Electrical Fire destroys Middle Collegiate Church, Rev. Lewis says the Liberty Bell will ring again

Photo by Dean Moses

The investigation into the fire which wrought havoc on several buildings along 7th Street and 2nd Avenue, including Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village on Dec. 5th has concluded.

After an extensive probe into the six-alarm inferno that gutted the beloved religious institution and forced its neighboring buildings to be demolished is said to be the result of faulty electrical wiring, according to the FDNY.

The fire spread to two buildings and Middle Collegiate Church. Two of the buildings have now been demolished.Photo by Dean Moses

The fire originated from a vacant building at 48 East 7th Street just before 5am, and then over the course of the morning and well into the afternoon the fire spread into Middle Collegiate Church. Similarly, in February at the same location a 3-alarm fire occurred, which was also ruled an accidental, electrical, building wiring. On Twitter, FDNY states that both fires were unrelated.



The news of what caused the fire comes over one week since the blaze, and while it may not offer much solace to those still mourning the ruined landmark, another emerging detail might.

Middle Collegiate Church announced through twitter Sunday morning that the Liberty bell survived the fire and will “ring again.” This famous bell chimed for the nation’s birth in 1776 before doing the same 300 years later for those who perished during the World Trade Center terror attacks on 9/11.

Both church members and community members feared that the historical relic was lost in the blaze, but after city engineers inspected the bell’s resting place in the upper steeple it was discovered largely unharmed.

Reverend Jacqueline Lewis spoke with amNewYork about the heartache of seeing the place she helmed for the past 17 years destroyed. Photo by Dean Moses

Reverend Jacqueline Lewis told amNewYork Metro on Dec 10th that the church plans to rebuild and thanks to donations from all over the world, the effort has already raised over $200,000 in relief funds.

Hailed as the Norte Dame of the East Village, Middle Collegiate Church has continued their virtual sermons and have been able to visit the site to salvage historic documents, art pieces and other priceless memorabilia from their program building at 50 East 7th Street.

Rev. Jacqui Lewis has bravely led her congregation during this time and is waiting further assessment before rebuilding plans can be made.

“What a year it’s been. In the midst of COVID-19, we took care of the sick, worked on voting rights, gave funds to the struggling and worked to dismantle racism. Now, this fire. We’ve not seen the official report but were told by the Fire Marshall the cause was electrical in nature. We’ll wait until we see the report before commenting further. Our building burned down and we’re heartbroken. That the Liberty Bell is still in tact brings us joy in this Advent season, Rev. Lewis in a statement to amNewYork Metro.

Middle Collegiate Church’s outer shell stands charred and gutted on East 7th street. (Photo by Dean Moses)

Trying to keep a positive mindset, Rev. Lewis has plans for a future that will involve revolutionary education, an arts center, and more to expand the church’s outreach.

“This is what resilience sounds like, what hope sounds like. Of course we’ll rise from these ashes with revolutionary love. Stay tuned at MiddleChurch.org,” Rev. Lewis said.

If you are interested in donating visit middlechurch.org/rising