Last night, the 124-year-old Third Presbyterian Church in Chester, Pennsylvania, was decimated by a five-alarm fire that reportedly kept raging into this morning. The National Register of Historic Places-listed church, designed by Philadelphia’s Isaac Pursell, lost its interiors and windows and suffered a roof collapse, leaving only the ashlar masonry walls still standing.
According to the nonprofit Chester Historical Preservation Committee (CHPC), the church was undergoing renovations and was set to become the new home for CHPC as well as a performing arts venues. Prior to the CHPC purchasing the building, the church had sat empty for three years.
Pursell, according to the CHPC, broke with tradition at the time and modeled the church more on Brunelleschi’s Dome in Florence than the Pantheon in Rome. Instead of using self-supporting red brick for the roof, however, Pursell chose to frame the building with timber and clad the roof in terra-cotta shingles from Alfred, New York, that was paired with comparatively lower-slung stone walls. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2019.
At the time of writing, no cause for the fire has yet been determined.