Four-alarm fire blazes through St. Louis museum of rare documents

St. Louis firefighters responded Tuesday to a massive fire at a museum of rare documents, the cause of which is not yet known.

The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, home to private rotating collections of historic and rare documents and manuscripts, broke out in flames Tuesday evening, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.


David Karpeles, the California collector whose massive collection of original manuscripts is housed in the museum, told the paper that he is “very nervous” about the possible damage.

“I’m very nervous at the moment,” he told the newspaper on Wednesday. “I don’t know what to say or think.”

More than 80 firefighters responded to the blaze and worked to bring as many statues, artifacts and documents out of the building as possible, according to the Post-Dispatch.

“They knew they were in a museum,” Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson told the Post-Dispatch. “It’s like, ‘Don’t leave empty-handed. Grab something and get it out of here.’”

No one was injured in the fire, which was reportedly extinguished by about 9 p.m. Part of a second-floor ceiling collapsed in the building, the newspaper said.

The extent of damage to documents is not yet known, and the museum’s director told the Post-Dispatch that the majority of manuscripts are housed on the first floor, while the fire was mostly on the second floor of the brick and stone building.

The St. Louis museum’s contents rotate to other museums, but it has previously displayed a Gutenberg Bible, the first draft of the Bill of Rights, a letter written by Christopher Columbus and Babe Ruth’s first baseball contract, according to the Post-Dispatch.