This Day in Bernal History: Remembering the St. Anthony’s Church Fire of 1975

stanthonys1975

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:

StAnthonys.1965

And here’s the real heartbreaker; check out this spectacular view of the church interior, as seen in 1958:

StAnthony'sChurch.1958

IMAGE: Top, Front Page, via San Francisco Chronicle

3 thoughts on “This Day in Bernal History: Remembering the St. Anthony’s Church Fire of 1975

  1. It’s sad that when they rebuilt it they turned it into another ugly concrete box. It might look nice on the inside, but the outside is depressing.

  2. I remember this tragedy. I attended St Anthony’s school was in seventh grade when this happened. I also was an altar boy and served at many masses. It was a beautiful church. i remember coming back to school on that Monday and seeing the church ruins. I cried.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s