by Michael R. Allen
LOCATION: 1516 E. 14th Street; Old North St. Louis; Saint Louis, Missouri
EARLIER NAME: Anderson Motor Service Company
DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: c. 1930
DATE OF FIRE: September 15, 2005
OWNER: Khaled Salameh
The former Anderson Motor Service Company building at 14th and Cass — last named the St. Louis Bus Maintenance Center — is now ruined by fire. Here is a not very extraordinary building brought down through extraordinary circumstances: a spectacular and mysterious early morning blaze detected at 7:30 a.m. on September 15, just weeks after the covert demolition of its beautiful next-door neighbor, the former Crunden Branch Library. The St. Louis Fire Department calls the fire, which took two hours to douse and seemed concentrated in the south end of the building, “suspicious.” The long-vacant building, originally a service garage for trucks and finally a bus maintenance center, contained asbestos as well as residue from various vehicle fuels and fluids, all of which made for a long-lived and smoky fire.
We were shocked that the building would go up in flames after the surprise demolition of the Crunden Branch, news of which was very distressing. With various players in Ward 5 pushing redevelopment of the entire block through demolition, no one expected either building to survive much longer. Few would have predicted that each would come down so abruptly after rumors began, and in such proximity to each other. Once the fire-damaged remains are cleared, the entire block will be clear of buildings.
Alas, fortune is a clumsy and unscrupulous planner.