90 Main Street, Worcester, Massachusetts USA
SUMMARY OF SANCTUARY FIRE 6/17/00
This is an informal description for
concerned friends of music and
not meant to serve as a legal description
nor official assessment
nor preliminary insurance assessment
June 17, 2000, a roof fire gutted the steeple and front attic areas, with
major water and mold damage to the sanctuary, attic, and Sunday School
areas. Services were held in Unity Hall for a year and a half during restorarion,
and returned to the sanctuary in January, 2002, with the Sunday School
being completed in Spring, 2002, and the pipe organ installation commencing
in the fall of 2002 and completing in January 2004. Christmas Eve services
for 2000, 2001 were held at Mechanics
Flames came shooting out the front eaves; several "holes" were
axed into the sides of the clock tower to allow access to pour in water
(they've since been patched with plywood)
Great & Positiv exposed divisions shrouded for lent!
High pressure blower in the steeple attic area, just above the chamber.
Hymnals drying in the dining area
& 3" thick wood completely charred
lonely choir robe rests on the stairs
Peeking under the positiv tarp, Mixture pipes getting out of line
Wet messy rock wool insulation seeped down with water to
patter, spatter, & splatter
All the pipes will have to be cleaned
- Scheduled roof
work (including soldering copper roofing) was being done around the steeple
Saturday morning 6/17/00, workers quit for the day around noontime.
- Around 2:30pm
smoke was seen coming out of the steeple and the church fire alarm system
sounded. A passer-by called 911, and the Joy of Music staff heard the alarm
- Local fire
departments arrived within 2 minutes and contained the fire in about an
hour by spraying
water on both sides of the quickly spreading flames in the steeple and sanctuary
attic areas. This included drenching the attic over the sanctuary The inferno
another "attic" just above the organ chamber and below the clock/bell
tower steeple. The firefighting strategy used was to try to contain the
by approaching from the opposite side of the sanctuary attic-- they broke
thru wooden and brick roof walls to get access to the attic space at various
Thousands of gallons of water were pumped in to push back the flames in this
attic space. Various doors in the church were broken down to try to attain
alternate access routes to the attic space, but the external punched "holes"
were the best.
- The results:
- The sanctuary
incurred extensive water damage (still dripping 48 hours later, the
are like wet sponges to walk on, the wood oak floors are starting to
buckle and discolor, the smell is quite). The carpets and cushions
are all out
now. The ceiling (wire mesh plaster lathe) has not fallen (yet). The
chandelier was be removed soon for protection.
- The steeple
and front attic areas were severely charred, and some steel structures
were weakened/twisted due to the intense heat; the inside of the steeple
attic is littered with 2" cubes of charcoal-like fragments; the heat
was enough to twist and compromise two sections of steel structure. The
1938 rebuilding with steel kept the steeple from toppling in this fire.
- The historic
pulpit had a tarp put over it and needed some repairs and refinishing.
- The historic
glass case of documents and artifacts was safely removed to another part
of the church
1965 Aeolian Skinner pipe organ suffered severe water damage, and
was removed, stored, and extensive pipework & chestwork rebuilt.
The console seemed to have suffered very little damage, but still needed
refinishing and some mechanisms replacement. The console and great/positiv
divisions had tarps put over them minutes before much water began seeping/gushing
most chests had water inside them to varying extents. The swell
and choir chambers had some water to leak in, however, the 1965 organ
foresight to put a tin-like "flooring" in the attic directly
over the pipe chamber area, so not as much water got into these chests,
but this metal membrane was pierce intentionally to ensure that no residual
fire was below it, thus the water came into the chambers anyway. The
high-pressure blower and bellows in the attic/steeple area (10"
wind pressure for the Festival Trumpet) were totalled. The Great gemshorn
16'-8' offset unit chest was heavily water damaged. The great and positiv
pipework needed extensive repair and replacement due to the tarp placed
over it (most smaller pipes are bent, some beyond repair). Note that
all aspects, the best possible actions seem to have been taken to protect
the instruments- pipe crushing is the lesser of the evils of severe
- The sanctuary
needed extensive plastering work, most inner walls, trim, and carved
woodwork replaced, and new carpets and seat cushions. About half of the
hymnals were saved.
- The 1997
Steinway B was unharmed and quickly moved by professionals to another
part of the church, as was a 3-rank 2-manual harpsichord; both instruments
were protected from water by the balcony overhang which had not yet become
saturated with water landing on its floor surface
- The church's
choir music libraries were virtually unharmed in the basement, which
flooded, some estimates to 3-4" There was still 1"
of water on the floors, but the filing cabinets and drawers kept the
actual scores above the water level. By Tuesday, the humidifers and
crew had the water down to just "puddles" Some music was stored
on the floors, and was totalled (including extreme mold and crud).
the entire building's power was off (including alarm system), a nighttime
guard patrolled. The first night, the contractor's supervisor slept there
and patrolled to make sure things were okay-- the contractors and
were amazingly supportive and helpful.
- The Joy
of Music Program and Sunday School rooms were all flooded and were
a mess (all the paper & supplies will be tossed due to the acid
content of the water from the attic). JOMP was relocated to Wesley
was completed. Subsequently they renovated and moved to a refurbished
Nursing Home facility, which was perfect for their needs.
- Most floor(bsmt
& ground level & balcony) and attic surfaces were covered with
wet rock wool insulation, looking like eroded sand dunes, but grey.
water dripped through each level and picked up acidity from the insulation.
pH balance is important for preservation and longevity of paper.
- An early guestimate
of November was offered for completion of the sanctuary rebuilding (but likely
much longer); the pipe organ will take probably a year to be fully operational.
- Local officials,
firefighters, the community, and area churches were absolutely wonderful
in their outpouring of help and support.
was restored to the back sections of the building a week after the fire;
the power was switched on, all the systems were re energized, somehow the
furnace came on and steam spewed out the front eaves of the church where
fire had been. The fire dept. was there almost instantly because it looked
as if the roof had re ignited.
- Sanctuary carpets
were removed; and the back wings of the church facility had carpets cleaned
and walls scrubbed.
Restoration work has been contracted with Stephen Russell, assisted by Theodore
Gilbert. The organ was removed for storage and repairs during the week of
7/17/2000 by Russell & Co., and church "pipe brigade" volunteers.
The chamber structure will now be rebuilt, and, based on sanctuary restoration
progress, re-installation will begin throughout 2001. Services are being
held in Unity Hall (the general-purpose recreation hall at the opposite
end of the facility), with the santuary Steinway B providing accompaniment
Russell (organ restoration/organbuilder) mentioned that our church volunteers'
service of several hundred person-hours have saved the church a considerable
sum of money. Congratulations and thanks to all the volunteers (partial
listing follows): Jesse & Susan Anderson, Jeff Bailey, Roz Bennett, Drew
Cummings, Jim Demetry, Catherine Grant, Nancy Ford, Corinne Peterson, Paul
& Marjorie Ropp, Tom Schade, Sue Stafford, Kate Tower-Ludwig , Ken Waugh,
Although it is
assumed that various insurance will cover 100% of the damages, we believe
will be additional costs incurred that won't be reimburseable. A Phoenix
Restoration Fund was established, see details.
Mail: 90 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01608-1173 USA
Reverend Barbara W. Merritt, Senior Minister
Reverend Thomas Schade, Associate Minister
Mirick, Religious Education Director
Sherwood, AAGO, ChM, Director of Music
T. Gurney, Jane Beckwith, Jerry BellowsMusic Committee Co-Chairs