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Fire at St. Paul, Pendleton

June 27th, 2017posted by Sarah L. Ater

St. Paul Church in Pendleton, Cincinnati (near Over-the-Rhine) was founded in 1848, located on Spring Street at Twelfth Street. Closed in 1974, you now know it as The Verdin Bell Company. The other week we came across this striking picture of the 1899 church fire, just weeks before the parish celebrated their golden jubilee.

St. Paul Church tower engulfed in flames. Note the firemen in the foreground.

The 24 August 1899 issue of The Catholic Telegraph gives a detailed description of the events:

Last Saturday morning the residents of the densely populated part of Cincinnati, known as Pendleton, were startled by the news that St. Paul’s Church was being devastated by fire…A terrible and awe-inspiring sight met their gaze. The high steeple of the church, which proudly towered more than two hundred feet above the surrounding buildings and majestically lifted on high the emblem of Christianity, was enveloped in flames. For about a half hour this sight continued, when suddenly the tower fell to the ground carrying with it the chimes which hung in its belfry. The elements then entered the church, the interior of which was filled with the scaffolding of the decorators who were renovating and painting the walls, and soon the whole edifice seemed one mass of flames. The fire department did heroic work, and after a few hours of strenuous endeavors succeeded in getting the fire under control…When the large bells fell they ruined the splendid organ which had only recently been renovated and remodeled at considerable expense. The falling of the steeple, which took a southern course, caused damage amounting to about $300 to the girls’ school which is situated next to the church.

“During the excitement attendant upon the affair Rev. AlbinĀ Overman, the assistant rector of the parish, entered the sanctuary and bore the sacred vessel and Holy Eucharist to a place of safety…Much which was thought to have been destroyed was found, upon later and more careful investigation, to have been only partially spoiled. The statues and painting of the church have been somewhat damaged, but paintingĀ and retouching will again present them as good as new. Many of the handsome pews which were put in position about a year ago were destroyed entirely. The handsome tile floor of the body of the church and the mosaic one of the sanctuary, which were laid at a considerable expense were, fortunately but very little damaged…The City Building Inspector, after a complete examination of the ruins, on Tuesday pronounced the walls perfectly safe. The tower, however, will have to be reconstructed.”

Recounted in a parish history book, the parish immediately set to work to repair the damage done. On 7 October 1900, a Pontifical High Mass of Jubilee was celebrated by the Apostolic Delegate of Pope Leo XIII, the Most Reverend Sebastian Martinelli, in the presence of four bishops, dozens of priests, and a throng of the faithful that packed the church. Bishop Moeller officiated at Pontifical Vespers in the afternoon, and in the evening there was a public reception in honor of the Apostolic Delegate.

Laboring on the Mission is a blog of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Archives. The title is taken from a letter written by Bishop Edward Fenwick, OP, describing his mission work in Ohio. Whether in the wilds of the 19th century or the baby boom of the 1950s, the Catholic Church continues the mission entrusted to her by Jesus Christ. Here we tell that story.