Memorabilia missing in wake of fire at Gamble-Huff offices

Kenny Gamble (near left) is helped through the debris on the third floor of the building, at Broad and Spruce streets, that was hit by fire Sunday.
Kenny Gamble (near left) is helped through the debris on the third floor of the building, at Broad and Spruce streets, that was hit by fire Sunday.
Posted: February 23, 2010

About 40 percent of the memorabilia adorning the walls of the legendary Philadelphia International Records building was unaccounted for yesterday, a company executive said the day after a fire damaged the building.

Fire officials have called Sunday's blaze "suspicious" and are keeping mum about the man whom firefighters rescued from the burning building but who had no reason for being there.

Chuck Gamble, executive vice president of Philadelphia International Records, said officials have not told him the man's name, making it difficult to determine if he had any connection to the Center City building where legends like Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle and the O'Jays have recorded.

Gamble, who entered the building at Broad and Spruce streets yesterday for the first time since the fire, said that the historic Gamble-Huff recording studio was not damaged but that a number of gold albums and photographs were unaccounted for.

"It was dark in there so at this point, we just don't know where they are," he said. "They could have been knocked off the walls or were melted."

Firefighters responded to the building about 7:30 a.m. Sunday and battled the two-alarm blaze for just under an hour.

The bulk of the fire was contained on the third floor, where the recording studios and executive offices are situated.

When firefighters arrived, a man was hanging out of a third-floor window and was rescued by ladder, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said.

The man was treated at an area hospital, then questioned by police and the fire marshal. He was released yesterday, though the investigation continues, Ayers said.

Gamble said it was his understanding that the man was "uncooperative" during interviews. Gamble said no one should have been in the building at that time.

The offices belonging to Gamble's uncle, Kenny Gamble, and his producing partner, Leon Huff - where other singing notables such as Diana Ross and the Temptations have visited - were "torn apart" and hard to see, Chuck Gamble said.

The producing duo was in New York City at the time of the fire.

Contractors covered the building's roof yesterday in advance of the rain expected today.

Gamble said that the building would be fixed and that the company would continue to operate while the building is shuttered.

"While we still do recording," he said, "most of what we do now is licensing and marketing, and that can be handled online and digitally."

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