I wonder what woke my grandfather up at 2 a.m. on January 16, 1967. The sirens, perhaps? The smell of smoke? The hum of fire engines?
I suppose it’s possible he slept through to the morning and got the news later.
But I suspect he couldn’t help but wake up as part of the church across the street from his home burned.
As I’ve previously lamented, the Stamford Advocate has no publicly accessible online archives, so I don’t know what caused the fire at the Springdale Methodist Church, now known as the United Methodist Church of Springdale.
(An Associated Press article that ran the day after the fire didn’t give a cause, but said it started in the cellar. The article estimated the damage at $40,000, which is about $282,800 in 2014 dollars, if online inflation calculators are to be trusted.)
The church’s website says the fire destroyed the original section of the church, dating to 1876 — an area including the original sanctuary, the fellowship hall, kitchen, choir room and secretary’s office.
A substantial portion of the church was saved, including the more recently built sanctuary and social hall. The morning after the blaze, a city fire official suggested the more recent wing of the church might be available for the following Sunday’s services, and perhaps it was. (January 16 was a Monday, so they would have had a whole week to get work done.)
My grandpa does not seem to have taken pictures of the blaze as it happened.
Maybe he wasn’t comfortable with his ability to take pictures in such unusual lighting conditions. Maybe he wanted to stay out of the way. Maybe he did take pictures, but threw them out because they didn’t come out to his satisfaction.
(Or, again, maybe he slept through the whole thing.)
He was there to capture the razing and clearing of the fire-damaged parts of the church. The weather looks to have been temperate; you can see the gents from the wrecking company in what appear to be windbreakers. Perhaps those conditions made the fire easier to fight and contain.
Just for comparison’s sake, here are a couple of shots of the church in the years before the fire:
The church added a new wing the year after the fire, and is still using it.
I think the new section of the church is visible behind my brother and I in the next picture, which was taken in 1975.
My memory, which is not what it used to be, says my grandparents took us across the street to play on a small playground next to the church. Of course the camera went with us.
The architect hired to do the job clearly did not make it a priority to match the look of the existing building. But, however drab or stark it might be, concrete has one wonderful attribute: It doesn’t burn.