The owners of a housing complex heavily damaged by a roaring fire in Cambridge last year will preserve historic stained glass windows from the building before it is torn down sometime next month.
Just-A-Start Corporation plans to remove several of the windows from St. Patrick’s Place, a former church that was converted into affordable apartments in 1991, and incorporate the detailed and colorful artifacts in a new development taking its place.
“We’re going to carefully have the windows and a couple of other features removed, put into storage, and the design of the new building is happening now,” said Deborah Ruhe, executive director of Just-A-Start. “They’re an attractive feature, and there was sentiment among residents and neighbors to keep them. It seemed like the right thing to do.”
The 10-alarm fire, called the largest in recent history, ravaged the York and Berkshire streets neighborhood on Dec. 3. No one was killed in the blaze, but at least 18 buildings were damaged, including the southern half of the roof at St. Patrick’s. The main gable collapsed. Water used to put out the fire flooded the basement, and the building was open to the elements in the months following the blaze, causing further damage.
Just-A-Start was given permission this month to level the structure after it was determined it could not be salvaged.
Built in 1909, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church featured a large, open bell tower and cross that capped the front of the gable roof, according to the Cambridge Historical Commission.
Inside the Mission Style church was a basement for Sunday school classes, and a chapel for weekday services. The main sanctuary on the first floor, the commission said, could accommodate as many as 1,200 worshippers.
“The center of the sanctuary was 40-feet high and lit by large arched windows at a clear story level,” according to the commission’s description of the former church. “Two side aisles had a lower ceiling and were lit with small rectangular windows along the length of the building.”
A “beautiful stained glass quatrefoil window” adorned the upper level of the façade, one of several windows that was part of the housing complex and spared by the fire.
“They are highly decorative, and they are in good condition,” said Charles M. Sullivan, executive director of the commission. “There’s no reason they should be destroyed if they could be used” in the new building.
Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons this week filed a policy order asking the City Manager to work with the organization to ensure the removal of the stained glass.
The building was a significant part of the city’s history, Simmons said in an interview.
“This architecture tells a wonderful story of Cambridge as it once was, ” she said. “Now that we’re going to lose this building, how do we maintain that history? One way would be those windows.”