The Red House Interpretive Center is located in downtown Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Originally built in 1797 by community founder and French-Canadian, Louis Lorimier, the structure overlooks the banks of the Missouri River. Although the original building was destroyed by a tornado in 1850, the site was rebuilt in 2003 thanks to many volunteers using the poteaux-sur-solle (“post-on-sil”) technique once favored by French settlers.
In the early 19th Century, the “red house” was the best-known trading post between St. Louis, MO, and Memphis, TN. It also served as a fledgling community and government center for the area. In November of 1803, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark stopped to visit with Lorimier’s family and purchase supplies for the expedition ahead.
The reconstructed house displays several exhibits depicting the lives of the area’s early settlers. Visitors can peruse 19th-century merchandise in Lorimier’s Trading Post or visit the Lorimier Room to see how a home of this period may have been decorated. In the Girardeau Room, a large map of the territory under the control of Don Louis Lorimier for the Spanish Government is on display. Visitors can also walk through the Historic Gardens on the north side of the house which contains flowers, vegetables, and herbs typical of a garden in 1803.
Today, the Red House Interpretive Center is maintained by the City of Cape Girardeau and is open to visitors from May to October. Admission is free.