Two-Alarm Blaze Damages Historic Cape May Church

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An accident played a part in starting a fire at a local church after a car struck a utility pole in Cape May on Saturday, June 9th.

Members who attend the historic church, had to worship elsewhere Sunday morning as the building was heavily damaged during a two-alarm blaze.

According to officials with the City of Cape May Fire Department, the utility pole that was struck had live electric wires on it that fell onto the church, which made tackling this fire an electrical hazard.

“They could not get water on there as fast as they wanted to," said Harry Bellangy, a Cape May resident and local historian who witnessed the fire. "You know you have the fireman across the street totally frustrated because they can’t do their job.” 

It’s a beautiful wood interior church, beautiful stain glass, some which is now damaged or gone completely.

Once power was secured, they were able to attack the fire at the historic Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church, on Franklin Street, and bring it under control within 15 minutes.

This was approximately an hour and a half after the initial call at 11:30 a.m.

However, the incident still affected many in the area.

“It made a big impact ... on traffic. The center of town was just a mess," said Bellangy. "The restaurants closed for the night [and] the Acme closed.” 

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But thankfully, the fire was put out before it could cause more damage.

“The bulk of the church is saved," said Bellangy. "It was the tower — and [if] you look at the building you’re going to see asbestos on that [and] that essentially formed a chimney of the bell tower.” 

Church officials were unavailable for comment.

But Bellangy says he remembers the church for its beauty.

“It’s a beautiful wood interior church, beautiful stain[ed] glass, some [of] which is now damaged or gone completely,” said Bellangy.

Those beautiful stained glass windows are now melted and boarded up next to the once bright red doors that are now burned and covered up by plywood.

“It was just terrible to see this wonderful church in flames," said Bellangy. "This area was kind of the center of African American churches back in the day. The congregation was not large but it was actively used. They have spent some sums last year starting a restoration process.” 

Now a whole new restoration process will have to begin in order to get this historic church — dating back to the 1800s — up and running.

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