The Portland Avenue Presbyterian Church located on the corner of Portland Avenue and 32nd Street caught fire some time around 3:00 this morning and suffered major damage by the time the fire was extinguished. The red brick building dates to the early 1890s, but more than half of the structure now lays in ruins. The fire began in the back of the building and required 75 fire fighters. The front portion of the building, including the steeple, did not appear to suffer any major structural damage and could potentially be salvaged. While we’re not optimistic the 107 year old building will remain standing, we would like to see as much of the church remain as possible.
We’re told the church has recently been making a come back. With the arrival of a new pastor, the congregation has increased dramatically and repairs were recently made to the building including a new roof. The church had also recently purchased the abandoned lot next door, but we’re unsure what future use was planned. Ice clung to the building and from certain angles the structure appeared to be cryogenically frozen in time. Firefighters were still pouring water on the back of the building this afternoon, likely to cool any hot spots that may be lingering.
While some are calling this building a “total loss,” we’re not so convinced. While the back two thirds of the structure are destroyed, at the very minimum, the steeple and front wall could easily be salvaged and restored as part of a new sanctuary. Consider the church on the corner of York Street and Fourth Street in Sobro, not a Unitarian Church. After a devastating fire, the church was restored to its current state with several modern additions. Something like that could happen here, too. Hopefully something can come out of this fire besides another empty lot in a historic neighborhood.