Here we are in the 20th century! The turn of the century was also a major turning point for the Third District Normal School, with huge changes and rapid growth occurring in the first ten years of the 1900s. Around the world, technology began to progress. The first flight was taken in 1903, and the very first Model T was invented in 1908. Here in Cape Girardeau, things were moving on the hill as well.


Campus shifts

By the time 1910 rolled around the Normal School had added a number of buildings to their campus. The biggest achievement was built out of a great tragedy.

On April 7, 1902, the Third District Normal School burned. What had been the cornerstone of campus since 1873 was destroyed. Washington Dearmont (college president) and Louis Houck (Board of Regents president) quickly went into action. The pair got approval for students to continue to have classes at various buildings around the community. When it was done, the college students missed just one day of class. Over the next year, construction on Academic Hall would begin. To this day, Academic Hall towers over campus and welcomes students to Southeast. The building was completed in 1905 and at the time, it was the largest public building in the entire state. 

The school had also procured funding for additional improvements to campus. In 1903, a training school building opened, now known as Art Building. The Science Hall was also completed in 1903, eventually becoming known as A.S.J. Carnahan Hall. 

Showing Off

During the summer of 1905, college president Washington Strother Dearmont was giving a group of friends a tour of the Academic Hall construction site. After all, it was a big deal. 

The watchman on shift at the site asked the individuals to leave twice, informing them no one was allowed in the building after 6 p.m. With no response both times, the watchman struck Dearmont. His injuries kept him home for several weeks. The watchman was eventually acquitted of assault charges.

Constantly Growing

In addition to a growing campus, the student population was growing and changing as the 1900s started. In fact, the school had grown so much by 1900 that the state approved $20,000 to build a science hall on campus. That's almost three quarters of a million dollars in today's money. 

In 1904, Southeast fielded its very first football team. Just three years later, the Marching Band formed. The Normal School added two new dormitories on the south side of Normal Avenue. Students began taking a required one-year of physical training for two hours a week. For the first time, caps and gowns were approved for students to wear during commencement. 

They even worked to make it easier to access campus. The streets we know today were not paved or marked in the early 20th century. In 1906, they put gravel down on Pacific Street between Broadway and Normal to help ease of access. 

1904 World's Fair

The 1904 St. Louis World Fair was a big deal, and some of the pieces from the event still exist as a big part of the University today. Board of Regents president Louis Houck purchased 60 art pieces by August Gerber of Germany while in attendance in 1904, donating them to the Third District Normal School. At the time, they were put on display in Academic Hall. Now, the sculptures can be found in the Aleen Vogel Wehking Alumni Center's : Kem Statuary Hall. The collection represents examples of medieval, Renaissance and modern sculptures housed in European Museums. 

Houck also purchased and donated a formal table that became the Board of Regents' original table.  

What's Happening From 1900-1909?

  • 1900 - Hawaii becomes a U.S. territory
  • 1901 - First ever Nobel prizes are awarded
  • 1902 - The first electric air conditioning unit is invented 
  • 1903 - The Wright brothers take their first flight
  • 1904 - Construction on the Panama Canal begins
  • 1908 - Ford Motor Co. invents the Model T
  • 1909 - William Howard Taft is inaugurated as president

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