ST. LOUIS – The section of the Lemp Brewery building in south St. Louis that collapsed early Sunday morning was condemned, according to St. Louis City Building Commissioner Frank Oswald.
A building inspector in 2013 condemned the now-crumbled section of the historic building, which is building 20.
“What happened in 2013 was an evaluation of the building was done by the building inspector at that time, they noticed that there was various conditions, that could possibly endanger the life, health or safety of the occupants and they condemned the building,” said Oswald.
He said to his knowledge, St. Louis BWorks was the only company that operated in the condemned space. BWorks Executive Director Patrick Van Der Tuin said he was not aware of the space he was renting was condemned. St. Louis City Building Commissioner Frank Oswald said the city was not aware the non-profit was renting space inside the condemned building.
The crumbled bricks destroyed 700 bikes belonging to BWorks, a non-profit that rented the space to store surplus bikes intended for St. Louis children.
“At no point were the board members or staff of St. Louis BWorks aware that the building was in such condition that would cause it to be condemned by the city. Had we known about the condemned space we would never have rented it in the first place. We would never knowingly put or volunteers or staff in harm’s way. We are grateful that no one was injured or killed when the building collapsed,” said Van Der Tuin.
Oswald said about 15 years ago, the ownership group before the current one, “was not as consciousness of trying to save those buildings.”
He said more than likely, the collapse was caused by “a combination of water getting behind the various courses of the bricks.”
Oswald said at the request of an alderman, his department will start surveying the rest of the area for property maintenance issues and send violation letters if needed.
Under emergency powers, a contractor is allowed to take down portions that are unsafe. After that, a demolition permit is needed because it is a historic building.
Larry Kirchner has owned the Lemp Brewery Haunted House located inside for 10 years. The haunted house’s exit is just feet away from the rubble.
“We’re just glad that we weren’t using it and no one got hurt, but a few sprinkler pipes and some water got in, but otherwise the haunted house is in perfect condition,” said Larry Kirchner. He said he also didn’t know building 20 was condemned.
“The owner of this complex, he loves this complex,” said Kirchner. “He’s heartbroken, this is his life and he works here every day, so he’s upset and I know a lot of people are upset because of the historic nature of the exterior of this brewery.”
He said the owner is trying to make the building safe as quickly as possible.