Video: Historic Middleboro church plans to rebuild after devastating fire
The Central Congregational Church in Middleboro was severely damaged after a four-alarm blaze ripped through the antique structure Monday morning, but firefighters managed to save several artifacts, the altar cross and the old Bible used for every service.
A two-story pipe organ was lost in the blaze.
The Rev. Bruce D. Smith said the “white lace balcony” made of a rare bog iron survived. “It looks OK,” he said. Also rescued was a document that hangs in the sanctuary, tracing the heritage of the church back to the Mayflower.
Officials are trying to determine what set off the blaze, but have ruled out arson. Smith said, “It was electrical for sure.”
Smith said plans are in the works to relocate the 100 member congregation until the church can be renovated.
“We are absolutely grateful for all the firefighters that came in and did such an outstanding job to preserve the building,” Smith said, praising their courage and professionalism.
A combination of emergency crews and gawkers congested the downtown area, forcing the cancellation of the annual Memorial Day parade. Veterans Service Officer Paul J. Provencher said cemetery services were held prior to the 6:45 a.m. fire and he expects to make up for the cancellation on Veterans Day.
South Main Street, from Webster to Wareham, was closed until 5 p.m. while crews battled the blaze.
Fire Capt. Glenn A. MacNayr said the building is not a total loss. Crews were able to save the steeple, and first and second floors of the main building. But he said the building must be gutted, the roof replaced and the back addition torn down.
MacNayr said the majority of the stained glass windows were saved. He credits the new ladder truck with making a crucial difference in fighting the fire because crews were able to quickly cut holes in the roof to release heat, which allowed firefighters to enter the building and knock down the blaze.
MacNayr said the fire appears to have started in a wall near the kitchen.
MacNayr said three firefighters were taken to Morton Hospital in Taunton with minor injuries, treated and released.
One firefighters who was not identified was hit over the head by a large piece of Plexiglass that protects the stained glassed windows. MacNayr said he was saved by his protective gear.
The church held special memories for newlyweds Sheryl and Stephen Medeiros, of Lakeville, who were married there in October. The couple received word of a fire in the downtown area and rushed to open the church doors for emergency personnel, only to find it was their church that was in flames.
Sheryl Medeiros lamented the damage to the white lace balcony and the loss of the massive pipe organ that reached from the floor to the ceiling, but predicted the church would be rebuilt -- calling the congregation “strong.”
“After my daughter’s house fire in Raynham almost two years ago, in which they lost everything including their dog, the wonderful people at the church allowed us to live in the parsonage, which was vacant at the time, until we were able to regroup. The church family there are a very loving and giving people.”
According to the assessors records the church was built in 1848 and valued at over $1 million.