harper Hall.

Mary Harper Hall

The Cape/Harper building, the second home of Harper's Pharmacy, in 1930. This photo and the one prior are sections of a wonderful panoramic photo given to our collection at the Maplewood Public Library by Mary Harper Hall.

The Cape/Harper building in 2010.

Doug Houser

The Cape/Harper building in 2010.

6 thoughts on “Maplewood History: In memory of Alice Harper, a short history of Harper’s Pharmacy

  1. Love the history of our neighborhood! Really fuels my hope that the property lands a new business that brings that building back to life!

    • Amen, Andrew. My next post will be of more photos of the interior of Harper’s Pharmacy. It is a landmark building with a nearly intact historic pharmacy inside. I’m worried that the next update may compromise that historic interior.

  2. Beautiful write-up, Doug. Thanks for the history……again. I’d like the PDF you mentioned in the article. In what form did you take down your notes on Alice Harper….notebook, tape recorder, your memory? Hoping that you will put down as much of this Maplewood history as you can in Maplewood, Missouri, Volume 2….that didn’t get into your first volume.

    • Thanks, Sherman. I have a few notes but mostly I rely on the computer and memory. Any physical notes I have I can’t usually find them when I want them. Thanks for your interest in a second Maplewood history book. It’s on my mind. I’ve created a body of work with these blog posts. It’s distressing to me that they disappear almost as fast as I can make them. In the end the old hard copy might be one of the best storage devices we’ve invented.