Maplewood History: The Disastrous 1966 Immolation of Golde’s-Part 1

Golde’s Department Store, a prime destination during Maplewood’s retail boom years, burned to the ground in 1966. As the now retired Maplewood firefighter, Dewey Eberhardt, had predicted earlier, it was necessary to “fill the basement up with water” in order to put it out.

My co-author, Joyce Cheney writing in “the First one hundred years, Maplewood, MO” (That’s the title, you can check) says, “Some blame ‘the Goldie’s (sic) fire’ for downtown Maplewood’s demise but not so.” It was “the new post war style of living that swept the nation throughout the 1950’s and into the 1960’s-private cars instead of public transportation, shopping malls and the lure of the new suburbs-brought Maplewood out of its heyday.”

Rita Kippenberger, one of Maplewood’s long-lived residents, told me (quite a while ago so I hope I’m remembering correctly) that the fire was started by a lightning strike that hit the front doors and knocked over a cash register. She had been working there as a cashier.

Golde’s never rebuilt their Maplewood store. Instead they relocated farther west on Manchester in the Warson Woods shopping center. The photographic evidence shows a P.N. Hirsch store occupying the site in later years.

An aerial view of Golde's on the north side of the 7300 block of Manchester.  courtesy of Dan Walper and Citizen's National Bank.

An aerial view of Golde’s on the north side of the 7300 block of Manchester (probably 1965).  Courtesy of Dan Walper and Citizen’s National Bank.

Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

One of the best shots of the series in my mind.  I have no knowledge of who the photographer was.  Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

One of the best shots of the series in my mind. I have no knowledge of who the photographer was. Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

At the corner of Manchester and Oakview Terrace.  Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

The drive-up facility at the rear of Citizen's National Bank.  Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

The drive-up facility at the rear of Citizen’s National Bank. Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

This view from the roof gives us an interesting look at the buildings nearby.  Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

This view from the roof gives us an interesting look at the buildings nearby. Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

In this close up from the previous photo one can see the building now housing Foundation Grounds at the left, the Concordia Lutheran church beyond and the now demolished building that once sat on the site of Citizen's Park at Marshall and Manchester.  Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

In this cropped version of the previous photo one can see the building now housing Foundation Grounds at the left, the Concordia Lutheran church beyond and the now demolished building that once sat on the site of Citizen’s Park at Marshall and Manchester. Courtesy of Maplewood Public Library

8 thoughts on “Maplewood History: The Disastrous 1966 Immolation of Golde’s-Part 1

  1. As a 10 year old resident of Maplewood, I remember the Goldies fire very well. I lived just up the block on Lohmeyer, and remember being awakened to the sounds of fire engine sirens that night. My brothers and I rushed outside to see the night sky glowing red from the fire just a block away. We ran down to Manchester and saw the roaring blaze, the radiant heat so strong that you could feel it from hundreds of feet away. Already there were dozens of firemen there, even from surrounding communities, dozens of hoses criss crossing the streets and corners. We were able to stand right across the street from the fire, in those days there was very little crowd control, and watched as the blaze consumed the interior of the store, illuminating the still standing store front with a white hot glow. Suddenly, the big store front windows gave way to the fury of the blaze and the fire roared out, sending everyone across the street running from the intense heat; I still remember the singed hair on my head!
    The fire roared well into the next morning, and the firemen kept pouring torrents of water into the now collapsed building, sending tremendous columns of smoke and steam skyward. My mother made several pots of coffee and took them to the firemen around the blaze, the way people were then….
    We watched with wide, excited child eyes as this wonderful piece of Maplewood history was reduced to smoldering ruble, the grand old store where my friends and I had roamed the aisles, played hide and seek, and where our family had shopped for years. Something was lost that day, not only a precious piece of Maplewood history, but an icon and a sign post in my childhood in Maplewood, an intangible moment lost in the stream of time…
    Days later, after the fire was long extinguished, and the wreck of the store unguarded, my friends and I roamed and played in the rubble of what once was the basement of the huge store. We climbed over charred piles of wood, sifted though the burned and tattered remains of burnt clothing, with the scent of smoke and burned wood saturating the air. I remember looking in amazement at huge steel beams lying in twisted heaps, melted by the intense heat into puddles like candles.
    We watched once day as the owners of Goldies came to retrieve the stores big steel safe from the wreckage. They hired a tow truck and ran a wire down into the rubble from the parking lot near where the back entrance had been, secured the wire around the safe and slowly pulled the safe up out of the debris. A crowd of us gathered around and watched as an old man in a wheel chair was rolled up to the fire scarred safe and went to work. Slowly he turned the safes combination dial back and forth. I remember being so close that I could see there were no visible numbers on the dial, all burned away. The old man tried for a few minutes and then, bingo, he turned the handle and opened the safe! Everyone cheered and were amazed when they pulled several white unburnt bags of money out of the safe! they trundled the money into someones station wagon, leaving the charred but intact safe sitting there for people to touch, wonder… Soon the crowds faded, even our child like excitement was overcome by the fading sunset and our mothers call in the distance, and we ran home; behind us, without our knowing, a wonderful chapter in Maplewoods history, and of our lives, faded away to memory…..

  2. Growing up in Maplewood most of my clothes came from Golde’s or one of several shops along Manchester. As a teenager I saw the smoldering mess that was once Golde’s All the customer charge records were destroyed. My mother went through her charge receipts and sent a check for any merchandise that had not been billed prior to the fire.

  3. My sister and I had a picture taken with santa at the Golde’s store in Maplewood in the mid fifties. Still one of my favorites.

    • I loved seeing Santa as a kid. Unfortunately the downtown district died after Golde’s burned down.

  4. Thanks for the coverage, Doug. It’s so interesting to see events from your childhood recreated. My grandmother, mother and I did all of our shopping for clothes at Golde’s in Warson Woods, and my sis-in-law’s family went to church right down from Golde’s in Maplewood. I’m jealous of Maplewood’s community history as it seems like Richmond Heights, though well-documented by Joellen McDonald and others, doesn’t have the “centered” feel and ongoing legacy of a solid community, like Maplewood.

  5. What a sad day in my life. I watched the entire fire and came back later to recover any records that might have been saved, including the material in the safe. We were not sure to rebuild in the same location or look for another opportunity, which we found in a shopping center in Warson Woods.

  6. I remember taking the bus from Kirkwood to the Goldie’s store in Maplewood. Later on when I was married, I shopped at the on in Warson Woods. I was at that store the day it burned. I don’t believe they rebuilt anywhere else.

  7. Great photos of the fire, Doug. Tough job being a fireman. I remember well shopping at the new Golde’s in Warson Woods. I didn’t realize they had a previous location.
    Thanks. Margaret Siegel