Quebec community vows to rebuild Hudson church damaged in ‘devastating’ fire

Click to play video: 'Hudson in shock after fire tears through church'
Hudson in shock after fire tears through church
The community of Hudson is in shock after a fire ravaged through a centuries-old church. As Global’s Gloria Henriquez reports, St. James Anglican Church was not only a religious building but a community hub and a cornerstone of many local families’ history – Apr 15, 2024

A fire that tore through a historic 182-year-old church in the town of Hudson, Que., over the weekend has left area residents feeling a great sense of loss.

“You’re going to make me cry,” said Hudson Mayor Chloe Hutchison when asked about the blaze. “It’s so devastating.”

The fire broke out Sunday morning, possibly in the kitchen area, of  St-James Anglican Church and burned throughout much of the day.

The venerable Sophie Rolland, the priest of the church in the off-island Montreal suburb and archdeacon of the area, was in the building working at the time.

She was alerted to the fire by an alarm and the smell of smoke.

“As soon as I saw the flames and everything like that, I called 911. I tried to put them out as much as I could,” she said, but the fire spread quickly, creeping across the roof.

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It was only at around 6 p.m. that firefighters, from several neighbouring municipalities, announced the blaze was finally under control.

But still, their work wasn’t done.

“At least 90 firefighters were here on site, and it was really a show of force,” said Hutchison.

“They worked very hard from around 8:30 a.m. till right up until last night, 11 p.m., to make sure that the fire was properly extinguished.”

The incident resulted in significant damage to the building from both the fire and water used to extinguish it.

While the bell tower is still standing, part of the roof crashed in to the church.

“I’m still a little bit in shock,” Rolland said.

Beyond  the historical importance of the structure itself, Rolland noted the importance of the memories the building contains.

In Memorial Hall, there were photos of every confirmation class since 1950.

“People would say, oh, this is my parents,” Rolland said of the pictures.

It is not yet known whether the pictures can be salvaged or not, but Rolland said it’s what would be most missed.

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Other memories aren’t so tangible but no less important.

“People have part of their personal history, and also part of their family histories,” Rolland said.

“Yesterday, I was talking to someone whose great-grandparents were the first couple to be married in the church. So that was in 1842.”

Hutchison’s own great-great-grandfather was the first reverend.

While congregants have marked important events in their lives at St. James, the church also plays an important role as a community hub.

“It’s not just a place of worship. It’s a place of communion. It’s a place of learning. It’s a place of celebration… a place for good things to happen,” Hutchison said.

The Scouts held meetings there and met there and an exercise group used the space most mornings, according to Rolland. Then there was the gardening group, AA meetings and even town council sometimes met at the church.

Arrangements are being made to host the groups elsewhere, but space can be an issue in small communities.

Meanwhile, experts are on site evaluating the extent of the damage, but there is optimism as many important pieces, such as the stained glass behind the altar, were saved.

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It’s also believed that other memorabilia can be dried out and refurbished.

Both the town and the reverend are promising to make every effort to rebuild the iconic piece of Hudson.

Hutchison said that while the town is now in grieving, rebuilding will be part of the healing process.

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