ST. LOUIS – People are questioning the speedy demolition of a building in the Central West End the day after a deadly fire.
The building was home to a well-known theater. The history there is now buried in ruins.
Bob Kramer of Bob Kramer’s Marionnettes is believed to have died in Friday night’s blaze. Authorities have yet to confirm the identity of the body recovered Saturday during a search of the site.
The building at 4143 Laclede was demolished shortly after the search.
Kramer’s friends and neighbors aren’t calling anyone one out. They applaud the way the City of St. Louis and the St. Louis Fire Department responded to the tragedy. Still, they just wonder why the building had to be demolished so quickly, considering the treasure now buried under the rubble.
Kramer’s home was also home to his one-of-a-kind theater, where he and partner Dug Feltch entertained thousands of children for more than 50 years. Feltch is recovering from smoke inhalation, according to friends.
A close friend who worked in theater told FOX 2 there were about 700 of their handcrafted marionettes in the building. Friends were hoping to save as many as possible for a marionette center that Kramer dreamed of building. They had salvaged a few of the marionettes.
But those that survived the fire will likely be lost to the demolition.
“Decades upon decades, a whole line of succession of marionettes, lost there forever, never to be replaced. We’ll never see the likes of this again,” said Harold Karabell, president of the neighborhood association. “All would have appreciated a heads-up that the excavator’s coming out, maybe you can get in there and take what you want.”
Burned out buildings within a mile or two of Kramer’s home have remained standing for years. In this case, the city’s Building Division arranged for an excavator to assist with that search of the site on Saturday. The building was then demolished because of safety concerns.
“Since it (the excavator) was already on site, it made sense to go ahead and make the neighborhood safer by bringing down the building,” said St. Louis Fire Captain Garon Mosby.
In spite of all that’s been lost, Kramer’s friends and neighbors are grateful for everyone’s response in the face of such tragedy.
“They did an incredible job,” Karabell said.
Heroes, Karabell said, and his friend was worthy of their efforts.
Karabell started a GoFundMe account to benefit Feltch, who lost everything in the fire. It had raised nearly $47,000 as of Monday night.