A fire that broke out Monday afternoon in Taylor may have destroyed a piece of local history.
West Mound Church, built by German immigrants in 1882, sustained major damage in a fire that officials believe started accidentally by abrasive wheel machinery.
According to Mayor Rick Sollars, who was in the area and saw part of the firefighting effort, the fire started at about 4:15 p.m. He said the blaze was first spotted by a contractor who was doing work at Heritage Park.
The Fire Department and members of the city’s Buildings and Grounds crew arrived at nearly the same time to put it out, Sollars said.
“I just met with the (fire) chief and deputy chief,” Sollars said Monday evening. “They believe it’s definitely accidental. It appears contractors were using an abrasive wheel to cut nail heads, and they kick off a spark when they’re being used. That fire probably smoldered for at least a half hour.”
One of the problems with historic buildings of this age is that they’re not equipped with modern fire prevention features, such as fire stops.
The church also had a considerable amount of blown-in insulation that served to fuel the fire and make it spread even more quickly.
The work that was being done at the church was on the deck. A city employee captured a photo of the fire during its early stages, showing that it started where the deck meets the building’s lower wall.
West Mound Church was originally known as West Mound Methodist Church and was located on Eureka Road, across from Southland Center. It had fallen into disrepair, and had even been used as a haunted attraction before the city moved it to Heritage Park in the 1980s. It was a focal point of the historical village and was a popular place to hold weddings.
In fact, Sollars said a wedding had been held there on Sunday night. He said a few weddings are scheduled at the church this weekend, so the city will work with couples to try to find another location.
Although from the outside it looks like the building can be salvaged, Sollars is not so optimistic about those chances.
“I would guess that this building is a complete loss,” Sollars said. “There’s an extensive amount of water damage to the building. Once the fire got up in the ceiling, it just took a long time. They had to use a lot of water to put it out.”
On the positive side, Sollars said the back of the building is in good shape. If it’s determined that the building must be torn down, he said the city will save whatever is worth saving, including pews and stained glass.
“We’ll do our best to preserve it,” Sollars said.