Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: Firefighters battle the blaze at St. Mary's Catholic Church downtown.

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: Smoke rises from St. Mary's Catholic Church downtown before the blaze brought down the steeple.

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: Smoke rose into the cloudy sky as St. Mary's Catholic Church burned downtown.

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: Smoke rose into the cloudy sky as St. Mary's Catholic Church burned downtown.

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: Streets were blocked off around St. Mary's Catholic Church downtown. The streets were wet from a downpour of rain.

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: St. Mary's Catholic Church burns in downtown Fort Wayne.

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: The steeple fell just after 4 p.m. at St. Mary's Catholic Church downtown.

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: The steeple falls just after 4 p.m. at St. Mary's Catholic Church downtown.

  • File Constructed in 1887, St. Mary’s Catholic Church was destroyed Sept. 2, 1993, after its steeple was struck by lightning. Once the fire was put out, all that stood were four walls and two smaller steeples.

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: Window frames burn in the St. Mary's Catholic Church fire.

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: Crews continue to pump water into St. Mary's Catholic Church.

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: Firefighters carry items out of St. Mary's Catholic Church downtown.

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: A garage near St. Mary's Catholic Church became a temporary storage area for items salvaged from the burning church.

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: Firefighters work at St. Mary's Catholic Church downtown.

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: Father Tom O'Conner walks through a burned section of St. Mary's Catholic Church.

  • File Sept. 2, 1993: Firefighters help put files saved from the church in the trunk of a car.

  • File Sept. 3, 1993: An aerial shot from the day after the fire shows the destruction inside St. Mary's Catholic Church downtown.

  • File Sept. 3, 1993: The interior of St. Mary's Catholic Church is seen the day after the fire. 

  • File Sept. 3, 1993: An aerial shot of the destruction the day after the fire.

  • File Sept. 3, 1993: The day after the fire, about 500 people were served food out of the back of a truck in the church's parking lot. The church's soup kitchen normally fed 2,000 a day.

  • File Sept. 3, 1993: Rubble lines the sidewalks outside St. Mary's Catholic Church the day after the fire.

  • File Sept. 3, 1993: A cross is among rubble outside St. Mary's Catholic Church the day after the fire.

  • File The Sept. 3, 1993, cover of The Journal Gazette details the fire from the previous afternoon.

Thursday, May 25, 2017 1:00 am

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday: St. Mary's Church fire - September 1993

“St. Mary's burns” – that was the headline the morning after a blaze destroyed the downtown Catholic church on Sept. 2, 1993.

The blaze began when lightning hit near the steeple of the national landmark, which had been constructed in 1887. Thick smoke joined storm clouds that hung gray over the city, and rain continued while firefighters fought the blaze for more than four hours that Thursday afternoon. Chimes struck 4 p.m. at another downtown church just before the 237-foot steeple of St. Mary's crashed to the ground.

By evening, nearly all that remained were four walls and two smaller steeples.

The 250-family parish was home to many missions such as the Matthew 25 Health Clinic and a soup kitchen that provided meals for about 2,000 people a day.

“We'll have services in the parking lot if we have to,” one parishioner told The Journal Gazette on Sept. 2. “We don't have a church building, but we have the people.”

The day after St. Mary's was gutted, volunteers worked out of the back of a truck in the parking lot, distributing food for about 500 people as donations began rolling in to keep the soup kitchen going.

“Spirit of St. Mary's survives blaze” read the JG headline the next day.

– Corey McMaken, The Journal Gazette

Throwback Thursday appears the last week of the month. To see more archive photos throughout the month, follow @JGFeatures on Twitter. To suggest a date or event to be featured, email cmcmaken@jg.net.