Middletown Church Interior Damaged
The most destructive fire that has occurred in Middletown, Conn., in the past twenty years caused damage to the amount of $90,000 on January 29, when the entire interior of the main auditorium of the First Methodist Episcopal Church on Church Street, a brick structure, was gutted by flames. The entire Middletown Fire Department, under the command of Chief Michael W. Lawton, fought the flames for three hours before the blaze was subdued. It was the first test for Chief Lawton since he was appointed as head of the Middletown department.
The flames were kept from spreading into the Sunday School room and chapel which adjoins the main auditorium on the east and in the rear. The parsonage, a separate structure, is directly in front of the Sunday school building and this was also saved. Directly west of the church is an old frame dwelling and beyond that on the corner of Church and Broad Streets is the new synagogue of the Congregation Adath Israel. Neither of these buildings suffered any material damage, although the air was filled with sparks that shot one hundred feet skyward.
Fire officials believe that the blaze started from a short circuit at the side of the organ loft in back of the pulpit and at the extreme left of the auditorium. The fire was discovered by a passerby, who turned in an alarm from Box 32 located at Crescent and South Main Streets at 4:58 p. m. Another alarm was sounded at the same time from another corner. Upon arriving at the scene Chief Lawton ordered all apparatus in the city to the fire.
The First M. E. Church had many historic associations and its pulpit has been occupied at various times by some of the outstanding divines in the Methodist Episcopal denomination. The church is directly in the midst of Middletown’s “churches center” with the First Baptist and South Congregational edifices less than 100 yards away and a Jewish synagogue much nearer.