Renovations on a riverfront-facing building in downtown Cape Girardeau have revealed an aged, full mural that, once upon a time, belonged to local business Dempsey Grocer Co.
According to Old Town Cape, 127 Water St. has seen its fair share of restaurants and other businesses over the years, but its first owner - an Irish immigrant named Patrick Dempsey - broke ground in 1870. It served for several years as a trading post, but after growing into a full grocery store, played a substantial role in the transport of goods along the Mississippi River.
The current project took down part of the building and a tall, fenced patio last week and revealed a swath of red and black painted brick, which appear to illustrate arched doorways. Above it: painted-on letters “Dempsey Grocer Co.” and a “Gooch’s Best Flour” logo.
“We thought it would be a fun idea to go get a picture of it and post it [on Facebook], not really thinking a whole lot about it.” says Old Town Cape communications coordinator, Jordyn Ruble. The said post garnered immediate attention, and four days later, has reached almost 30,000 people on Facebook.
“People were really interested in learning a lot more about it, and along the way we learned a few things from the people who commented as well,” says Ruble.
Some people shared that the mural wasn’t completely covered as Old Town Cape had originally thought, but was simply hidden from a Water Street pedestrian’s view. Now that it’s down, Ruble says it’s a much clearer picture.
According to Ruble’s research, Dempsey Grocer Co. closed in 1934, and is one of only two remaining buildings from that era in Cape Girardeau. It also earned a listing on the National Register of Historic places in 2000.
Although Old Town Cape would like to see the mural preserved, they’re not sure what developers and the current owners of the building - Drs. Paul and Dawn Caruso - are planning to do with it.
Nevertheless, Old Town Cape thinks it’s a great accompaniment to the current and future development of Water Street.
“It’s right there where the riverfront is, and that’s a huge focal point of our city,” says Ruble. “[The mural] gives us a glimpse into the beginning of Cape Girardeau.”
This discovery has sparked the curiosity of locals, now collectively asking: are there more murals to be uncovered in downtown Cape Girardeau? Ruble’s answer: “absolutely.”
“I wouldn’t doubt it at all,” says Ruble. “That would be a fun thing for somebody to do - to go and scour our downtown and figure out where all of these ghost signs are.”