Converted Church Building Razed by Fire
Hiotocourtesy Sunday Post
A spectacular two-alarm fire raged through the three-story, century-old Old South Church building. Broad and Gilbert Streets, Bridgeport, Conn., on November 15, causing damage estimated at $300,000, before firemen were able to bring the flames under control. One firefighter, Lewis Taylor, a member of Engine 3, was injured and taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital.
The structure, which also at one time housed the Odd Fellows Lodge, has been occupied since 1948 by the Fairfield County Warehouse and Grocery company, as well as a bowling alley, a dress firm, and five other smaller shops.
Flames and sparks from the burning slate-covered roof shot more than 40 feet into the air and threatened a number of homes and nearby buildings, including Bridgeport’s City Hall, one block away, and the city’s Public Library, located opposite the fire-swept structure.
Several firemen narrowly escaped injury when portions of the roof fell to the pavements of Broad Street, and also on Court Street as streams of water were played onto the building.
The fire was discovered by the matron in a detention home across from the building, who called the Fire Department. Operators at Fire Headquarters struck Box 14, Broad and State Streets to the fire stations at 6:46 P.M. Three engine companies, two truck companies and a squad wagon responded on the alarm. At 7:15 P.M., when the blaze got out of control, Fire Chief Martin J. Hayden ordered a second alarm turned in which brought several additional companies to combat the flames. Recall was sounded at 9:15 P.M.
Listed as occupants of the burned building are Fairfield County Grocery and Warehouse Company, Midtown Bowling Alleys, The Anna Mae Connelly Dress Shop, Kingston Architect Office, The Brock Sign Company, Priscilla Lambert Antique Company, The Musicians Association of Bridgeport and The Visokay Piano Studio.
Following his investigation of the fire, Chief Hayden stated that the blaze originated from a cigarette in a desk located in the Kingston office and spread to the ceiling and mushroomed into an air shaft and other sections of the building. The structure is one of the oldest landmarks in Bridgeport. It was erected in 1830 as the South Congregational Church. P. T. Barnum, famous showman, was buried from the church. Final services in the edifice were conducted in 1925. The building was thenceforth used by commercial organizations.