Monday, December 14, 2020

The latest from the fire-damaged Middle Collegiate Church: the New York Liberty Bell survives

Here are the latest developments about the Dec. 5 fire that destroyed the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Seventh Street. (You can find all of our coverage via this link.)

For starters, on Friday, the FDNY said that faulty wiring at 48 E. Seventh St. was to blame for the six-alarm fire that destroyed the neighboring Middle Collegiate Church. An FDNY spokesperson told 1010 WINS that the fire has been deemed "non-suspicious." 

Myles N. Miller at NBC 4 reported that witnesses in the area first started smelling smoke around midnight. However, the first 911 call didn't come in until several hours later when a cab driver saw flames rising from No. 48.
Over the weekend, workers started removing the church's east-facing (back) wall in order to stabilize the site, according to the Rev. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister at the Middle Collegiate Church. (Photo below via Steven)
In some positive news, the steeple remains intact, which is where the New York Liberty Bell had hung in the belfry. The bell appears unharmed ... Some history of the bell via the Times:
It is about 25 years older than the cracked Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, according to a 1959 New York Times article.

Cast in Amsterdam in 1729, the bell was rung in 1735 to celebrate freedom of the press after John Peter Zenger, a German journalist, was acquitted of charges of seditious libel. He had published criticism of British tax collectors, according to the Times article.

It also was rung on the day that Representative John Lewis died in July and a week after the presidential election to celebrate "that love and justice" prevailed... 
Buildings Department officials said that they continue "to monitor and assess the stability of the remaining structure of the church, including the façade and the steeple, while cleanup operations are still underway." 

In one other development, Gothamist reported that there was a small fire at the scene on Saturday morning.
Around 9 a.m. Saturday, "something sparked up and the units that were on the scene did what they were supposed to do, which is just put some water on it," said a FDNY spokesperson who declined to give his name. The flare-up was so minor that the FDNY personnel on scene did not transmit a fire alarm, the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Church officials have started the rebuilding process (donation link here) ...



sophocles said...

I find it incomprehensible that there was an earlier electrical fire at 48 East 7th Street and adequate precautions were not taken to prevent another one. Con Ed will shut off the gas for months if there is a gas leak, don't they shut off the electricity when there is faulty wiring? Obviously faulty wiring. And were there smart smoke alarms in place for any early warning? You can buy a Google Nest Protect for $120.

The fire might not be suspicious (intentional), but the behavior is troubling.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if somewhere, in all the discussion of the Church, that Gordon Dragt, who served as Pastor of the Church for 20 years, would be mentioned. His compelling book about the Church should be mentioned as well: