Keokuk, IA Downtown Fire, Apr 1964
FIRE SWEEPS BUILDINGS IN KEOKUK URBAN RENEWAL AREA.
Keokuk -- A pre-dawn fire fanned by strong winds cut a path across four square blocks of Keokuk early Friday.
The fire destroyed four buildings and damaged several others in an urban renewal area near the Mississippi river front.
All the buildings were to be razed to make way for the proposed Keo - Sippi Shopping plaza.
Fire Chief JOHN BREHENY said the fire started about 3:45 a.m. after an explosion in a four-story brick building housing the Gem City Transfer, the Mayflower warehouse and the Humes Distributing Co.
It spread to the adjoining three-story Trade and Labor Temple building. Both buildings were destroyed in less than half an hour.
Also destroyed was the old Buck Rimer building, recently given to the city by the Hubinger Co., manufactuers of syrups and starch. It was across the street from where the fire started.
The ROY DUNCAN family lost all its belongings when the fire destroyed a two-story bruck building housing DUNCAN'S fish market. It adjoined the Rimer building. The DUNCANS occupied an apartment above the fish market.
The fire threatened for a time the 100-room, four-story Grand hotel. Its residents were evacuated.
Cause of the explosion was not immediately determined. The state fire marshal's office was called in to investigate.
One fireman, Capt. JOHN REIMBOLD, was taken to a hospital for treatment of shock.
Another fireman, HENRY BERKHOFF, suffered an eye and nose injury but returned to work after treatment.
Firemen from Hamilton and Warsaw, across the Mississippi river in Illinois, helped Keokuk, Montrose, Donnellson and Fort Madison firemen fight the blaze.
Embers from the fire were blown as much as seven blocks by strong southerly winds.
Damage was reported at the Beaty Machine shop and warehouse, the H. and S. garage, the old public library building and a vacant building. One house was destroyed and several others were damaged.
Friday's fire was one of the worst in the city's history, rivaling one in 1857 which destroyed seven or eight stores in the same general vicinity.
Cedar Rapids Gazette Iowa 1964-04-17