Owner of historic north city property unsure what he’ll do after devastating fire

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ST. LOUIS - A north St. Louis home with ties to Mark Twain goes up in flames and embers from the four-alarm fire damaged nearby homes.

The fires occurred around 3:30 a.m. at the James Clemens House, located at Helene and Mullanphy streets. The historic house was built in the 1800s and has sat vacant for years. Its owner, developer Paul McKee, said he’s put more than six figures into the historic home and was in the process of preserving the structure. But now it’s destroyed.

“We turned on the news; could see the flames shooting out of the property. All I could think about was, ‘My those poor firemen and women, in 100 degrees,’” McKee said.

McKee and his wife surveyed the damage late Wednesday afternoon.

“What can we do is cry, so what we need to do is find is salvage,” he said.

The Landmark Association of St. Louis had big hopes for the property after being left vacant for years.

“As we so often see, when nobody is watching the property, no one is securing the property, it’s vandalized, water damaged, and no one keeping the roof, no one securing doors, and eventually it burns down,” McKee said.

“We have done the best we could. Nobody else is stepping up to buy old buildings on the north side. We put boards up and they tear them down.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Meanwhile, McKee said he's waiting to see what the insurance company says to determine how to move forward.