Speaking of big, sad fires… on this day 41 years ago, a treasured Bernal Heights icon went up in flames. St Anthony’s Church at 3215 Army Street — Cesar Chavez at Folsom, in contemporary parlance — caught fire and burned on June 30, 1975.
Today the San Francisco Chronicle posted a remembrance:
Here’s the story from Chronicle reporter Kevin Wallace:
“Bumbling poor-box robbers may have started it by spilling an altar candle they were using to illuminate their industry.
“In any case, old St. Anthony’s Church, at 3215 Army Street, began burning at 2:50 a.m. yesterday.
“First it was just an eerie glow that attracted the attention of some passing youngsters. They turned up their car radio to deafening volume to rouse the neighborhood with a rock concert alarm, and hollered to the nine priests in the adjacent rectory.
“And right away it was a historic 4-alarm neighborhood event.
“Flames broke into the night sky all down the building’s spine. Above the altar, the blazing transept collapsed. The nave clock stopped at 3:12, a message to posterity.
“The once all-German neighborhood … assembled in hastily selected wardrobes to admire 162 firemen swarming off 47 engines with miles of coiled hoses. The hoses soon flooded Army from Shotwell to Folsom Street and eastward to Harrison, ankle-deep.
Bernalwood has written about the St. Anthony’s fire before, but to reprise; Here’s how St. Anthony’s looked from street level in 1965:
And here’s the real heartbreaker; check out this spectacular view of the church interior, as seen in 1958:
IMAGE: Top, Front Page, via San Francisco Chronicle