Columbia County church destroyed by flames

November 06, 2017 12:57 PM

CANAAN – The Canaan Congregational Church community in Columbia County, part of the United Church of Christ, dates back to the 1700’s. The brick building itself, which sits at Routes 5 & 295, was erected in 1829. But, on Monday morning at 5:30 a.m., a 911 call was the most important number to its 40 members.

"My heart hurts, hurts for members, hurts for the community,” said church member Bill O’Neill. “It's been here since 1829 and it died today. The day after All-Saints.

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"It was a beautiful church. It had that simple New England simplicity to it. It is the only Congregational Church in the Massachusetts Conference even though we're in New York."

Volunteer firefighters from 14 companies came from miles around. They trucked-in water to keep up a steady supply on the building that just had its roof replaced three years ago. They switched from water to foam and back to water to from ladder trucks and from the ground.

When Canaan Fire Chief Bill Wallace arrived, he saw “smoke and glowing through the windows...It's a brick building, the whole bell tower is all wood inside and that's all burnt out right up to the bell."

The bell tower is built with American Chestnut, a wood that is as solid as steel, according to Karen Pulver, a next-door neighbor who got married in the church in 1977.

"We have two boys who were baptized here (and went to) Sunday school,” Pulver said. “It's going to be a sad day for the community."

From the flames, firefighters were able to salvage two charred offering plates and the thick, black-covered Bible, held by the church’s go-to guy, Tom Platten.

"The community is the people, the church is the people,” said Susan Bues, the church moderator. “The building is wonderful, it's old, it's historic but it's just a building."


WNYT Staff

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