No. 8: Missouri Theater's return to life continues after fire

Smoke rolls as St. Joseph firefighters work at the scene of an early morning fire in Downtown St. Joseph on Feb. 19. The Missouri Theater sustained only smoke damage in the blaze, but an adjoining building to the east was extensively burned.

The Missouri Theater and its associated complex continues a revival after a February fire nearly destroyed the buildings at Eighth and Edmond streets.

A final round of repairs was set to begin late in the year to complete restoration work on buildings adjacent to the theater. The theater itself received only smoke damage in the Feb. 19 blaze, yet an adjoining building to the east was extensively burned. The latest repairs were scheduled to include the floors, roof and electrical and ventilation systems — primarily to the north side.

The fire occurred early on a Saturday morning, with flames breaking out in the northeast corner of the complex’s second floor. That area was used by Robidoux Resident Theatre for costume storage, props and rehearsals. The failure of three fire doors allowed for extensive smoke damage to the theater.

The fire was brought under control in two hours. But the building spaces that housed A to Z’s Freshair Fare and Natural Market and Pony Espresso became uninhabitable. Damage was estimated at $500,000. Theater officials were forced to relocate their office space.

“Obviously, the loss of the theater would have been devastating,” said RRT Executive Director Jeff Haney. “It’s just a matter of us having to regroup. We didn’t miss any shows. We were very thankful for that. Our things are all over the city at this point.”

Mr. Haney said the theater organization has been pleased with assistance received from various community groups, including efforts by the city and the school district.

Events began resuming at the theater in May with the Mrs. Missouri/Mrs. Kansas pageant and have continued since, with numerous productions.

Other upgrades to the complex will include a new fire alarm system with a full-scale smoke detector.

Ray Scherer can be reached at ray.scherer@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.

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