German Singing Society, Destroyed by Fire

On the same tragic night St. Louis lost Bob Kramer, the city also saw the destruction of the Old North Sängerbund, a German singing society located at the southwest corner of North 14th and Howard streets.

Originally built as a church, and ending its life as a church known as the New Jerusalem Church of the Swedenborgians, a dramatic and extremely hot fire destroyed its entire main floor, which is where the sanctuary or main meeting hall would have been located. Many of the first churches in St. Louis would have had their sanctuaries located up a flight of stairs up out of the noise and dirt of the street. Centenary Methodist in downtown and the Polish National Church, just around the corner, is a good intact example of this.

While I was stopped and walking around taking photos, I talked to two gentlemen who lived in the neighborhood, one who was driving by and another who was walking through. They had both witnessed the fire and had remarked how sad its loss had made them. The pedestrian spoke of a large “explosion” he had witnessed at one point.

The “explosion,” I learned by doing a little research, might have been a delayed flashover, when flammable gases produced by a fire actually build up inside a contained space inside of a building and then suddenly ignite.

The buildings across 14th Street, which I’ve looked at before and had been continuing to deteriorate since my last visit, was already in that ruined condition before the fire and was not damaged by the fire. As you can probable see, the bricks from the collapsed walls had to be scooped off the street afterwards.

Regardless, it’s a sad, sad loss, and coincidentally just up the street from another Old North landmark that is probably not long for this world, the Mullanphy Emigrant Home. Will it make it through the winter?

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