Former Karpeles Manuscript Library

St. Louis City

The Karpeles Manuscript Library in St. Louis’ historic Compton Heights neighborhood, was constructed in 1911 as the Third Church of Christ, Scientist. The church later housed the New Paradise Missionary Baptist Church congregation. In 2015, the building was acquired by the Karpeles family, which has established (to date) 17 museums across the country. The museums project was initiated in 1983 by David and Martha Karpeles, wealthy California realtors who had amassed one of the largest private collections of original manuscripts covering topics from literature, science, religion, political history, art, and more. The manuscript library in St. Louis was the 13th of the family’s museums and like the other museums, serves to house the family’s rotating collection. Each museum additionally houses permanent collections focused on regionally specific items. The St. Louis Karpeles Manuscript Library opened in August of 2015, sharing its space with the St. Louis Media History Foundation. In March 2019 a fire swept through the building, and while firefighters were able to save most of the collection, the building was severely damaged. It was determined that the building was structurally sound and could be repaired. The Karpeles announced that they were looking into repairing the windows and roof. Their plans for the interior were to either renovate the building into a large open space or to remove fire-damaged sections of the building and erect what would essentially comprise a new structure. No final plans were ever announced and today, the building is in peril, having stood vacant since March of 2019. The roof remains open to the elements, furthering deterioration. A buyer was anticipated but the deal fell through and the owner does not appear to be seeking to rehabilitate or sell the property. It is hoped that listing the Karpeles Manuscript Library as a Place in Peril will increase awareness for the precarious condition of the structure and encourage the current owners to either move forward with rehabilitation or initiate an active search for new ownership.

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