by Michael R. Allen
At about 8:30 p.m. on August 8, I was driving toward downtown on I-64/40 and saw a huge gray smoke cloud against the also-gray night sky. I noticed bright orange flames reaching skyward. I took the Grand Avenue exit and headed north, then west until I pinpointed the location near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Taylor.
I arrived near the building at 8:38 p.m., passing two newly-burnt buildings on the way (the damage on both was anywhere from one day to one week old). When I got close, I watched firefighters battling an intense blaze behind a two-story commercial building west of the corner of Newstead Avenue and MLK. The address of the building is 4416-22 Martin Luther King Boulevard.
I left because I could not get close enough to see the building well, and the smoke on the ground was thick enough to preclude good viewing from the sidewalk.
I tuned in various AM radio stations, hoping to catch a breaking news report. Nothing. Later tonight, I watched the local television news reports on KMOV Channel 4 and KSDK Channel 5. There were stories of suburban fires, but none about this one. I had spotted a helicopter circling the fire and had assumed it contained a television news camera person.
I just searched the websites of those stations as well as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and located no stories about the fire. I did, however, find stories about fires at the following north city locations within the last 48 hours:
The building at 4416-24 Martin Luther King Boulevard on August 10, 2005. Photograph by Claire Nowak-Boyd.
I returned to the fire on MLK the next day and also did some research.
The building that burned was a two-story commercial building at the rear of 4416-22 Martin Luther King. I write “rear” because the building that burned down was not originally attached to the storefront building that faces Martin Luther King and was only joined with a crude connector — good news for the building, I suppose.
Looking toward the fire damaged one-story building on August 9, 2005. We could not get any closer per the work crew’s presence. Photograph by Michael R. Allen.
The rear building was reduced to a pile of rubble and only a few sections of the outer brick walls stand, none higher than eight feet.
Saint Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church owns the buildings. Who knows what will become of the two-story building, with its graceful Union Foundry cast iron storefront columns and elegant lines. (Note the already-removed cornice and the odd-sized window sills.)
UPDATE: DEMOLISHED, DECEMBER 2006