Blog: The lagoon has already been drained, 1932 (10/18/22)

It seems to me that for most of last summer, the lagoon at Capaha Park looked like a deep, dusty sinkhole. I won’t dwell on the recent history of the lake’s renovation, but I will say, I hope the project soon comes to a happy conclusion, with all the improvements we have been promised.

But lest we get too impatient with the ongoing works in Capaha Park, let’s remember that this is not the first time the lagoon has been drained and dredged. At least twice since the pond was originally dug in 1901-02, it has seen plans to deepen its basin and restore its banks. In both cases, problems arose after the projects were completed, resulting in additional expense and manpower.

In 1932, the lagoon was dredged as part of a city-run project, while the 1962 renovation was a joint effort of the city and the Cape Girardeau Exchange Club.

In this week’s blog, we’ll look at the work done in 1932. Next week’s column will cover the 1962 project.

This 1939 photograph taken from Southeastern Hospital shows the Capaha Park Lagoon six years after it was first dredged by the city. On the hill to the left are the remains of the Japanese cherry trees planted in 1929. To the right is the old wooden grandstand, with the baseball diamond in front. Also to the right, at the edge of the photograph, is the Academic Hall. (GD Fronabarger ~ Southeast Missouri Archives)

Posted September 13, 1932 in southeastern Missouri:


Wonders of the depths!

They are revealed in the drainage of Fairground Park’s lagoon which City Commissioner Louis Wittmor says needs to be turned into a “decent sized” lake for decent sized fish and other water dwellers. But what wonders – a car full of bottles, two other cars full of tin cans, an assortment of automobile tires, buckets, shoes and other things buried in the mud and silt of 30 years of deposit.

The rest of the water is to be emptied from the lagoon on Wednesday and the fish transported to the municipal swimming pool, which has been filled for their express benefit. The fish will be fed until the lagoon is deepened and filled, Commissioner Wittmor said. It is believed that there are fish in the lagoon that any angler would be proud to land, but they have never been caught.

When the last part of the water is drained from the place, it will be the first time since the mud bed has been exposed to view in 30 years. This is how the lagoon was built a long time ago, a project attempted by a group of businessmen from Girardeau. Sixteen years ago, the city, through a bond issue, purchased the land and built the park.

Over the years, the lagoon has undergone some changes. A strip of land once running through its center has been removed. The people of Girardy also remember the years past when parachutists, jumping from the first planes and balloons exhibited at departmental fairs, missed their guess and landed, up to their necks in cold water. Commissioner Wittmor said today the lagoon will be around 6ft deep when completed. The soil from this will be used to level the southwest corner of the park. Game will inhabit its waters.

Published March 16, 1933 in the Southeastern Missourian:



The capacity of the Fairgrounds lagoon has been doubled by the excavation work carried out since the start of the deepening project last September. The pond, when filled, will hold just over 6,000,000 gallons of water, up from 3,000,000 gallons before the deepening process began.

Leveling of the excavated lagoon soil began today by a team of men under the direction of City Commissioner Louis Wittmor. Four teams were used with graders in the southwest corner of the park, where the earth was piled up after being excavated from the lagoon.

Before the pond is filled, it will again be emptied of the surface water that has accumulated there and a search for the roots of water lilies will be carried out. This is done to prevent a recurrence of their growth. Before the pond was drained for the first time, the lilies had practically taken over.

Deeper in places

The excavation amounted to approximately 13,000 cubic meters of earth. The average depth of the place will now be about 6 1/2 feet, with gradual depth ranging from a few inches to 10 feet, the deepest part being on the east side. The size of the pond, which is about 250 feet in average width and 500 feet in length, has not been increased.

The large amount of dirt taken from the pond and piled up in the southwest corner of the park will be leveled, causing it to park between 2 and 3 feet higher there. Commissioner Wittmor said he was not considering any planting in this part of the park, but would likely reserve it for additional playgrounds.

The place is big enough for a baseball diamond, Commissioner Wittmor said.

To push back the fish

When the lagoon has been filled with water from the spring rains, the fish from the municipal swimming pool will be brought back. They have been kept in the pool since early last fall and are fed daily by Park Keeper JA Slover.

Commissioner Wittmor said he had no specific plans in mind for further development of the park. He said the park should start to come into its own this year with the flowering of more than 200 Japanese cherry trees, established four years ago. Over the past year, several of the trees have been transplanted, with some of them being placed at the Normal Avenue entrance to the park. Most of the trees are on a slope on the west side of the park.

Commissioner Wittmor said the cost of the project was being compiled.

Published April 14, 1933 in southeastern Missouri:


The fish, which have been in the municipal pool at the fairgrounds since last September, will likely be moved to their former home in the park’s lagoon next week weather permitting, City Commissioner Louis Wittmor said today. . The recent rains have partly filled the lagoon with water and all that remains is to level the earth extracted from the bed of the lagoon, then to develop it. The rains prevented this work from being done.

An interesting feature of the transfer of fish will be their number. Plus, they’ve grown since they were placed in the pool. Some of them weigh around 2 pounds and there are hundreds of small ones. Park warden JA Slover feeds them daily and at that time they create quite a disturbance on the surface of the water.

Daylilies were a recurring problem in the lagoon. In July 1933, long after the project was completed, a newspaper article stated that the lilies were growing again in the pond. A representative from the United States Department of Agriculture recommended that City Commissioner Louis Wittmor drain the lagoon and dig up the lilies, roots and all. However, this was the plan followed in the spring, which resulted in the plants “growing more luxuriously than before”.

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