Massive fire at Karpeles Manuscript Library in Compton Heights

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ST. LOUIS – Several St. Louis firetrucks responded to a large fire Tuesday evening at a library and museum across from Compton Hill Reservoir Park in south city.

Firefighters got the call around 7 p.m. Heavy flames and smoke poured from the back of Karpeles Manuscript Library on Russell Boulevard.

The building is old with many wooden features, which allowed the fire to spread so quickly.

Approximately 80 firefighters were on scene, with other units on standby. Firefighters were evacuated from the building by 7:45 p.m. and part of the roof collapsed. Fire companies then took up defensive positions around the library.

The entire rear of the building was engulfed in flames, St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

Jenkerson said firefighters were carrying as many artifacts and documents as they could from the building. Most of the documents and manuscripts were on the first floor. Jenkerson said firefighters were working to avoid spraying that area.

The fire was extinguished by 9:10 p.m. No injuries were reported.

The library houses priceless historical documents, such as the proclamation of France’s approval of the Louisiana Purchase, the Great Soulard Discovery Map used by explorers Lewis and Clark, and the city of St. Louis’ application for a baseball team with the National League. At present, the museum housed a collection on the history of Cuba.

The St. Louis Media History Foundation is also housed at the museum.

The Karpeles Library calls itself the world’s largest private holding of important original manuscripts and documents, with more than a dozen branches across the United States. Their archives include an original draft of the Bill of Rights and the original Thanksgiving Proclamation.

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