Watertown Church Razed By Flames
Firemen Narrowly Escape Death;
Loss Estimated at $100,000
Watertown, Feb. 3—Fire of undetermined origin destroyed the First Methodist Church in the heart of the business section in a $100,000 blaze which gave firemen a stiff battle for more than four hours this morning while the temperature stood at 16 below zero. The church is located on Arsenal Street between the New York State Armory and Bradley Apartment Buildings.
The fire was discovered about 3 A.M. by Jack Fanning, a resident of the adjacent Bradley Apartments, after it had been smouldering for more than an hour.
A general alarm summoned the city’s entire fire fighting apparatus and within 15 minutes a dozen streams of water were being played into the burning church building.
Four firemen narrowly escaped being trapped on the second floor of the structure when the roof collapsed during the height of the blaze. The men were using a two and a half inch hose to combat the fire from the interior. They are: First Assistant Fire Chief Emmett W. Carpenter, Fire Captain Earl Parks and Firemen Orrin Hayes and Robert Coombs.
The men jumped clear of the falling wreckage and groped their way to safety through fire and smoke.
Destruction of the building marked the third time that a First Methodist church structure in Watertown had been swept by flames since the church was founded. The last blaze, on the present site was about 55 years ago [sic; 1880].
The fire this morning broke out in the basement of the church underneath the northwest wing. It is believed the fire started near the boiler room. The building was heated by a boiler which used coal as fuel. When firemen arrived at the scene, there was no blaze although the interior of the church was filled with dense smoke and large billows of the smoke were pouring from the building.
About 4:30 A.M., a loud explosion occurred which blew portions of the roof for more than 50 feet. Flames shot high into the sky from then on the church, a brick structure with a wooden interior, was a raging inferno. Firemen attacked the fire from all angles and it was not until 7 A.M. that the blaze was under control.
For a time it appeared that the apartment building, which is only about 15 feet east of the church was doomed. Occupants were evacuated.
[Syracuse Herald-Journal, Tuesday, February 3, 1942, page 6. This was the church (if not the building) where my great-great-grandparents, Lewis and Ellen Roberts, were married (at the parsonage) in 1868. It was the church whose pastor married their daughter Clara Roberts to Jerry LaPatra (also at the parsonage) in 1890.]