Heartland church reacts to Notre Dame fire, considers new safeguards

Heartland Church reacts to Paris Cathedral fire

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Members from one of the oldest churches in the Heartland are considering new safeguards after the tragic fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.

The church is question is the Old St. Vincent’s Catholic Church, which has been part of the sky line in Downtown Cape Girardeau, Missouri since it was built in 1853.

Dr. Steven Hoffman is the coordinator of the historic preservation program at Southeast Missouri State University. He says the church is part of Cape’s cultural heritage and is one of the finest examples of Gothic revival architecture in our region.

“It’s vitally important to preserve it,” Hoffman said. “It’s part of making our community different from other towns. Seeing it, feeling it and getting in touch with that older history creates a tangible connection to the past.”

Ron Kirby is a long time member and gives tours of the red and white church.

He has visited the Notre Dame Cathedral in France and when news broke of the fire he thought ‘is his own historical church at risk?’

“I am really shocked and I am puzzled in terms of you know what kind of fire protection did they have?" Kirby said. “For something like that to happen over in France causes everybody to rethink of their old buildings and try to protect them better and I think that is what I think we’ll be doing down here at Old St. Vincent’s.”

Kirby says the church survived two fires in the early 1900′s which were caused by lightning strikes the buildings steeple.

“And since our organ has been installed in 2002, lightning has still knocked it out a couple of times," Kirby said. "So we do have trouble down here with lightning.”

Kirby says the church is equipped with a security system, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, but just like the French Cathedral the church does not have automatic sprinklers.

“It kind of seems like a good idea,” Kirby said. “Especially because everything up above us here holding the roof up are all wooden trusses all held together by wooden pegs.”

Kirby says his congregation pays for repairs at the church, but since it’s a historic landmark the City of Cape helped fund major restoration work in the past.

“I would guess that if something bad were to happen to it we would be able to do the same thing that France is going to do which is to fix it back up again,” he said.

Kirby is also glad religious artifacts were saved from the Notre Dame fire and that shell of the historic French Cathedral is still intact.

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