Fire affects social events
Cleanup on the building started today.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Some weddings and other events planned for St. James Meeting House may have to be put on hold or moved until repairs are made to the historical landmark, which was damaged by lightning and fire over the weekend.
A motorist driving past Boardman Township Park at about 3 a.m. Saturday notified the fire department that the church building was ablaze. Lightning struck the building's bell tower and southwest corner, sending flames upward through the tower.
Dan Slagle, park executive director, said three weddings and a wedding rehearsal were scheduled in the meetinghouse Saturday. All four ceremonies were moved to the gazebo and various tents brought in by the park district.
Slagle said weddings and other ceremonies at the meeting house are scheduled about a year in advance and several are planned for the coming weekend. He said cleanup efforts have gotten started on the building and weddings scheduled for the weekend would likely be able to proceed as planned.
Some wedding ceremonies and other events planned for the building may have to be rescheduled or moved while repairs are being made, Slagle said. Whether the building will be used during the repair stage depends on how disruptive the process is, he said.
Slagle said firefighters were able to contain the fire to the steeple and bell tower, which appear to be a total loss. He said an exact figure on damage isn't possible because of the building's historical status. Park officials will bring in an engineer to assess the damage, he said.
The building was built in 1828 as St. James Episcopal Church with land and funds donated by Henry Mason Boardman, son of Elijah Boardman, who was the first settler in Boardman. It is believed to have been the oldest church in the Western Reserve of the Northwest Territory.
The Boardman Historical Society saved the building from demolition and relocated it to the park after the St. James congregation moved to a larger facility in 1971. Today it is popular for weddings, baptisms, concerts and meetings.