5,000th Post: The Ruins of the Freie Gemeinde

None of my friends who live up north around the St. Louis Place and Old North St. Louis neighborhoods told me they were terribly surprised when the old Freie Gemeinde went up in flames on a bitterly cold night a week ago. It suffered a partial collapse way back in 2013, and when I checked up on it in 2018 (second photo), it had passed into the hands of the LRA, which is the default owner of property in St. Louis that nobody on the planet wants to buy. Presumably someone trying to keep warm had started a fire and it had spread out of control. Originally built by idealistic freedom fighters who fought for a better, more democratic world, the building now passes into oblivion with little to no news coverage. I wonder how the founders of the Freie Gemeinde would feel to see what happened to all their hard work.

Honestly, it is difficult without carefully studying my old photos to determine what was previous structural collapse and what is new failure due to the fire.

Which brings me to the point of my making this charred ruin the subject of my 5,000th post. 4,999 posts after I first started this examination of the built environment way back in 2007, asking questions about how society has shaped the destiny of St. Louis over the last two hundred years, little to nothing has changed in so many parts of this city.

Of course no one was able to get the financing to save this building back before 2013, of course there wasn’t enough money to demolish it by 2018 because the backlog of unsafe buildings is so long, and of course someone accidentally started a fire in it this year because they had nowhere else to go on one of the first bitterly cold nights of the season. We knew this was how this was going to end. What else would we expect would happen in St. Louis?

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Hans Lothander says:

    Thx for doing what youre doing, all 5000. Always interested in the Northside.
    The vacant lots and burned out buildings should be a blank slate for someone.
    I wish.

    1. Congrats on 5000 posts!

      Howzabout spending some of that football settlement money on clearing lots, stabilizing buildings, loans for rehabbers, grants for neighborhood improvement groups, revitalizing parks…

      1. Chris Naffziger says:

        One possible use for the money.

  2. Patrick Kleaver says:

    Congratulations on your 5,000th post and for photographically documenting the architecture that made St. Louis unique before it all disappears!

  3. Deborah Richie says:

    I spent many hours in this building as a child. Neighborhood Association, incorporated in 1911, was housed there 1944-2010. In 1995 their name was changed to Youth and Family Center and they are now located on Cass Ave.

    As a toddler I attended a daycare there, followed by after school programs when I was older. I also went to the summer camp the organization ran in Cedar Hills, and was a counselor there when I was older.

    I remember a huge building filled with so much fun and laughter, providing much help to a working class neighborhood. So many good memories.

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