Cathedral Burned at Belleville, III.
Alleged defective wiring or some other cause unknown, and which will forever remain a mystery, Thursday night, January 4, caused a destruction of St. Peter’s Cathedral at Belleville, Ill., entailing a loss estimated at $100,000. The walls of the building and spire are standing. Insurance to the amount of $40,000 is carried, $20,000 on the building and $20,000 on the furnishings. The destruction of the magnificent edifice occurred on the 28th anniversary of the burning of the Convent of the Immaculate Conception, just across the street, in which 26 persons met death by being burned or by leaping front the burning building. At 5 o’clock Friday morning Mayor Fred J. Kern appealed to the East St.Louis fire department for help, and eight firemen were sent to Belleville on the first suburban car which reached the city. Chief Dinges and the local firemen were completely worn out Friday morning, and it was necessary to relieve the men. Chief of Police Xebgen relieved Fire Chief Dinges and the East St. Louis firemen replaced some of the local men. When Mayor Kern called for aid from East St. Louis there was grave danger that the fire, which was eating its way underground from the destroyed church to the rectory. where the priests of the congregation make their home, would destroy the same. The East St. Louis firemen immediately started to keep the flames from spreading through the passageway which connects the church with the priests’ home. Only the hardest! kind of work saved other property of the congregation. which is one of the wealthiest in Illinois, from catching fire. The wind came from the northwest and this aided in saving the surrounding buildings. So far as is known, Joseph B. Reis of South Illinois street, turned in the alarm to the Jackson street fire department. George Kohl, 10 years old, discovered the blaze, which started underneath the roof. He notified Mr. Reis, who immediately turned in the alarm. The fire gained such headway that it was apparent nothing could be done to save the building. For a time efforts were made to fight the fire from inside the building, but the smoke became so dense that the lines of hose were taken to the outside. One of the steamers of the department was attached to the hydrant at Fourth and Race streets. A line of hose was also drawn tip into the steeple, and an effort made to fight the flames from that point, but the stream could not be played on the burning part of the structure. The clock in the tower of the church sounded the time throughout the night. The firemen directed special attention to the spire, which is 227 feet in height. From time to time portions of the roof would cave in and the sparks and burning embers were wafted into the air, endangering surrounding buildings ,
During the evening Chief Dinges of the fire department slipped on the icy stairway leading to the Cathedral and fell on his head, being rendered unconscious by the fall. Persons rushed to his aid and carried him into the convent across the street. He was revived and then returned to his post of duty and worked at the side of the plucky and heroic firemen. The firemen were covered with ice as the result of water freezing to their clothes and countenances. When the East St. Louis firemen arrived on Friday morning men were put to work cutting away the floor in order that a stream of water could be played on the flames which were eating their way towards the priests’ house. At the south end of the edifice the steel doors of the vestry were closed and the fire did not enter this portion of the building, and the valuable sacredotal vestments, and sacred vessels were removed from the danger zone in safety. The high and low alter railings, costing $13,000: the organ, costing $6,000: the pews, costing $10,500, and numerous valuable and costly statues were destroyed. The three marble altars were greatly damaged. The fact that there was no direct water pressure handicapped the local firemen in battling with the flames. It is a strange coincidence that the destruction of St. Peter’s Cathedral should come on the 28th anniversary of the convent fire which occurred on the night of January 4 1884. when 26 persons lost their lives. The following account of the fire has been received from our regular correspondent :
St. Peter’s Catholic Cathedral at Belleville. I11., was practically destroyed by fire on January 4th, causing a loss of $150,000, half of which was on the building itself. The cathedral is located on the corner of Third and Race streets, occupying a ground space of seventy-five by one hundred and fifty feet. The building is eighty feet in height and was constructed of brick about forty years ago. The fire was discovered early in the evening and gave the firemen fifteen hours of hard work. The department received the first alarm at 6:13 p. m. and responded with one engine, one hose reel, one hose wagon and one ladder truck. Upon the arrival of the firemen at the cathedral the flames had not reached serious proportions, but for the first half hour the water pressure was not sufficient on account of frozen valves at the standpipe. The department could make no impression upon the flames, and thus the latter got away from them. In the immediate vicinity arc five six-inch double hydrants, located about 300 feet apart, and the streets at this point are thirty-five feet wide and carry a six-inch water main. Twelve thousand feet of hose was laid and with a pressure of ninety pounds eventually, three hydrant streams and two engine streams were maintained until the flames were subdued. One 1 1-4 and 1 1-2 inch nozzles were used aside from one Eastman nozzle and a Morse wagon pipe. The water system is direct pumping. The fire was stopped at a spire in the front which is 227 feet high, and in the rear at the parsonage. Considering all of the drawbacks the fire department did all that could be expected of themThe accompanying photographs are furnished especially for this magazine.