Founded more than 200 years ago, Cape Girardeau, Missouri (population 37,000) began as a tiny trading post along the Mississippi River, established by Jean Girardot in 1733. 

In 1793, French-Canadian Louis Lorimier came to the area from Ohio, commissioned by the Spanish Governor General to establish a military post. He welcomed Lewis and Clark on their way to St. Louis for their journey into the unknown West. 

In 1806, the city was platted and in 1808 incorporated into a town. With the arrival of the steamboat in 1835, Cape Girardeau became a regional trading and distribution center, the largest between St. Louis and Memphis. 

Cape Girardeau experienced significant growth in the mid 1800s with the establishment of public education, the introduction of rail service, and advances in agriculture and industry. Today, Cape Girardeau is a regional center for education, commerce, and medical care, attracting an estimated 90,000 people daily. 

The River Campus of Southeast Missouri State University dates back to 1843, with the construction of St. Vincent’s College on the banks of the Mississippi. The school closed in 1980, and was purchased by the university in 1998. It reopened in 2007 with its structures reconfigured and their historic nature preserved. The college, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, includes the seminary chapel, which has been converted into a music recital hall, has had its original stained glass windows restored. 

Cape Girardeau has 23 buildings listed on the National Register and five listed Historic Districts. The Red House Interpretive Center commemorates the life of Louis Lorimier and Lewis and Clark’s visit in 1803. Each year in May, a living history encampment is held at Fort D, a Civil War Fort built in 1861.

Designated a Preserve America Community in January 2008.


For more information

City of Cape Girardeau Historic Sites

Convention and Visitors Bureau