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Cape wins main street grant

Old Town Cape was one of the winners of the national Vote Your Main Street Campaign, winning a grant of $127,650 to revitalize the recently named Ivers Square in Cape Girardeau.

“Being up against the likes of Hollywood, Washington D.C., and Cincinnati, it would have been an honor just to be nominated,” Parker Butler, resource development specialist for Old Town Cape, said. “To come out here and win is pretty incredible.”

The winners were determined by the number of votes they received on the National Geographic Travel Web site. The public was able to vote up to five times a day, from Sept. 25 to Oct. 31.

Cape Girardeau received 52,864 of the more than 920,000 votes nationwide. Only the top 10 out of 25 main street projects received funding, and the Ivers Square project received the eighth-highest number of votes.

“It’s just absolutely overwhelming the way the community responded to this, and there’s no possible way it could have been done without them,” Butler said. “People got excited — they came out and they voted. We’ve been very grateful for that.”

The grant will be used to improve the recently named Ivers Square, which is on the grounds of the Common Pleas Courthouse in downtown Cape Girardeau. Butler said the most important aspect of their newly-funded project is to honor the square’s new namesake.

“James Ivers was a slave who, upon receiving his freedom, registered for the Union Army so he could go fight for the freedom of others. He declared for the Union Army there on the front steps of the Common Pleas Courthouse, so it’s a place that really encapsulates the American dream — the idea of freedom.“

Signage that tells the story of the Ivers family is planned, as well as new park benches and trash cans to enhance the park’s esthetic, landscaping improvements and repairs to the fountain at the site. What many consider the centerpiece of the project is the restoration to the existing bandstand gazebo by adding a new roof.

“We have some historic pictures of that, and we want to really make it look like it did 100 years ago,” Butler said. “We also want to make some lighting and electrical enhancements, so the gazebo can be used for a variety of things.”

The gazebo was originally built in 1931 for concert performances and served as a stage for politicians like Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. The gazebo also was a key location for the film, “Gone Girl.”

Butler said now that they know they have funding, there will need to be some planning before construction can begin.

“The next step for us is most likely going to be meeting with some engineers to determine how exactly that roof is going to be built,” Butler said. “[We need to determine] if it can go on the existing posts on the gazebo or if it’s going to have to be built as an auxiliary structure.”

Construction is planned to begin in January and be completed before the Tunes at Twilight season begins in May. Parker said they are thrilled to be able to restore the historic land, which may not have received the care it deserved otherwise.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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