JOHN L.E. BOARDMAN, ARCHITECT (1926-1999)
John L.E. Boardman was an accomplished architect and artist who left a mark on Southeast Missouri, particularly in Cape Girardeau where he lived and worked until his death in 1999. Boardman was born in Sikeston in 1926 and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II as part of the V-6 program at then Southeast Missouri State Teachers College. After completing his degree in architectural engineering at Iowa State University, where he graduated summa cum laude with architectural honors and was ranked first in his class of architectural engineering, he began a career that spanned nearly half a century. During that time, Boardman designed or renovated over 500 houses and buildings in Southeast Missouri.
Boardman’s architectural work from the 1950s through the 60s, particularly his mid-century prairie designs, hold cultural significance and are exceptional examples of their time. Examples of his work during this period include the 1952 Rusby’s Ranch, which features “Tennessee stone” cladding, pine ceilings, and terrazzo floors, as well as the Chapman House, built in 1963, which utilized limestone throughout and incorporated more sophisticated design elements due to its construction on a steep slope and use of a walk-out basement. Boardman’s ability to seamlessly blend aesthetics and functionality in his designs, as seen in these and other projects, established him as a leading architect of his time.
Known for his distinctive hand and originality, and his designs always had a focus on aesthetics. Before starting a project, he would always ask the client where they planned to put their Christmas tree, a detail he believed was essential to a well-designed home. His fascination with aesthetics extended beyond architecture to all aspects of his life, including art and even cars. He was an accomplished stone sculptor and artist, and his artwork and tangible architectural interpretations are a testament to his passion for both fields.
Boardman was also a committed believer in civic responsibility and served on countless boards and commissions throughout his career. He was the president of the Southeast Missouri State University Museum Board and a commissioner of the Cape Girardeau Historic Preservation Commission. At the time of his death, he served on the accreditation committee of the Department of Interior Design at Southeast Missouri State University.
Boardman’s legacy is visible throughout Cape Girardeau, particularly in restorations downtown. He lived and worked in the building that now houses the restaurant Celebrations, which he renovated himself. Boardman’s ability to balance aesthetics and functionality in his designs set his work apart, and his contributions to the fields of architecture and art will continue to be felt for generations to come.
- Boardman grew up in Sikeston and played clarinet in a swing band while attending Southeast Missouri State University.
- After serving in the Navy in World War II, he went to Iowa State University, graduating with honors from the School of Architecture in 1950. His graduating project was a design for a Mars skyscraper he called a “Marscraper.”
- Boardman was an innovator with different materials, said Cape Girardeau architect Tom Holshouser, who worked for him for six years. He recalled Boardman’s design of a Bowling Green, Ky., Lutheran church where the congregation was small and had little money. Boardman found bargain building materials in bricks that had stuck together when the kiln where they were made shut down.
- During their 22-year marriage, John and Evelyn Boardman lived in 11 different houses in Cape Girardeau, all of them renovation projects he wanted to undertake.
- As talented an architect as Boardman was, he was even more passionate about creating art. He left behind hundreds and hundreds of paintings and sculptures.