Brooklyn, NY St. Agnes Church Destroyed by Lightning & Fire, Jul 1901

St. Agnes church, Brooklyn, was destroyed to-day by a fire originating from a lightning bolt. Only the walls of the church, which was a fashionable one, are left standing. Loss, $250,000.

Times Picayune, New Orleans, LA 3 Jul 1901


St. Agnew’s Church Destroyed.

New York, July 2.-(Associated Press.)-St. Agnew’s church, Brooklyn, was destroyed today by fire, originating from a lightning bold. The loss is $250,000.

Morning Herald, Lexington, KY 3 Jul 1901


Lightning Sets A Big Church Ablaze.

St. Agnes’s in Brooklyn Destroyed-Priests Hurrying to Save the Sacred Vessels Forced to Flee.

St. Agnes’s Roman Catholic Church. Brooklyn, was struck by lightning late yesterday afternoon, was set on fire in an instant, and totally destroyed. While the fire was burning fiercely a second time the doomed edifice was struck, the lightning disappearing, it seemed to the spectators, in the blazing tower.

While the ruins were still smouldering (sic) at an early hour this morning three firemen were badly injured. They were Assistant Foreman James Flannelly of Engine Company No. 104, and Fireman Oscar Thompson and John Ferguson, both of Truck Company No. 60. The three men were under the arch of the front entrance of the church, on Second Street, when it suddenly fell and crushed them.

Dr. Smith, who lived in the neighborhood was quickly summoned, and he said that they were all fatally injured. The Rev. Father Sloane of St. Agnes was also called, and he administered extreme unction.

The destruction of the church was a striking spectacle. The beginning of it was just before 6 o’clock. The church, which stands at the northeast corner of Hoyt and Degraw Streets, was deserted at the time, the Rev. James S. Duffy, the pastor, and his assistants being at dinner in the rectory, on the opposite corner. People hurrying through the streets in the rain were half blinded by a sudden, vivid flash, as a lance of dazzling light shot down out of the low-lying rain clouds. Then there was a crash as the bolt pierced the tower of the church. It seemed to those looking on that but an instant elapsed ere flames were shooting out through the windows of the church and the structure appeared all ablaze.

Among those who saw the lightning strike was John Maloney, an ex-fireman who lives in the neighborhood. He ran at once to a fire box and turned in an alarm. Father Duffy and his assistants, with John Finn, the sexton, rushed out of the rectory and across to the church. Their purpose was to save the vestments, altar vessels, and other valuable property within the building. Several parishioners ran in to aid them in the work.

They found the church already a seething furnace. The bolt, descending through the tower, had glanced off into the organ loft, set on fire that part of the building, and then run along one side of the structure to the rear, setting ablaze the dry woodwork as it ran. With such rapidity did the fire spread through the building the that Father Duffy and those with him had been inside but a few minutes when they were forced to retreat.

Three of them there were, who, working to save what they could, found their retreat cut off by smoke and flame. They were Father Blaver and two parishioners, John F. O’Neill and Thomas McNamany. They were caught in the rear of the church.

The danger of the three men was told to the firemen as soon as they arrived, and the men of Engine Company No. 105 at once secured a ladder and ran it up to one of the windows on the Hoyt Street side. The firemen, led by Thomas Spellman, smashed the window and took out the imperiled men. O’Neill had to be dragged out by the heels by Spellman. Most of the altar vessels were saved and taken to a house near by.

Four alarms had been turned in, and these brought most of the fire-fighting force in the lower part of the borough to the scene. Burning strips of wood, falling from the tower, were caught by the high wind then blowing and carried for several blocks along Hoyt Street.

These were dropped on the roofs of houses, and at one time half a dozen dwellings on Hoyt Street, between Sackett and Douglas Streets, a distance of two blocks, were ablaze. These smaller fires were put out by firemen sent from the big fire, and none cased much damage.

Seeing that it was useless to try to save the church, the firemen devoted their efforts at first to saving surrounding property. The flames were threatening a chapel and the parish schoolhouse in the rear of the church, on Degraw Street. The chapel caught fire and was baldy damaged, but was saved from destruction. The firemen managed to keep the fire from spreading to the schoolhouse, which was completed only six months ago at a cost of $100,00.

An hour after the fire started the pillars supporting the roof were burned away and the roof itself fell in with a great crash. Two of the firemen were struck by falling bricks and slightly injured.

It was shortly after this that a second bolt of lightning struck the tower of the church. While this stroke caused the firemen and spectators to scatter, it resulted in injury to no one. The blazing tower, with the lightning playing about it, presented for a brief period of time an awe-inspiring spectacle.

The heat of the day, coupled with that from the burning church, was such as to render most trying the conditions under which the firemen worked. Several of them were overcome and were cared for by ambulance surgeons. After three hours’ work the firemen succeeded in getting the flames under control, confining the fire almost wholly to the church edifice, although the chapel in the rear, as stated, was damaged.

The New York Times, New York, NY 3 Jul 1901