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The day St. Anthonys Church burned

In this edition of Remember This, the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Center looks back at a monumental fire which consumed the St. Anthony of Padua church
Originally, a small wooden chapel dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua stood on the corner of Pine Street and Fifth Avenue. This first structure, built in 1911, was replaced by a large, brick church (shown here) in 1922-23. The stone church which stands there today was built to replace the brick structure which burned in a fire in 1936. Timmins Museum photo

From the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Center:

It was well before dawn on Jan. 30, 1936, when Mrs. Girardin awoke to the smell of smoke.

She and her husband occupied a basement apartment at St. Anthony of Padua Church as caretakers of the facility. Upon waking her husband, the two immediately ran to the nearby rectory to notify Father Proteau who called the fire department.

The first crew on the scene saw flames coming out of a second-floor window at the back of the church and focused their attention there. Some of the firefighters entered the church so that the flames could be battled from both inside and out, and initially it seemed that the fire could be brought under control. Unfortunately, the fire had been smoldering within the wooden walls of the cathedral for hours and when they finally burned a hole through the roof, the resulting influx of air fuelled the embers and in no time the entire roof was ablaze.

The last hope of saving the structure was crushed when the silver steeple, which was such a landmark in the community, crashed through the roof into the building, twisting steel girders on its way down and pulling the east wall of the cathedral to the ground. The west wall was leaning significantly outward and policemen closed the streets surrounding the church for the public’s safety.

In all, it is estimated that the church sustained $200,000 worth of damage. The community came together in support of the parish. Services were offered at Goldfields theatre and a new church, the one that stands today, was completed by Easter the following year.

Each week, the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre provides TimminsToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Timmins Museum has to offer at www.timminsmuseum.caand look for more Remember This? columns here.