Fire Destroys Queens Landmark Church

NY Daily News - December 28, 2007

by TANANGACHI MFUNI and JORDAN LITE

A historic Queens church caught fire late Wednesday, destroying its admired stained-glass windows and dismaying the multicultural congregation that uses the 133-year-old house of worship.

Firefighters were investigating the cause of the blaze at St. Paul's Protestant Episcopal Church in Woodside. The fire was believed to have ignited in the space between the rafters and the roof and did not appear to be suspicious, fire officials said.

No one was in the building when the two-alarm fire began.

"I broke down and my family - we all broke down. We could not think. We were so shocked and horrified," said the Rev. Anandsekar Manuel. "It could have been worse. Thank God there are no human casualties, so that is a consolation."

The priest said the greatest loss was the wood-frame church's eight stained-glass windows.

"They were such beautiful quality. It will be very difficult for us to replace them," Manuel said.

Two walls also were badly scorched.

Filipino, Korean, Bangladeshi, Indian and Romanian Orthodox groups worship at St. Paul's. The church also has a day care center.

According to the Web site forgotten-ny.com, the church was founded in 1874 and is considered to be Woodside's first. The site describes it as a "carpenter Gothic building with Gothic stained-glass windows, overhanging eaves, vertical siding and multicolored roof tiles."

"This is terrible," said a parishioner, who lives across the street from the church and declined to give her name.

"They do so many different things. They give a lot of clothes for charity," she said.

Manuel said he hoped to reopen the day care center by Wednesday.

"Financially, we are not a very strong group because we are very small, but it is our prayer we will come through this difficulty," he said.