Posted on January 9, 2011 at 1:23 PM
NEW ORLEANS- After more than a hundred years of standing at the corner of Prytania and Josephine in the Lower Garden District, the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church is being knocked down.
The demolition on Saturday came one day after a six-alarm fire tore through the building, spreading to a vacant home next door. It took 110 firefighters three hours to control the blaze, which could be seen for miles Friday night.
"All the embers falling out of the sky, as big as softballs or larger, there was nowhere to go," said Pat Carruth, a guest at the Henry Howard House, a neighboring bed and breakfast.
On Saturday, firefighters monitored the scene around the clock, making sure hot spots didn't flare up in the smoldering remains.
Neighbors say it's a tragedy the historic building, now a skeleton of what it once was, will soon be gone.
"It's a true loss to the city, the community, to the history of architecture in this city, and that's what we celebrate in the city," said Jacqueline Bishop.
"Anytime we lose structures of this significance in a city like this, it's heart-wrenching," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who spoke Friday night after visitnig the scene of the fire.
Rev. Moses Gordon owns both burned structures. He said the church has been vacant since Hurricane Katrina, when it suffered heavy roof damage. It, and the home next door, have been for sale for years, Gordon said.
"We've gone through some things with our insurance company. It was a long process," said Gordon. "We're in the process of building a new church. You're always stunned, you're surprised, you don't ever think that in your wildest dreams that something like this would happen.”
Streets in the area were still shut down Saturday, keeping the public away from potential danger. And since a power line collapsed during the blaze, officials continued to work to restore power for at least half a dozen buildings in the area.
"We've got all of our food for our weddings this weekend on ice, and we're hoping for a speedy electrical recovery over here," said John Gauthier, manager of the Henry Howard House.
Officials expected power would be back on Saturday night. Firefighters plan to continue monitoring the scene through Monday. They said no one was injured in the fire.
Investigators are still looking into what sparked the blaze. Some neighbors say vagrants often slept outside.
Meanwhile, those who live in the area say their dream that this church would one day be restored is gone for good.