The City of St. Louis Fire Department has an excellent and very well-updated Twitter account that I monitor on a regular basis to keep abreast of current events. On the night of the Fourth of July, the Fire Department always keeps a rigorous live Tweeting of all the mayhem, dumpster and grass fires and structure conflagrations caused by “fireworks fiends” engaged in reckless behavior.
As this most recent 4th of July’s evening unfolded, I saw a Tweet about a fully engulfed house that, despite being completely filled with flames in the darkness, was still recognizable. I checked the address listed on the Fire Department’s Tweet, and it was where I suspected, the iconic house at Monroe and 13th in the Old North St. Louis neighborhood. It was caused by fireworks.
The house is locally and nationally famous, frequently used by the Post-Dispatch, and even the New York Times to illustrate the “shocking contrast” between downtown St. Louis and the rest of the city.
But in reality, it was a house that literally was just about to be rehabbed starting this month. I am friends with many members of the Old North Restoration Group, and they have been working tirelessly for decades to revitalize their neighborhood, working by themselves, with residents, with local businesses, and with select government programs to successfully rehab old houses and build new ones. This house was not a “lost cause,” but rather “next up to bat” for preservation.
As my friend Matt from the Restoration Group, who met me at the house after the fire told me, it looks much worse in photographs. I can attest that the building is in much better shape structurally in person, but they are going to get the opinion of an engineer, and go from there as far as seeing if it can be saved.
Amazingly, what originally was an “alley dwelling” that faced 13th Street survived intact without any fire damage, though its previous wall collapse remains. It is on a separate parcel and owned by the LRA, I was told.
This is a very nice block, as the houses further down Monroe attest.