NEW YORK – The historic church in lower Manhattan that houses the Liberty Bell in New York, whose congregation dates back to the city’s earliest days, was burned down by a massive early Saturday fire that sent flames through the roof.
The middle collegiate church in the East Village burned down before dawn after a fire that spread from the five-story empty building adjacent to the church around 5am. shot from the roof and the church’s sumptuous front window gleamed with the fire inside.
“We are devastated. We are gutted, like our building; our hearts are crushed as our doors are crushed, ”said the Reverend Jacqueline J. Lewis. “But we know how to be a church, and we know God is God yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”
VIDEO: THE MASSIVE FIRE IN NYC BREAKS THROUGH A 128 YEAR-OLD CHURCH, NEAR THE BUILDINGS
The fire department said in an Instagram post that firefighters had sustained four minor injuries and that firefighters had been investigating the fire.
Built in 1892, the church is home to New York’s oldest Collegiate Congregation, which, according to the church’s website, dates back to a Dutch island settlement in the 1720s.
Middle Collegiate Church has been in two other Manhattan locations since 1729.
The bell tower houses the New York Liberty Bell, which was proclaimed for the birth of the nation in 1776, and has since been rung because of the inauguration and death of US presidents and events such as the 9/11 commemoration, according to the church.
Lewis believed the bell had survived the fire, but was not sure. Church Minister Amanda Ashcraft told WABC that Tiffany’s stained glass windows are gone.
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Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that the fire was “heartbreaking” and promised: “We will do everything we can to help rebuild Middle Collegiate.”
The fate of the church building is unclear, Lewis said, but service will continue.
“Our church has been worshiping digitally since March 15,” said Lewis. “And that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.”
Associate press writer Michael Hill in Albany contributed to this report.