The Gem Theatre opened its doors in 1910, and seated 685.
A fire in 1934 completely gutted the theatre, and it was rebuilt two years later in Art Deco style, including a new, elegant marquee. The Gem Theatre continued to operate for nearly another half century, before it was closed in 1978. On January 26, 1979 the Cairo Historic District, including the Gem Theater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Sadly, many of the buildings included in that district have fallen to the wrecking ball in the last 5-10 years.
As you can see from the pictures above, the last 5 years has not been particularly kind to the Gem Theatre. As buildings surrounding it have fallen to the wrecking ball, a giant tree now grows out of the side, bursting through the brick wall of the Gem.
McClure (population approximately 200) is located in Alexander County near Cape Girardeau, Missouri. McClure sits about a mile southeast of the Mississippi River on Illinois Route 3. The Old Prairie Creek flows through the center of McClure. The area was first settled in 1836 and a post office there was named “Clear Creek Landing”. The town was later officially recognized and the name changed to “Wheatland” in 1887. The name of the town was changed to McClure in 1895 in honor of a man named J.T. McClure.
In 1938, McClure High School was built through an effort by the Public Works Administration. The school districts of McClure, Wolf Lake and Grand Tower consolidated around the mid-1950’s into the Shawnee School District. After the three districts merged the high school waslocated in Wolf Lake in Union County. McClure then became an elementary school. In September of 2013, after nearly 10 years of pushed back plans, ground was broken on a new Shawnee Consolidated Elementary School and McClure which had been operating as Shawnee Elementary School-South would close at the end of the 2012-13 school year.
When the school closed it was home to 76 students in grades Kindergarten through 4th.
This truss bridge carries old Illinois state route 3 over Sexton Creek near the community of Gale in northern Alexander County, Illinois.
The bridge was constructed in 1933 and bypassed by the reconstruction of state route 3 to the west in 1990.
The bridge is 337 feet long and 23 feet wide. It was rehabilitated in 2011
This bridge is elegible to be considered to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Southern Medical Center of Cairo was located near the center of the city at the intersection of Cross Street and Cedar Street.
The hospital was originally opened in 1958 as St Mary’s Hospital. In 1986 the hospital was forced to close its doors and the town has been without a hospital ever since.
When it closed in the mid-1980’s, the buildings were poorly secured. EPA crews found crumbling asbestos piping and floor surfaces containing asbestos, containers of unidentified chemicals and medical equipment containing small amounts of mercury. Medications and medical records were scattered among debris found in the building. Cleanup of this began in April of 2007.
Cleanup wrapped up in September of 2007. Since that time a Medical office across the street has been demolished as well as a part of the hospital which was used for storing medical wastes. It has long been rumored that the hospital will meet with the wrecking ball soon.
Two of my most fascinating and intruiging abandoned discoveries were by complete accident. McDowell County, West Virginia and Cairo, Illinois.
The first time I arrived in Cairo was in 2012 on spring break. I was headed for the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Little did I know the treasure trove of historical matter I was about to stumble upon. The town, just like McDowell County did, has stuck with me since and I often find myself wondering about the history, current state and future of a town I have no ties to whatsoever.
Cairo is the southern-most settlement in the state of Illinois, it lies right at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers right at the corner of the state where Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky all meet. The town has been subject to a turbulent history which has lead to a steep decline in population. The town was founded in 1858. The population peaked during the 1920 census at over 15,000 people. By 1980 that number had fallen to 5,931. The 2015 US census estimate puts the total at 2,467. Thats a decline of just under 85% in less than 100 years.
What happened? What went wrong? For that information I am going to link you up to my buddy Sherman Cahal’s blog entry covering Cairo and its decline. His article can be found by clicking HERE.
The former Famous-Barr Department Store building sat on the vaccant lot to the left of the van in this picture. That building was still standing when I was here in the spring of 2012. Oddly enough, so was that van.
The post office is proof of the scope and size of Cairo in its original form.
As are the wide streets all through the town that are mostly bare. The main street even included a rail car of some kind at sometime. The rail is still visible in the brick street. What few buildings are left standing in the Cairo business district are overgrown with trees and have fallen into a state of decay that is almost beyond repair. The really sad part about this is that much of the business district of Cairo has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/120051008@N03/32458816573/in/dateposted-public/” title=”Cairo, Illinois (March 2017)”> Over the next few weeks I will have several entries on this blog focusing on several landmarks in the city that are still standing, including an abandoned school and the abandoned hospital that has been closed for over 30 years.
Until then, please enjoy these pictures from around Cairo.