Steeple Comes Down At St. Lawrence

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The fire damaged steeple at St. Lawrence University's Gunnison Chapel collapsed overnight Sunday into Monday, university officials confirmed early Monday morning.

Fire early Sunday extensively damaged the steeple, and left the chapel itself with water damage.

The bell tower below the steeple was said to be still intact and in place.

The steeple collapse occured as high winds swept through northern New York.

The fire was spotted just after 5 a.m. Sunday. Firefighters from Canton, Potsdam and Gouverneur battled the fire, which required the use of ladder trucks vfrom Potsdam and Gouverneur to reach the steeple.

"We have some ceilings that have collapsed inside from the water coming down from the fire trucks.. It's just a mess," said Dan Seaman, SLU Chief Facilities Officer.

The bell tower has been a centerpiece of the campus since 1926. It's also been a source of tradition, with the chiming of its bells every weekday at five o'clock.

"It's the Statue of Liberty for St. Lawrence. And it's something that definitely shook our campus a lot," said Kelly Appenzeller, a student.

Officials said the bells were still intact inside the tower and don't appear to have any major damage.

The fire came at an especially inopportune time - St. Lawrence University was holding its family weekend, and there was a full schedule of church services scheduled for Gunnison, which were cancelled.

"It's a place where people go when they need to be quiet - they need to reflect. It's really, truly a sanctuary. So it's a special place that will be lost, for a time anyway," said Kathleen Buckley, university chaplin.

"Not only do we lose the chapel, but we lost a lot of the community that was supposed to be gathered in it today," said Paige Randall, student.

Fire investigators say the cause of the fire appears to be electrical. No injuries were reported Sunday.

St. Lawrence is posting updates here.

Saturday, August 23, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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