Maplewood History: The Top Ten Things You Never Knew About Maplewood’s Big Bang

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Unfortunately the exact location of these images was not noted. Image courtesy of Maplewood Public Library.

With apologies to David Letterman, here in reverse order are the top ten things you most likely never knew about Maplewood’s Big Bang.

10. The location was behind a house at 7202 Anna, at the rear of the lot.

9. The cause was a small fire in a shed owned by the Cooney construction company that had been hired to do sewer building.

8. The fire set off 800-1,000 pounds of dynamite containing 60% nitroglycerin at 4:40 in the afternoon of Feb. 28, 1916.

7. The force of the explosion created a crater 8-10 feet deep and 20 feet across that many compared to those left by the shells from the great guns on the French war front.

6. Two women were killed, six women and four children were very seriously injured and 50-60 other people were injured less seriously.

5. Eleven homes were demolished and many more were severely damaged.

4. Very many of the folks affected had no insurance and lost everything.

3. The tremendous power of the blast broke the plate glass windows of many of the businesses for a half mile up and down Manchester. At the county courthouse in Clayton, those inside thought one of the boilers had exploded.

2. In Manchester, folks thought an earthquake had occurred. The explosion was felt in Creve Coeur. Windows were rattled and dishes were broken on South Grand.

1. And the number one thing you most likely did not know about Maplewood’s Big Bang is that it even happened at all.

I combined two photos to create this panoramic one. I speculate that the remains of the shed that used to have dynamite in it are in the foreground. Images courtesy of Maplewood Public Library.
I combined two photos to create this panoramic one. I speculate that the remains of the shed that used to have dynamite in it are in the foreground. Images courtesy of Maplewood Public Library.
An article from a 1916 issue of Popular Mechanics. Thanks to Luke Havel for this research.
An article from a 1916 issue of Popular Mechanics. Thanks to Luke Havel for this research.
Another angle on the mayhem. Image courtesy of Maplewood Public Library.
Another angle on the mayhem. Image courtesy of Maplewood Public Library.
Unfortunately the exact location of these images was not noted. Image courtesy of Maplewood Public Library.
Unfortunately the exact location of these images was not noted. Image courtesy of Maplewood Public Library.
Note the date painted on the damaged home. 99 years ago today! Image courtesy of Maplewood Public Library.
Clearly visible on the second story of this house are several styles of fancy cut shingles along with a flare to separate the first and second stories.  These are details that have nearly all been lost in our historic neighborhoods due to remodeling.  Note the date painted on the damaged home. 99 years ago today!    Image courtesy of Maplewood Public Library.
And finally two images from the photo album of our now familiar former residents, the Slaviks. Courtesy of Matt Irwin.
And finally two images from the photo album of our now familiar, former residents, the Slaviks. Courtesy of Matt Irwin.

 

20 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, Doug! Always interested in you knowledge about Maplewood history. Lived in the house at 7200 Sarah. It is the house on the far right in the scenes showing the backs of houses on the far street. On the southwest corner of that house today, you can see the difference in the floor board in the second floor bedroom and the attic. — as it was rebuilt. If you look at the houses to the west of that house, you will notice that several were taken down to one story. Paperwork on the house today say that it was built in 1921. It was repaired by that time (and we found a 1921 postcard in the walls when doing some renovation). It still has the gas pipes in the walls from gas lights– remnants of its original construction. Amazingly, some windows on the Limit side of the house are still original. We lived there from 1980 to 2000. Thx for providing this article and pictures!!

  2. Hi Doug,

    You always seem to find the interesting stories. So I guess 2/28 wasn’t just my birthday but an exciting time around town nearly 100 years ago.

    I’m going to be in town this week 3/13-15 for WordCamp at UCity, http://stlouis.wordcamp.org/2015/. I hope you can make it out.

    Your Nephew,
    Charlie

  3. If you use bing maps you can zoom to the approximate location of 7202 and in the distance see a first house with a rear gable,,and looking the historic photos you can clearly see the same house in the background.

    • Thanks, Melissa. I’m very interested to try what you suggest. I’d like to know which, if any, of the homes in the photos are still around. If you can figure out the address of the home you refer to, please forward it to me.

  4. Hi Doug
    Very interesting article. Born and raised in Maplewood. I was wondering if you have any pictures of the corner or Laclede Station Rd. and Manchester from the 50’s. My father is Gregory Bittner and he had the Phillips 66 gas station on that corner. We have tried to find a picture of it and cannot. I would really like to have one if it exists. Please let me know. Thanks
    Greg

  5. My father was born in Maplewood in 1919 and told me about the big explosion that happened before he was born. He always described the location as being on Limit Avenue but Anna ends there. I remember a story in a local paper, perhaps the Observer, recalling the incident on the 50th anniversary in 1966. At that point there were still a lot of eye and ear witnesses. Thanks for providing pictures of this event.

    • None that I know of, Ralf. You could take a good look in the attic and see if there are any obvious repairs.

  6. This is excellent, Doug. However, I doubt that the dynamite had been stored in the shed pictured in the foreground of the top photograph. Nothing would’ve remained of that shed after such a dynamite explosion. More likely, the shed had stood in the concaved piece of ground to the right of the splintered home in the photograph below the Popular Mechanics article.

  7. I will be happy to forward a pdf of an article from a local newspaper written at the time of the explosion to anyone who would like to read it. It was copied from the collection of the Maplewood Public Library.

    • Doug, hadn’t there been a previous fire in the storage shed proximate in time to the fire that caused the explosion?

      • Quite right, Gary. From the original article, “Four weeks ago, when the company had its portable shed several blocks further south, the shed took fire, and the fire was extinguished by the Maplewood firemen. There was complaint at that time that the shed was not properly protected, but the company presently moved the shed and little attention was paid to it in its new location.” I am emailing you a copy of the article.

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