Large fire breaks out at Kramer’s Marionnettes building, body found in search

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 8:14 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2023 at 11:23 AM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- A large fire broke out Friday evening in the Central West End.

The fire started after 7 p.m. in the 4100 block of Laclede, between Sarah and Boyle, in a two-story brick building. Douglas “Dug” Feltch, was taken to the hospital with smoke inhalation that is not life-threatening, an investigator with the St. Louis Fire Department said.

Captain Garon Mosby tells News 4 that firefighters entered the building Friday night but conditions worsened quickly and they had to evacuate. The fire posed a series of problems for crews, including the need for more water.

“We have over 60 firefighters working the scene,” Captain Mosby said Friday night. “These are very long blocks in the Central West End, which present a unique challenge. As you walked up, we’re sort of mid-block. There are not very many hydrants in these long blocks so we have to go further away. That’s one of the reasons why we have so many firefighters working on the scene.”

As of 11 a.m. on Saturday, Robert “Bob” Kramer has been reported as unaccounted for and recovery efforts are currently underway.

As of 1:30 p.m. Saturday, a body was been recovered from the building, according to the St. Louis Fire Department. The identity has yet to be confirmed.

Firefighters are continued to battle the fire Saturday morning as hot spots popped up.

Sue Nauert describes Bob Kramer’s Marionettes as a staple in the community, having been there for decades.

“It’s just so sad,” Nauert says. “It’s not just a building that went up. It is just a thing that will never be recreated.”

All of the puppets were handmade by Kramer and his partner Feltch.

The two-story brick building wasn’t just home to the marionette theater, but also home to Kramer and Feltch.

“A piece of history,” Nauert says. “A piece of part of what makes St. Louis unique and particularly the Central West End. It’s just such a loss in so many ways.”

Harold Karabell is a close friend, having known Kramer and Feltch for years.

“The greatest loss is our beloved friend Bob,” Karabell says.

Karabell is mourning the loss of his friend, describing Bob as a kind, passionate man, who was loved by so many in the neighborhood.

“The best people in the world,” Karabell says. “The people you’d always want to have as your neighbors. Kind hearted, generous, totally committed to their art and their craft.”

Karabell is encouraging people to never forget Kramer and everything he brought to the community.

“Keep the memories of a wonderful institution and a wonderful human being in their hearts,” Karabell says.

A gofundme has been set up. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

News 4 will update this article as more information becomes available.