WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Five Years Since Building Collapse in Downtown Keokuk

Aug 1, 2014

The memorable collapse of the three-story building at 528 Main Street in downtown Keokuk happened July 31, 2009.  It had stood at the intersection of 6th and Main for more than 150 years.

The three-story building at 528 Main Street in downtown Keokuk as it stood for more than 150 years.

No one was inside the building at the time and there were no injuries reported.  Emergency responders arrived quickly, securing the scene and setting up barricades to protect onlookers.

The building included a basement and a sub-basement.

Former owner Tom Roush said it was difficult to hear that the building collapsed.  He still thinks about it and the memories he created there.

528 Main Street was home to Roush's "Green Tambourine" music store for roughly ten years.  Prior to that, it served as a distillery, a hardware store, and a clothing store, among other things.

Roush decided to close the business in 2002 and subsequently sold the building.

The building collapsed on July 31, 2009. No one was in the building at the time and no injuries were reported.
Credit Jason Parrott / Tri States Public Radio

The collapse surprised Joyce Glasscock, who heads Main Street Keokuk.  She was in her office, just two blocks away, the morning of July 31, 2009.  Glasscock said the dust cloud created by the collapse reminded her of a volcanic eruption.

Glasscock knew the building was in poor condition because she toured it during the previous months as she considered whether Main Street Keokuk should buy it and renovate it for residential and commercial use.

The organization even had an offer on the building when it collapsed.

The city had to tear down the portion of 528 Main Street that did not collapse on July 31, 2009.
Credit Jason Parrott / Tri States Public Radio

The collapse forced Main Street Keokuk to move on to a new property.  The organization eventually purchased a building next to City Hall.  It completed the renovation this year.

The clean-up of the property at 528 Main Street was a long, drawn-out process.

The city had to step in because the out-of-town owner did not have the resources to address the giant pile of rubble that accumulated.

The city removed the debris six months after the collapse. 

Then it was another two-and-a-half years before the giant hole created by the basement and sub-basement was filled in with sand because residents wanted to try to save some giant, brick arches that were revealed by the collapse.  The preservation effort was unsuccessful.

The clean-up of 528 Main Street revealed a series of giant, brick arches. An attempt to save them, though, was unsuccessful.
Credit Jason Parrott / Tri States Public Radio

The is some hope for the future of the now-vacant lot at 528 Main.

Christal Lewiston of Montrose bought it during a property tax auction in May 2013.  She said it's next to the new home for Great River Players, a local theater group of which she is a member.

Lewiston said she's open to ideas for the site.  She would like to give the property an "artsy" feel, given its location between the GRP home and the Grand Theater across Main Street.

She said one thing is certain:  the vacant lot at 528 Main Street will not be a parking lot as long as she owns it.