Fire at the Former Fred J. Swaine Manufacturing Co.

The night after the fire at Jamison Memorial Church, a suspicious fire broke out at the former Fred. J Swaine Manufacturing Co. building on the north side of the vacant lots of what was supposed to be the ill-fated Bottle District.

Photograph Courtesy of Karen Swaine

A descendant of the founder, Karen Swaine, was kind enough to share with me some old documentation about the company, along with some photos of the plant when it was originally built in 1903 (you can actually still see the ghosts signs on the side of the building).

Image Courtesy of Karen Swaine

Fred Swaine originally founded the company in the 1870s and before building the factory you see here in 1902, occupied space in two other locations on Chestnut Street and North Main Street.

Photograph Courtesy of Karen Swaine

The company manufactured dies, presses and sheet metal machinery on what was originally a one story building with a smaller second floor. It was originally designed for the second floor to be expanded, which it ultimately was.

Photograph Courtesy of Karen Swaine

The building was fitted out with the latest technology at the time, allowing for the supplying of the machinery for the growing city.

Photograph Courtesy of Karen Swaine

As can be seen clearly in the Sanborn map below, the Swaine building, clearly seen in the middle bottom, was already up and running, while the mass of Sligo Steel was occupying the whole side of the block across the alley.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, St. Louis, Missouri, 1909 February, Sheet 117.

Of course, the building to the east was already damaged by fire several years ago, which I covered in August of 2016. It was part of the larger Sligo Steel complex. Another building that was part of the company on the Near North Riverfront was demolished almost a decade ago.

The buildings to the north and east seem to be large unaffected by the fire, but the damage to the Swaine building is severe.

It looks like the second floor has collapsed down into the first, and the roof is obviously completely gone.

We will see what the future holds.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Karen says:

    Thank you for raising awareness, Chris. Will the City protect the facade by propping it up and preserving it for future development i.e., The Bottle District? Or will we watch it slowly crumble or worse will they allow the bulldozers through the site, effectively participating in demolition by neglect? We will indeed see what the future holds.

    1. cnaffziger says:

      Good question, Karen. I don’t know what the future holds. It could sit like this for a while, or it could be demolished quickly. I’ve seen worse damage repaired and the buildings rehabbed and saved. As far as new development, I have not seen any proposals for this area in over a decade.

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